Botany

Cycads and Palms Suitable for West Australian Conditions



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Cycads are not related to palms at all but appear similar because of their leathery, feathery foliage. Because of the similarity in appearance, cycads often have common names ending in ‘palm’. One difference between the two is that, while cycads have male and female cones on separate plants, palms are actually flowering plants.

Alexander Palm (Archontophoenix alexandrae)
Originating in Queensland, this palm is often mistaken for the Bangalow Palm. However the Alexander palm has a swollen trunk marked by heavy rings and the leaves have silver hairs on the underneath surfaces. Planted in full sun, it will reach a height of 15 metres with a width of 2.5 metres.

Australian Fishtail Palm, Albert Palm (Caryota rumphiana)
This is not a common palm but is worth searching garden centres for. It grows to 12 metres and the broad leaves are 4 to 6 metres in length. It does best in full sun but needs protection from harsh, salty winds. It does not like the frost.  Feeding twice a year with trace elements will ensure the foliage stays a good colour.

Zamia (Macrozamia riedlei)
The zamia palm is actually a cycad and a West Australian icon. It is exceptionally tough and will thrive in sand or gravel soils. It was used as a food source by the indigenous people of its local area. It is very slow-growing but may eventually reach 2.5 metres. It likes full sun or semi-shade.

Ruffled Fan Palm (Licuala grandis)
This small palm makes an ideal tub or indoor specimen in the southern half of Western Australia. In the north, it can be grown under the canopy of other vegetation. The foliage forms a fan-shape of emerald-green.

Kaffir Bread Palm (Encephalartos inopinus)
This South African cycad is very hardy. It is ideally suited to the south-west regions of Western Australia and to the hills area of Perth. It may not appreciate salty, windy conditions nearer the coast. It is architecturally stunning with a thick trunk and a clean crown of foliage.

Chinese Windmill Palm (Trachycarpus fortunei)
The Chinese windmill palm is one for cooler climates. It will tolerate the occasional snow as well as days of 40oC. It likes full sun and does best in rich soils with regular watering during summer.

Byfield Fern (Bowenia serrulata)
This beautiful cycad is highly collectible and originates from north-eastern Queensland. It is a stunning plant often mistaken for a fern. It has a height and width of 1 metre and makes a beautiful pot specimen.

Bottle Palm (Hyophorbe lagenicaulis)
This is a native of the Mascarene Islands which enjoy a similar climate to southern Western Australia. The trunk swells to form a bottle shape. Moisture is stored in the trunk and can supply the plant’s needs for many months of drought. This compact palm flourishes along the coast. It is sensitive to frost and grows to a height of 3 metres.

Bangalow Palm (Archontophoenix cunninghamiana)
This was a very popular palm in the 1980s. It is a fast-growing Australian native but doesn’t like alkaline soils or windy conditions. It reaches a height of 15 metres and a width of 2.5 metres.

Australian Nut Palm (Cycas media)
This cycad is ideal as a pot specimen or under the canopy of protective trees. The magnificent foliage adds drama to a garden. It reaches a height of 5 metres with a width of 4 metres. This is another that may not be readily available but is worth the search.

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