Caryota obtusa

Family: Arecaceae    Palm Tree

Common Name: Giant Fishtail Palm

Scientific Synonymy:
Caryota rumphiana var. indica, Caryota obtusidentata, Caryota gigas

Cold Hardiness Zone: 9b     View the UK and US zone maps

Caryota obtusa Information

A solitary, massive, water-loving, moderately fast growing, monoecious, forest emergent palm with a hapaxanthic or monocarpic mode of growth where the plant dies after setting seed. Common in cultivation, locally common in the wild. It has a smooth, light-grey trunk, 40 m. (131 ft.) tall, 90 cm. (35 inch) diameter with spaced ring leaf scars, and massive segmented, bipinnate (fish-tail) leaves, 7 m. (25 ft.) long, 3 m. (10 ft.) wide, green above and, light green beneath.

Caryota obtusa grows in the Himalayan foothills at altitudes of up to about 1000 m., and is by far the most massive of all the Fishtail Palms. It is quite possibly also the cold-hardiest. It does defoliate after a frost, but is not killed, and the plant continues to grow steadily in cool montane conditions, whereas other Caryota species give up. This plant is suitable, while young as a houseplant or conservatory plant.

Caryota obtusa can tolerate freezing temperatures to about -3.8°C (25°F). It naturally occurs in open woodland or grassland in sun exposed, montane locations, and should be planted to maximise sunshine exposure. Under extreme freezing conditions we recommend you keep this palm as dry as possible. It should be noted that in its natural habitat the temperature swings between extreme heat and extreme cold occur within 12 hours (night & day) of a single day, and have little to do with Summer/Winter seasons. Therefore, this palm dislikes long durations of cold weather and may require additional heat or protection during the coldest weather.

General Information:
Caryota obtusa holds a significant importance to us here at Trebrown Nurseries, as we were the first to bring this form of Caryota into cultivation, as far as we know for the first time ever, back in 1999. We collected seeds from habitat in the Indian State of Arunachal Pradesh from possibly the very same location where William Griffith collected the type specimen for his description of the species in 'Palms of British East India (1850).


Native to, China, India, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand

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