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Trachycarpus is a genus of nine species of palms native to Asia, from the Himalaya east to eastern China. They are fan palms (Arecaceae tribe Corypheae), with the leaves with a bare petiole terminating in a rounded fan of numerous leaflets. The leaf bases produce persistent fibres that often give the trunk a characteristic hairy appearance. All species are dioecious, with male and female flowers produced on separate plants although female plants will sometimes produce male flowers, allowing occasional self-pollination.

Cultivation and uses

The most common species in cultivation is Trachycarpus fortunei (Chusan Palm or Windmill Palm), a temperate palm which is, in cultivated range, the northernmost palm species in the world, having been successfully grown in such cool and damp but relatively mild locales such as Scotland, southwestern Norway, south and southwest Iceland, extreme southwestern Utah ,coastal New Jersey and the panhandle of Alaska . It is frequent in gardens in the United Kingdom and Ireland, along the Atlantic coast of France and northern Spain, in southern Switzerland and northern Italy, and in both the Pacific Northwest and the Southeastern United States of North America. There are several hardy Trachycarpus species that stay outdoors all year long with little to no protection at the New York Botanical Garden. The dwarf form popularly known as “T. wagnerianus” is unknown in the wild, and is now considered synonymous with T. fortunei.[2][3][4] It resembles that species closely, differing only in its smaller and stiffer leaves. Hybrids between them are intermediate in size and fully fertile.

Trachycarpus takil (the Kumaon Palm) is similar to T. fortunei; it is probably slightly less tolerant of cold. Other species less common in cultivation are T. geminisectus, T. princeps, T. latisectus, T. martianus, T. nanus and T. oreophilus. T. martianus and T. latisectus do not tolerate cold as well as T. fortunei, T. takil or T. wagnerianus. T. geminisectus, T. princeps and T. oreophilus are still too rare and small in cultivation to assess their full potential.

The trunk fibres produced by the leaf sheaths of Trachycarpus fortunei are harvested in China and elsewhere to make coarse but very strong rope, brooms and brushes.[3] This use gives rise to the old alternative name “hemp-palm”. The fibrous leaf sheaths are also frequently used to clothe the stems of artificial palms.[citation needed]

This genus is very popular among palm enthusiasts for its ability to withstand cold, especially in the form of damp, cool summer weather with relatively mild winter weather. These palms often tolerate snow in their native habitats and are the hardiest trunking palms.

Trachycarpus species are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species including Paysandisia archon (recorded on T. fortunei).


Written on February 21st, 2012 , Botany, Forestry Tags:

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