What is Archontophoenix?

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  • Written By: Alex Tree
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 11 January 2019
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Archontophoenix is a genus of palms that includes six species that are endemic to eastern Australia. The species are largely undifferentiated with minimal variation between them. All of them are solitary, with erect, broad-based trunks that can grow up to 80 feet (25 m). The leaves are paripinnate and green, brown, or purple, and the white or cream-colored flowers grow in triads with nine to 34 stamens in each. Plants belonging to this genus grow best in fertile soil and can tolerate warm to mild winter conditions.

The six species can be found along the eastern coast of Australia from the Durras Mountain in New South Wales to as far north as Cape York, Queensland. These palms can grow in sea-level terrain and river valleys, to mountain ranges as high as 3,900 feet (1,200 m), such as in the case of A. maxima and A. purpurea. The three most widespread species are A. alexandrae, A. cunninghamiana, and A. tuckeri. A. myolensis, considered an endangered species and the rarest species of Archontophoenix, is endemic to a small area in northeastern Queensland.


Like other types of palms, the general appearance of plants in the Archontophoenix genus is arborescent, or tree-like. The stems have enlarged bases with prominent leaf scars along the shafts. Their leaf bases form an elongated crownshaft that can be of different colors. The leaves grow at the top of the stem in a parippinate or paired pattern along the branches. Flowers grow in clusters of three, with each flower containing a stamen with curved filaments and erect anthers.

The fruits of these plants are ovoid or elliptical in shape, each ranging from 0.3 to 1 inches (8 to 26 mm) in diameter. They are green in color when young but turn red upon maturity. Each fruit contains a single seed that is ovoid in appearance.

Though plants in this genus do not differ greatly, the subtle differences can be spotted if one knows what to look for. One species, A. cumminghamiana, produces purple flowers instead of the white blossoms grown by the other species of Archontophoenix. In addition to the silver-gray scales found in other types, A. purpurea has brown ramenta, or scales, along the leaves. The fruit mesocarp of five species contains a flat, thin 0.03-inch (1-mm) wide layer of fiber, while A. tuckeri has an additional layer that is slightly wider and thicker.

Archontophoenix is used as an ornamental plant in tropical and sub-tropical regions. They are slow-growing plants that grow best in rich, well-drained soil and under direct sunlight or partial shade. These plants need an average amount of water regularly in the summer season. The trunks are susceptible to rotting during the winter season.



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