Common Names: Chilean wine palm, coquito palm, honey palm
Family: Arecacea/Palmae (palm Family)
Palm Drought Tolerant Has evergreen foliage Has Unusual or
This Incredible Hulk of the palm world, Jubaea chilensis, dominates
the landscape with his thick muscular trunk. The straight gray
trunks can grow to over 3 ft (0.9 m) in diameter and soar to heights
of 80 ft (24.4 m). In older specimens, the trunk typically
constricts near the top to form the brute's "shoulders" upon which
rest a proportionally small "head" that is composed of densely
packed pinnate (feather-shaped) leaves. These are held stiffly erect
on short stems to form a crown that is about 30 ft (9.1 m) in
diameter. The leaves grow 12-16 ft (3.7-4.9 m) in length and are a
darker green on top with the lower surfaces a dull grey green.
Purple flowers are borne on 4 ft (1.2 m) inflorescence (flower
stalk) that grows hidden among the leaves. The orange fruits, called
coquitos, are about 1.5 in (0.5 cm) in diameter. Within the fruits
are smooth tan seeds that resemble tiny coconuts. These have similar
oily white flesh (endosperm) that tastes like them too!
Jubaea chilensis is native to coastal areas of central Chile. Small
forests of this palm once grew in mountainside ravines from sea
level to altitudes of 2000 ft. The species is greatly diminished now
after centuries of exploitation in order to harvest it's sugary sap.
The Chilean government has enacted laws forbidding this destructive
practice - let's hope they can effectively enforce them. Otherwise
it's possible that in the future this palm may exist only in the
landscapes of areas with Mediterranean type climates such as
California, the southern European coast and South Africa.
The coquito palm prefers deep well drained soil. Not a palm for the
seaside as it does not tolerate salt spray.
Light: Requires bright sunny conditions.
Moisture: Tolerates drought conditions. Prefers sites where its deep
roots can access subsurface moisture (just like the Washingtonia
Hardiness: USDA Zones 8 - 10. Does not like hot climates. Very hardy
- can survive temperatures as low as 5ºF (-15ºC). This palm is
successfully cultivated in temperate areas of southern Britain,
Switzerland and northern Italy.
Propagation: Propagate using fresh seeds. Plant in a warm area,
germination may occur as quickly as two months or take as long as
In areas where it can be grown, coquito palm is superb as a specimen
plant where it can serve as a spectacular focal point on a sweep of
lawn. Assembled into burly groupings coquito palm strikes an awesome
presence creating fantasy groves of huge pillared trunks. Even
though it is slow growing, I think it should be planted more often
along streets and boulevards located in mild Mediterranean climates
to create memorable urban vistas for generations to come.
This sap is rich in sucrose and other simple sugars. It is boiled
down for use as a sweetener called palm honey (similar to corn
syrup). It may also be fermented into alcoholic beverages inspiring
the common name Chilean wine palm. This sap is obtained from the
mighty trunks. The palms are felled and the crown removed. Several
quarts of sap ooze from the wound each day. Sap may be collected
from a single trunk for months or even years after the palm has been
cut. Let's pray that this practice stops - the life of one of the
hulking beauties is far too high a price to pay for a sugar