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Windmill Palm


Trachycarpus fornunei, (syn) Trachycarpus wagnerianus
Common names: Chinese windmill palm, Japanese windmill palm, windmill palm, Chusan palm, Waggie palm
Family: Arecaceae

Habit: The windmill palm tree is an excellent landscape plant but is also one of the most cold hardy palms. It’s a favorite of landscapers and gardeners who want a tropical feel but live in colder climates. It's a close relative of the miniature chusan palm is just smaller in all aspects. They both have medium green, deeply segmented leaves 3 ft across for the larger and 2 feet for the smaller. The mini version also has a stiffer leaf presentation that stands up to high winds much better than its larger relative. The ends of leaves can be sharp because the leaves are very tough. The waxy leaves are bright green above and silver-green below; growing 2 feet long and 2 feet wide, smaller than most other palm trees. Windmill palm trees grow a flower stalk 2 feet long, with yellow, pleasantly aromatic flowers developing into long blue fruits. Male trees will get yellow flowers in a branching display. These will not produce fruit.

The slender, graceful trunks are covered with brown-black fibers that appear as hair from a distance, and with aging, the fibers turn gray, and on large old trees the fibers fall off to reveal a slick beautiful trunk. Trunks are covered with a brownish/grayish mat of fibers. The trunks will get to be around 8 inches thick on both but the fibers make it look much thicker. The trunks are usually lacking the fibers and thinner looking at the ground than near the foliage making them look flimsy.

Sometimes there will be flowers of both sexes on the same tree. These flowers will look like the male but be larger than normal and will produce fruits. Female trees have flowers that are more of a green than yellow color and will produce the small fruits that will be a bluish black once ripe and oval in shape.

Culture: These palms are grown as far north as Vancouver British Columbia, Ireland, England some spots in Russia and reportedly even in the panhandle of Alaska. They can tolerate some snowfall and freezing temperatures down to 0°F. Younger trees will need some protection, like being covered while temps dip to lower than -8°C. Some have survived as low as -27°C so it’s a great possibility for many areas to the north.

They will grow in full to part sun or part shade and are both moisture and drought tolerant. In overly hot locations they should be in part sun/shade if at all possible. The windmill palm tree is a medium grower while the mini version is considered slow, so you could even have either as a potted palm in their younger years. They can grow in most types of soil as long as it drains fairly well. They will thrive with regular watering and organic fertilizer every 3-4 months or so. Windmill palms are tolerant of salt-water spray and are very adaptable for planting and growing in most areas of the United States.

Native to central China, southern Japan (Kyushu), south to northern Myanmar and northern India, growing at altitudes of (328–7,874 ft)

Problems: They aren’t susceptible to deficiencies or pests, so the overall care is easy. The larger form is only very slightly prone to lethal yellowing. They require a bit of pruning- just mainly the fronds that are turning brown. Leave yellowing ones until they turn color.

Note: The name of Chinese windmill palm is because the original comes from mainly the central China region at altitudes that can get fairly cold and damp. Deer and many other wildlife animals can be found roaming through groves of Windmill Palm Trees. Windmill Palms also produce copious amounts of dates that feed wildlife but are inedible for people. Many wildlife animals seek the shelter of Windmill Palm Trees not only as a perching site but also for the seed for food.

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