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A queen palm is a tall, tropical palm tree native to South America. It is considered a cold-hardy palm and is frequently used as a landscape plant in tropical and sub-tropical climates. This palm is alternately called "cocos plumosa" or "cocos palm." The scientific name is Syagrus romanzoffiana, in the family Arecaceae. In tropical areas outside its natural range, the queen palm can become invasive.
The queen palm grows from 50 feet to 65 feet ( 15 m to 20 m) tall with fronds that are 20 feet (6 m) on a mature tree. The fronds have a thick spine lined on both sides by 150 to 250 laterally growing leaflets. As the palm matures, new fronds grow out of the center of the trunk while the mature, lower fronds die and break away. This growing process, shared by all palms, creates a trunk with multiple rings, or leaf scars, at regular intervals. The trunk is smooth and gray, about 2 feet (.6 m) wide.
The flower stalk, called an inflorescence, grows about 6 feet (2 m) long and consists of small, bright yellow-gold flowers. Each inflorescence consists of male and female flowers that are frequently visited by insects. The fruits are sweet, attracting bats and other mammals that consume the fruit and spread the seeds.
In the landscape, queen palms are frequently planted along highways and in the center of boulevards and divided streets. It is planted in private and public landscapes to provide shade for lawns and patios. It is hardy in areas where the winter temperatures drop to 19 degrees Fahrenheit (-7 C) for short periods. As a palm that can survive freezing temperatures, the queen palm is popular in sub-tropical regions.
Accustomed to the continuously damp conditions of the tropics, the queen palm requires frequent irrigation in areas with limited rainfall. Young palms should be planted in full sun and sandy, well-draining soil. After planting, the palm should be watered daily for the first three to five weeks. Heavy, wet soil can be mixed with sand and organic matter to improve drainage. This palm prefers a neutral to mildly acidic soil pH in a range between 6.1 and 7.5.
The queen palm requires frequent maintenance of the surrounding area to keep it cleared of dead fronds, spent flowers, and seeds. As the fronds die, they become unsightly and should be removed. The tall stature of the queen palm makes trimming and frond removal difficult and may require professional services.