Plant Clinic

It’s only natural that fishtail palm dies

A clustering fishtail palm producing seeds
A clustering fishtail palm producing seeds
A. Hunsberger / UF Extension

Q. Our fishtail palm is dying. We found a lot of seeds still attached to the trunk.

E.W., North Miami

Your palm is going through a natural process. A few species of palms produce flowers, set seed and then die. These are called monocarpic palms.

If your palm is a solitary fishtail palm, the whole palm will die after flowering and setting seeds. If yours is the clustering (clumping) fishtail palm ( Caryota mitis), each stem dies after it flowers and produces seeds.

Contrary to popular belief, clustering fishtail palm stems all die within a period of a year or two after flowering. Any growth arising from the clump are seedlings that have germinated, not shoots from the original clump.

When fishtail palm flowers, it starts near the top of the stem and continues downward.

Other monocarpic palms are the talipot palm ( Corypha umbraculifera), dwarf sugar palm ( Arenga tremula), gebang palm ( Corypha utan), as well as some other uncommonly grown palms.

Removing the flowers and seeds will not stop the palm from dying.

Be careful when touching fishtail palms. Wear gloves since these palms produce calcium oxalate crystals, which can be very irritating to your skin. If you touch your eyes, it can be painful..

Adrian Hunsberger is an entomologist/horticulturist with the UF/IFAS Miami-Dade Extension office. Write to Plant Clinic, 18710 SW 288th St., Homestead, FL 33030; e-mail

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