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Fishtail Palm

The fishtail palm is a unique looking palm because of its leaf design.

The leaves are bi-pinnate and shaped like the tails on fish--making this tree a favorite for landscaping. No other family of palm has these kinds of leaves.

There are a couple of different species in this group and we have several of these kinds of trees in our community. Some are in clumps and some are stand alone but their leaves give them away on which family they belong to.

Fishtail Palm Tree LeavesFishtail Palm Tree Leaves


These trees mostly originate in Asia, the South Pacific and India.

It has arrived in the Caribbean and southern Florida by either seeds or imports for landscaping.

Young trees and seedlings are perfect for container gardening.

They will grown in full sun-part sun and do best in a tropical or sub-tropical climate with lots of moisture.

The soil should drain well and the roots should not be left standing in water.

In Florida this palm is now considered an evasive species.

They must be getting a bit out of control due to the perfect climate and soil conditions.

Clumping Kind of Fishtail Palm TreeClumping Fishtail Palm
Fishtail Palm Tree - Medium

Quick Info:   clumping fishtail

scientific name-caryota mitis

  • 20 ft tall, 15 ft wide, multi trunks
  • minimum temp 32°F   zone   10-11
  • part shade to full sun, medium to fast growing
  • either alkaline or acidic soil, with organic humus matter
  • needs regular watering
  • will die within 2 years of flowering

Their leaves grow in the same way as regular palms and they do belong to the feather leaf side of the family.

When you look at them you’d almost think they would come out like those of a maple or oak tree because they look like individuals.

But no, the whole leaf emerges as a stick and unrolls itself when it’s ready. Instead of long feathery leaves you get fishtails.

They are popular in landscaping because they are very pretty to look at with the wind blowing thru them.

Fishtail Palm TreeNew leaf in on fishtail palm
Giant Fishtail Palm Tree with tons of FruitToddy Fishtail Palm

The fruit bunches on the giant fishtail can be massive in length.

When you look at them can’t help but wonder just how heavy they are. 60 lbs or more.

The individual strands within the bunch almost look like small green pearls all strung together.

Quick info: giant fishtail  

scientific name: caryota gigas

  • 60 plus ft tall-35 ft wide,single trunk
  • minimum temp 28°F    zone 10-11
  • growth rate medium to fast
  • full sun older, part shade when younger
  • needs regular watering, rich organic humus type-matter
  • could live 25-30 years before producing fruit
  • will die 2-3 years after fruit

The fruit is not good for eating and actually has a corrosive effect. The Latin name for their seeds describe how they have a stinging feel if you get the juice on your skin.

There are a couple different kinds fishtail palm trees that after flowering will die within two years.

If it’s the type that clumps no problem as there are already little clones growing to replace the original.

In the case of the giant fishtail--like the one pictured above--it will need to be replanted to produce another tree.

Fishtail Palm Tree Fruit Up CloseFruits of Fishtail Palm

Wine and Sugar  from the Fishtail Palm

The toddy variety is used for the sap to make wine and sugar.

Two ways to collect the sap are tapping the tree with a spigot, or cutting off the flower stalk.

Cutting off the flowers is a quicker way and believe it or not, the sap starts fermenting right away.

It has no alcoholic content when collected but within a couple of hours it’s at 4% and very sweet.

Wait a couple of more hours 8% and it’s stronger, starting to get bitter and acidic, wait a bit longer-its vinegar.

Close-up of Fishtail Palm FlowersFishtail Palm Flower

CC  Original photo


Very fast process I’d say.

I don’t know of anything else that ferments quite that fast.

Quick info: Toddy fishtail  scientific name-caryota urens

  • 40-50 ft tall, 20 ft wide, single trunk
  • minimum temp 30°F   zone  10-11
  • growth is medium to fast
  • full sun to part shade, needs regular water
  • any soil humus laden to hold moisture

The presence of the fishtail palm tree in our community does add a distinctive look to the landscape.

We do enjoy watching the fishtails flutter in the breeze when we are out for our walk.

Have you ever had the wine or sugar??

I haven’t yet but I’m looking forward to giving it a try if the opportunity presents itself.

Fishtail Palm Tree LeavesFishtail Palm Leaves

More on Palms

  • All Types of Palm Trees

    Planning on growing a tropical garden inside or out? Here's a list of the many types of palm trees used in landscapes so you can plan accordingly!

  • Christmas Palm Tree-Landscape Perfection

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  • Travelers Palm

    The travelers palm would make a great addition and will turn any yard into a little slice of paradise! Many call it a fan palm because of the leaf pattern.

I'm Darla the creator of Palm Tree Passion.

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Creator of Palm Tree PassionDarla
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