Common Names: Barbados silver palm, silver palm, thatch palm, Lesser
Antilles silver thatch palm
Family: Arecacea/Palmae (palm Family)
Palm Attracts Birds Has evergreen foliage Has Unusual or Interesting
The graceful Barbados silver palm has an open crown of fan-shaped
(palmate) leaves that are green on topsides and silvery-white on the
undersides. The leaves often rotate when the wind blows, creating
beautiful alternating patterns of green and silvery white. Silver
palm leaves are about 40 in (102 cm) across and there are 36-60
leaflets in each leaf. The middle leaflets are about 25-30 in
(63.5-76.2 cm) long. Silver palm has a slender, cylindrical trunk
which gets 8-50 ft (2.4-15.2 m) tall and 2-7 in (5.1-17.8 cm) in
diameter. Most of the trunk is bare, but usually there are some
thick black fibers on the upper trunk area, just below the leaves.
Silver palm blooms in the summer with a dense and multi-flowered
inflorescence consisting of 3-10 branches bearing white flowers. In
winter, silver palm may produce as many as 1300 bunches of round
purple-black fruits from 0.25-3 in (0.6-7.6 cm) in diameter. Each
bunch may weigh 2 pounds (0.9 kg), which means an adult silver palm
may produce 2600 pounds (1179 kg) of fruit! The seeds within the
fruits are unusual in that each has six or more narrow, branched
Barbados silver palm occurs naturally in Puerto Rico, Trinidad,
Tobago, the Virgin Islands, Venezuela (Margarita Island) and the
Windward and Leeward islands (Antigua, Barbados, Barbuda, Dominica,
Guadeloupe, Marie Galante, Martinique, St. Lucia). In the wild,
silver palm grows in coastal forests and scrub woodlands on
limestone soils from sea level to 2000 ft (610 m) elevation.
Silver palm grows best in tropical regions and needs a sunny
position in well-drained soil. A slow grower in its native state,
silver palm responds very well to regular applications of palm
fertilizer. Silver palm grows well in limestone and sandy soils.
Light: Silver palms thrive in full sun. Small silver palms make good
indoor plants and require bright, though indirect light.
Moisture: Silver palms do best on well drained, alkaline soils with
Hardiness: USDA Zones 9 - 12. Mature and established silver palms
can tolerate temperatures down to 26ºF (-3.3ºC) Juvenile silver
palms need protection during freezing temperatures.
Propagation: By seeds. Viable silver palm seeds are reported to
germinate in three months or more.
A group of silver palms make a spectacular sight as they reach for
the sky at the Fairchild Tropical Garden in Miami, Florida.
The tall and graceful silver palm is perfect for lining streets,
driveways and boulevards. Use silver palm in natural and formal
groupings and groves in large, open areas. Young plants can be grown
in containers and give a tropical look to decks, patios and porches.
Young silver palms also can be grown indoors in atriums or
conservatories that have bright light. The silver palm is a good
choice for planting in limestone-rich and calcareous soils. Silver
palm should not be planted under power lines as it can grow up to 50
ft (15.2 m) tall.
Silver palm's graceful leaves appear to wink from green to
silvery-white and back to green as they twist and twirl in a gentle
breeze. In some of its natural habitats, overcollecting and land
clearing are driving Barbados silver palm to near extinction. Silver
palm gets its generic name from a combination of the Latin word for
berry (coccus), and the Greek word, Thrinax, meaning fan. The
species name of barbadensis recognizes the island of Barbados.