Livistona decora

weeping cabbage palm


Livistona decora

(W.Bull.) Dowe 2004

pronounced: liv-iss-TOH-nuh day-KOR-uh

(Arecaceae — the palm family)

synonym — Livistona decipiens

Becc. 1910

pronounced: liv-iss-TOH-nuh de-KIP-ee-enz

common names: weeping cabbage palm, ribbon fan palm

native 4Livistona is named for Patrick Murray, a 17th century Baron of Livingstone; decora is from the Latin decorus, beautiful, becoming; decipiens is also Latin, decipio, to deceive.

This is our own local palm, native to the east tropical coast of Queensland. We did for quite a while think that it was Livistona drudei, but this proved not to be the case, although the two palms are very similar. Livistona decora is found from Magnetic Island south to Tewantin and Rainbow Beach, and is most common in coastal and near-coastal lowlands in large dense colonies or in scattered groups, in open forest, littoral rainforest and dry rainforest at low to moderate elevations. There are also some isolated inland populations associated with permanent springs or seasonable streams, at anything up to 550 m elevation. They are also found on the edges of forests, protected by gullies, and in swamps close to the sea.

Livistona decora is a medium-sized solitary palm, with its palmate fan-shaped leaves deeply divided, and the leaf tips pendulous. The leaflets on the fronds are very thin and ribbon-like. The trunk grows to about 18 m high, and measures 20 – 30 cm in diameter. The fronds are self-cleaning, exposing attractive rings still remaining from the old petiole bases, and measure 3 – 3.5 m long including the petiole. The petioles are armed with black spines up to about 2 cm in length. The black globose fruits are between 1 and 1.5 cm in diameter.

The species was cultivated in Europe as early as the mid 19th century. It was described by William Bull (1828 – 1902) in his Catalogue of New Beautiful Rare Plants, 1887. He wrote, “An elegant and ornamental species introduced from Queensland. It early develops characterized leaves, which are fan-shaped in outline and divided almost to the petiole into linear lanceolate segments each about half-an-inch in breadth. The petioles are sparsely furnished with small hooked prickles. This species will undoubtedly be found one of the most useful of greenhouse palms.” The palm was introduced into horticulture from his nursery at Chelsea, and grown across much of Europe. There was much confusion then, as now, as to its identification, and it was often inadvertently identified as Livistona inermis or L. australis. It is highly probable that L. inermis was never cultivated in Europe, as it is extremely difficult to propagate and maintain, whereas L. decora is exceptionally easy to germinate, and one of the fastest-growing species in Livistona. It is most closely related to L. australis, but is readily distinguished by its deeply segmented leaves and pendulous segment apices. The range of these two species overlaps in the Fraser Island/Rainbow Beach area of southern Queensland, and it may be that hybridization has occurred, as some individuals in that area are difficult to assign to either species.

Aborigines ate the young growing tips, either raw or roasted.

Livistona palms are food plants for a few Lepidoptera caterpillars, including:

• the Orange Palm Dart Cephrenes augiades; and
• the Yellow Palm Dart Cephrenes trichopepla.


Photographs taken in Nelly Bay 2008, 2014
Page last updated 13th September 2021 ("Weeping" typo fixed - found by Jon Alexander)