Sunday, February 15, 2015

Fish Tails and Flowers

Caryota mitis
Back to my New's Year Resolution (read about that here)......
This plant caught my eye at the Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory because of its flowers. I know palms flower, but I had never seen any like these. They are gorgeous. The fishtail palm or Caryota mitis is named for the shape of its leaves which really do look like a goldfish's tail fins. And the flowers are gold....interesting.

Caryota mitis flowers
Fishtail palms are from India, SE Asia, E. Indies, and the Philippines Islands. This species  grows in a cluster than can become over 15 feet around. The plant can grow 20-30 feet tall, but probably never in your home. These are the only palms with bipinnate foliage. It will need as much light as you can give it inside. In the United States it can live outside in Zones 10b-11 and should be grown in part shade to full sun. It needs to be kept moist whether inside or out. It loves humidity and it is especially important inside, as they are very susceptible to spider mites, which love dry air. Grow your palm on a pebble tray which will keep the humidity up.

Caryota mitis flowers close up
The flowers originate in the leaf axils, starting at the top of the stem and working their way down. When the last flower is done flowering in the lowest axil, that stem will die. The fruit start as purple/red and end up black. The seed is edible, but the soft part on the outside has a chemical in it that can cause skin irritation and is inedible.

Cayota mitis Ripe fruit

If I hadn't seen these flowers, I might never have noticed this plant. Once again, go to your local conservatory, or you might miss something amazing, such as these gorgeous flowers.

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