Adonidia merrillii (Christmas/Manila Palm), small yet impressive!

Adonidia merrillii (syn: Veitchia merrillii; common names: Manila Palm, Christmas Palm) -

Potted Manila Palm, among others in our front yard gardenThese 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!

Freshly fallen fruits of Adonidia merrillii that will eventually dry up to form seeds Our Veitchia merrillii with 3 budding flower stalks, shot in January 1 2012

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.

    Seeds of Adonidia merrillii (Christmas/Manila Palm) collected for propagation Seedlings of Christmas/Manila Palm sprouted within 2.5 months on ground, in our garden
  • Features: Landscaped with a lovely group of Christmas/Manila Palm (Veitchia/Adonidia merrillii)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.

    Unripened fruits of Adonidia merrillii (Manila/Christmas Palm) Inflorescences of Adonidia merrillii (Manila/Christmas Palm) 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.

    Ripened/Unripened fruits of Adonidia/Veitchia merrillii (Manila/Christmas Palm)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.
  • Adonidia/Veitchia merrillii, lining the roadsideUsage: 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.

Update: 20100316
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. :)

Inflorescences of Veitchia merrillii (Manila/Christmas Palm), growing by the roadsideInflorescences of Adonidia merrillii (Manila/Christmas Palm), growing by the roadside
Flowers of Adonidia/Veitchia merrillii (Manila/Christmas Palm), littered on the ground

Last edited: March 9 2013

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17 Responses to “Adonidia merrillii (Christmas/Manila Palm), small yet impressive!”

  1. Deborah Says:

    Do you need to peal the red skin off the Adonidia merrillii seeds before you soak them to plant?

  2. Jacqueline Says:

    We haven’t tried that way, Deborah. Just to experiment, you can try peeling the skin off the fresh red fruits and see if that would hasten the germination process. Or simply, just sun the fruits until they’re dried and scarify them before sowing in soil.
    All the best to you! Please share your experience here when you succeed so that we can learn from one another. Thanks.

  3. HUGO Says:

    Any particular type of soil (s) for Veitchia Merrilli in the South Fl Area – Sandy, black Soil, Rocky, etc…?
    Best Fertilizer, Watering, Insect Attacks…?
    Thank you, your Site is most instructive and appreciated..
    Hugo

  4. Jacqueline Says:

    Thanks for your kind comments and appreciation, Hugo. For more info, you can probably try the University of Florida’s site link which we have provided above. I’ve just updated its broken link… it appears they have now provided the fact sheets in PDF format, no longer in HTML.
    Hope this helps.

  5. Holly Hardy Says:

    I have a problem with 3 of my 4 Christmas palms. It has a fungus type film on the leafs. I spayed with Diazinon and saw several whiteflyies. Is his my problem or is this a fungus?

  6. Ada Ryan Says:

    I have a christmas palm-adonidia-in a large pot but it got too big and it was growing out the bottom of the pot. I cut it back and moved it from the spot. Now I have 5 new shoots. Can I separate them and plant them spearately? How big do they usually get? I have 2 different answers about them so I need some help. Thanks

  7. Jacqueline Says:

    Hi Ada Ryan! Are you sure that your palm is the Christmas Palm (Adonidia merrillii) as photographed in our article above? This plant is a single-trunked palm tree that does not produce suckers (offsets).

  8. Suzanne Lio Says:

    I was wondering if the fruits are edible or even poisonous. Is it safe to extract oil from the kernels to make soap and candles?

  9. Jacqueline Says:

    Sorry Suzanne… we’re clueless on the matters raised.

  10. zacarias Says:

    i noticed on my 6 yr old manila palms that the bulbous trunk at the base is not touching the soil (even though i have replenished it before) and I can see the inner smaller trunk inside. Is this a problem and can it break under windy conditions of 10-20 mph? I have tried the mycorrhizal fungi for the root system. Otherwise, the leaves are ok and growing nicely.
    aloha and mahalo

  11. zacarias Says:

    aloha! i am still waiting for comments regarding the above question. the outer bulbous trunk is about 1 inch above the soil surface. i am very curious and anticipating your remarks.
    thank you

  12. Jacqueline Says:

    Sorry, Zacarias… as we were unable to assist you on the matter raised, we left it open to visitors that may be able to help you.
    Anyway, I’d advise you to pose your question to Palm-talk forums such as the official forum of the International Palm Society Inc. (IPS) for experts to help out.

  13. Packie Says:

    My neighbor has given me permission to use the seeds off of his palm. I’m super excited by all of your advise. Many sources think the fruit is not edible, if I find out anything more about this I will let you know.

  14. Jacqueline Says:

    Thanks, Packie. We’d appreciate for any update on its fruits’ edibility. Our elder boy who has a 7-year old palm tree informed us that squirrels just love gorging the fruits… no wonder our ripened red fruits are scarce now!

  15. Ranvil Mae Says:

    yeah! AMAZING !! so great .. i have made it as a Candy .. :))
    Manila palm as Candy .. Yum! Yum! Yum!

  16. robert Says:

    are christmas palm fruits edible

  17. Jacqueline Says:

    Sorry, we have no idea whether the fruits are edible, Robert. Please google search for answers.

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