T.E.R:R.A.I.N - Taranaki Educational Resource: Research, Analysis and Information Network


Trachycarpus fortunei (Chinese windmill palm)

Kingdom:   Plantae
(Unranked):        Angiosperms
(Unranked):        Monocots
(Unranked):        Commelinids
Order:       Arecales
Family:      Arecaceae
Genus:      Trachycarpus
Species:     T. fortunei
Binomial name: Trachycarpus fortunei
Synonyms: Chamaerops excelsa, Chamaerops fortunei, T. wagnerianus
Common names: Chusan palm, Windmill palm, Chinese windmill palm

Trachycarpus fortunei is a fan palm native to central China (Hubei southwards), south to northern Burma and northern India, growing at altitudes of 100–2,400 m. Trachycarpus fortunei grows to 12–20 m tall on a single stem up to 15–30 cm diameter. The trunk is very rough with the persistent leaf bases clasping the stem as layers of coarse fibrous material. It is a fan palm with the leaves with the long petiole bare except for two rows of small spines, terminating in a rounded fan of numerous leaflets; each leaf is 140–190 cm long, with the petiole 60–100 cm long, and the leaflets up to 90 cm long. It is a somewhat variable plant, especially as regards its general appearance and some specimens are to be seen with leaf segments having straight and others having drooping tips.
The flowers are yellow (male) and greenish (female), about 2–4 mm across, borne in large branched panicles up to 1 m long in spring; it is dioecious, with male and female flowers produced on separate trees. The fruit is a yellow to blue-black, reniform (kidney-shaped) drupe 10–12 mm long, ripening in mid autumn.
Trachycarpus fortunei has been cultivated in China and Japan for thousands of years, for its coarse but very strong leaf sheath fibre, used for making rope, sacks, and other coarse cloth where great strength is important.

Photographed at Pukekura Park, New Plymouth.
 

The fan like frond.


The very strong leaf sheath fibre.


The lower portion of the trunk.