Dypsis lutescens

golden canes


Dypsis lutescens

(H.Wendl.) Beentje & J.Dransf. 1995

pronounced: DIP-siss loo-TESS-kenz

(Arecaceae — the palm family)

synonym — Chrysalidocarpus lutescens

H.Wendl. 1878

pronounced: kriss-al-lid-oh-KAH-puss loo-TESS-kenz

common name: golden canes

The etymology of  dypsis is obscure. Wikipedia suggests that it might be related to the Greek δυπτω (dypto), to dive, or  δυπτης (dyptis), a diver.  All members of this species, as far as I can ascertain, are palms native to Madagascar. The synonym Chrysalidocarpus comes from the Greek χρυσος (chrysos), gold, and καρπος (karpos), fruit; lutescens is a Latin word meaning ‘becoming yellow’.

This is probably the most widely used palm for landscaping on the east coast of Australia, and there are thousands of them on the island. If used for screening, and allowed to grow naturally, it forms numerous suckers around the base. I think that in its natural form it looks rather scruffy and untidy. For garden use I think it looks best if it is thinned out. A landscape gardener once told me that the preferred shape is half a dozen trunks in a circle surrounding one trunk in the centre. To keep one’s golden canes in this state is no small task, as dozens of suckers still keep growing from the base, and have to be cut back periodically.

The golden cane palm can grow up to 6 m tall, although it is usually smaller. 6 to 8 leaves on long petioles grow from the end of each trunk and gracefully arch outwards and downwards. The lower leaves gradually die off and drop to the ground. Each leaf has 80–100 leaflets arranged on the leaf stem in a shallow V. The name ‘golden canes’ comes from the golden yellow colour of the petioles. The trunks grow to about 15 cm in diameter
The yellow flowers are borne on branches about 1 m long that emerge from the junctions of the petioles with the trunk, and develop into fruits that are usually yellowish, but sometimes darker, even purple. They are olive-shaped, about 2 cm long. The individual fruits drop to the ground as they ripen, and eventually germinate. Hundreds of seedlings will appear under the palms, and will grow into a miniature forest unless kept decapitated by the lawnmower.

In cooler climates, the palm is often potted and kept indoors. If kept indoors, it requires lots of natural light. The specimens bought from garden centres are almost always grown in very bright conditions, and should be gradually acclimatized to the lower level of light inside. Newly purchased plants should be started off outdoors, under a shady tree or on a deck for a few weeks, before being moved indoors.


Photographs taken in Picnic Bay 2008
Page last updated 18th July 2019