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QUEEN PALM (PIRU)
The Queen Palm is one of the most common palms seen in Southern California. There are literally hundreds of thousands of them planted throughout communities. It is also a common palm seen in Northern California, the Gulf States and throughout the world. The Queen Palm Tree is a fast growing palm that will get fairly tall. It is easy to find and purchase. It's popularity has to do with it's ready availability, its fast rate of growth, and its durability.
Syagrus romanzoffiana is a single trunk palm that can easily get to a height of 50 feet. Trunk diameters can get to almost two feet. The leaves get a length of up to 12 feet and are plumose, or multi-ranked. In other words, they are quite "fluffy" in appearance.
Each leaf can be quite heavy and the petiole bases are fibrous and thick. An average tree can carry as many as 15 leaves or more. Leaf color is dark green unless the plant is nutritionally challenged or in too hot and dry of a climate. The crown is full and rounded. As these leaves age (lower part of the crown), they turn brown and tend to hang down toward the ground and adjacent to the trunk. These have to be manually removed or the tree can look unsightly. They are not a "self-cleaning" species.
The Queen Palm is native to southern Brazil (as are many Syagrus), northern Argentina, Paraguay and Uraguay. There it tends to grow in lowland areas or on small mountain ranges. This species was known for many years as Cocos plumosa and sometimes you'll still see it called this in nurseries.
Queen Palms, even from the seedling stage, are very fast growers. Seeds will germinate in several months and are easy to grow. Young seedlings prefer filtered light but soon tolerate full sun in most areas. It is not unusual to be able to get a 6 foot tree in two to three years from the seedling stage. This is one of the reasons that this species is so affordable. In most areas, one should plant this palm in full sun. In extremely hot inland or desert areas, filtered light might be needed. In general, it is not considered a drought tolerant palm but can take periods of low water. Queen palms grow faster when given more water and fertilizer. But, it is surprising that neglected specimens can look attractive. If given plenty of water and fertilizer, this species can be strikingly beautiful.
An ideal soil for queen palms would be good draining and have some organic material applied. But, as a species, Queen Palms seem to tolerate a fair amount of neglect and suboptimal soil.
Some palm reference books will cite that this species tolerates temperatures down to 25 degrees F. However, most enthusiasts have found that the Queen Palm will survive temperatures into the upper teens F. I would estimate that temperatures of below 17 degrees will burn the palm and much below this will kill it. This means that it is adaptable to many garden zones and will tolerate freezes in many area. Because of it's durability and cold tolerance, it is commonly grown in areas that cannot grow other more tropical species. Interestingly, when the Queen Palm is hybridized with other more cold tolerant species like Butia capitata, one sees a bit more cold tolerance than the pure species.
Consumers worldwide have used Queen Palms for making a landscape statement. They are big palms and get quite tall. Given their ease of growth, it is quite common to see them in domestic or commercial plantings. They are one of the best palms for establishing canopy (shade from the sun and protection from cold). However, because they are so commonly seen everywhere, enthusiasts and creative landscape companies tend not to use them. Perhaps this is a bit unfair to the species because it is quite attractive. But, collectors seem to dismiss this species as they can look up and down the street in both directions and see dozens of Queens.