Archontophoenix alexandrae

Alexander palm


Archontophoenix alexandrae

(F.Muell.) H.Wendl. & Drude

pronounced: ar-kon-toh-FEE-niks al-ecks-AN-dray

(Arecaceae — the palm family)


common name: Alexander palm

The generic Archontophoenix comes from two Greek words, αρχος (archos), chief or commander, and φοινιξ (phoenix), date palm, also the dark red colours from crimson to purple. The specific refers either to Alexander the Great, or to the Egyptian city named in his honour.

The palms are native to much of the eastern Queensland coast. This is a fast-growing (up to almost a metre per year) solitary palm with a lightly bulbous, pale grey trunk that usually grows up to 15 m high, and is shallow-rooted. The pinnate fronds are up to about 2.5 m long, and the leaflets, all in the same plane, are bright green above and silvery grey on the undersides. The fronds have a tendency to rotate through about 90º to expose the whole leaf in profile. The Alexander palm is self-cleaning, shedding its old fronds regularly – they don’t need cutting off.

The base of the petioles forms a bright green crownshaft below which the fronds rarely droop. The trunk is smooth and ringed with noticeable leaf scars, relatively close together, and the base can be noticeably swollen. It can grow to about 30 cm in diameter.

Flowers are formed below the crownshaft with the creamy flower stalks bearing creamy white flowers, with male and female flowers on the same stalk. The round fruits, produced by the hundreds, and not much more than a centimetre in diameter, are green at first, turning orange to bright red at maturity. They are great favourites with many species of bird, who play the major role in seed dispersal. The seeds are usually very fertile, and this is an easy palm to propagate.

The Orange Palm Dart Cephrenes augia lays single eggs on the underside of the fronds of this palm, and the resulting caterpillars feed nocturnally. The larvae of the Black and White Swift Sabera caesina and the Palm Moth Agonoxena phoenicea also use the palm as a food source.

Although in nature this palm is solitary, there is an increasing tendency to plant Alexanders in clumps to provide a canopy for a tropical garden setting. The palm can also be grown indoors and on balconies, provided that there is sufficient light. Once established, in a situation where there is a good water supply, though well-drained, this is a very hardy palm.


Photographs taken 2007, 2009 in Picnic Bay
Page last updated 11th October 2018