What is Attalea?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 18 December 2018
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Attalea is a genus of palm trees found in Central and Southern America, as well as parts of the Caribbean. The number of species in this genus is a topic of debate, and appears to be around 100, although some estimates are higher or lower. Attalea palms have a number of human uses, ranging from a source for palm oil to landscaping plants, and they are often available through nurseries in tropical and subtropical regions of the world.

These palms produce a crown of leaves that resembles a fountain, with the long, feathery palm fronds exploding from the top of the trunk. In all Attalea species, the trunk starts developing underground. With some species, the trunk remains entirely underground, and in others, it eventually grows aboveground and the tree can be 100 feet (30 meters) in height by the time it is fully developed. The physically striking nature of Attalea palms makes them popular for landscaping.

When the palms flower, they produce sprays of creamy blooms that develop into brown fruit. The trees provide a source of palm fiber, palm oil, edible seeds, and thatching, and have been used historically by native populations. Some species continue to be cultivated commercially for these purposes, while others are used primarily in landscaping. Both seedlings and mature palms are available for landscaping schemes.


Some species are relatively hardy and can thrive in subtropical areas, while others need to be grown in the tropics only. An Attalea palm needs a sunny, sheltered area to grow and should be supported with supplemental nutrition, especially during the early stages of growth, to encourage it to mature rapidly. Dead foliage can periodically be trimmed away to keep trees looking neat and tidy. It is important to know which species is being grown, as some are suitable for the garden understory, while others will become very tall and need to be grown in open areas with clear space overhead.

The cost of Attalea seedlings varies, depending on their maturity. Older plants, especially fully mature palms, can be very expensive, as a great deal of work is needed to cultivate them and prepare them for transport. Young trees can be relatively affordable, but will take much longer to get large. When selecting plants for a landscaping scheme, people may want to consider how quickly they want their landscaping to mature, and weigh this against the costs associated with purchasing and moving larger trees and shrubs.



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