Adonidia merrillii (syn: Veitchia merrillii; common names: Manila Palm, Christmas Palm) –
These palms are popularly grown in our tropical country, Malaysia – in urban areas and countryside alike, as well as along coastal regions. Enchanted by its smallness and neat umbrella-like appearance with delightful symmetry, we added a young tree to our garden in mid 2005. Having limited ground space, we had no choice but to plant it in a container. It tolerated the restriction for sometime, but finally showed its displeasure by breaking its pot, about a year and a half later! :(
Currently, we only maintain two young Christmas Palms which were propagated from dried seeds gathered from beneath a palm tree by the roadside, around late 2005 if I recall correctly. Undeterred, we still grow one in a pot, while the other is on the sidewalk outside our home. Comparatively and as expected, the grounded palm tree is very much healthier, luscious and taller!
Wonder when it’ll start bearing flowers and fruits – we’re really looking forward to seeing them? :D
(Update February 15 2012: How lovely… our 6-year old tree finally had its first budding flower stalk late last year, and added two more as seen in right photo above.)
Plant Profile, Culture and Propagation :
- Botanical Name: Adonidia merrillii (synonym: Veitchia merrillii)
- Common Name: Manila Palm, Christmas Palm, Dwarf Royal Palm.
- Family name: Arecaceae (Palmae)
- Plant type: An ornamental and evergreen palm tree, native to the Philippines where it is popularly grown in its capital city, hence commonly known as Manila Palm.
- Light: Prefers full sun though can tolerate semi-shade.
- Moisture: Moderate water regularly. Quite drought and salt tolerant.
- Soil: Grow in a wide variety of well-drained soil – can be clayey, loamy, sandy, slightly alkaline or acidic.
- Propagation: Easily by seeds. Collect some seeds (look like dried-up fruits, hard and covered with straw-like husk) laying on the ground, bring home, scatter and push them about 0.5 inch deep into your garden bed or potted soil at a sunny spot. With regular watering, they should germinate within 1-3 months. Germination can be hastened by soaking the seeds for 3 days or by scarifying before planting.
- Features: Adonidia merrillii is a small to medium-sized, single-trunked palm tree growing moderately fast to a height about 20 ft, though often much shorter and with a frond spread about 6-10 ft. Upright and slender, its greyish stem is ringed by semi-circular leaf scars and topped by a 2-3 ft smooth and light green crown shaft that supports a crown of about a dozen pinnate (feathery) fronds. The attractive arching fronds are about 5 ft long with deep-green strap-shaped leaflets that are about 2 ft long and 2 inches wide.
At the base of the crown shaft adjoining the trunk will emerge 2 feet long inflorescences, bearing inconspicuous butter-cream colored flowers that gradually become 1-inch long ovoid light-green fruits (in autumn).
Update: March 9 2013 – Observed that whenever a withered frond is removed, a budding flower stalk is revealed beneath.
These clusters of fruits will ripen and beautifully transform to a glossy and brilliant red color (in winter), resembling Christmas ornaments, hence the palm’s common name, Christmas Palm.
In the tropics, these showy fruits are seen frequently throughout the year, basking in our tropical sun!
- Care: This stately palm tree, Adonidia merrillii is so easy to grow and practically thrive on neglect. Probably our abundant rain, sun and humidity in the tropics is conducive for its growth as we’ve seen them flourishing unattended along highways and roadsides. However, if home-grown, just remember that it loves the sun as with most tropical palms, and to water well and feed once monthly. Remove dried fronds that are within reach, to keep it tidy. Hardly bothered by diseases and pests.
Unfortunately, this palm is very susceptible to lethal yellowing disease in certain regions, like Florida and Texas.
- Usage: Spectacular, when grown as a landscape palm along streets or sidewalks, highways, roadsides, roundabouts and road dividers. Also, Adonidia merillii is impressive whether grown singly or in a group of two, three or more in residential and commercial areas, parks, gardens and even close to swimming pools. Well-suited too in containers as an accent or specimen tree at courtyard, porch, deck or patio, though do ensure its container or above-ground planter is of good quality to prevent breakage. Being small, neat and elegant, Christmas Palm is now popularly used as an indoor decor plant in homes, offices and shopping malls.
- For sub-tropical & temperate regions: Cold hardiness: USDA Zone 10b through 11. Suitable only in frost-free regions. Check Florida Gardener’s site and the University of Florida’s site which contains plant fact sheets on a variety of palms, including Veitchia merrillii.
Here are some photos of Adonidia merrillii’s flowers, seen on palms growing along the roadside in the neighbourhood. Our first sighting…we’re always on the lookout for photo opportunities, to capture and share at our site. :)
Last edited: March 9 2013