The Dwarf Palm Or Cycas

The dwarf palm is a plant native to Asia and tropical countries in general.

It is a typical species of the Mediterranean scrub and grows wild in the coastal areas of southern Italy and the islands, but is cultivated for ornamental purposes in all regions with a temperate climate.

It belongs to the Arecaceae family, the only species of the genus Chamaerops.

But if the appearance of this plant resembles that of the palm, in reality the dwarf palm is a much older plant and after long studies has been included among the coniferous plants.

Its origins are very ancient: it was already widespread throughout the world in the Mesozoic era and in fact is also classified as a living fossil. For this reason, through the study of dwarf palms, it has been possible to obtain a lot of useful information on botanical species now extinct.

At the botanical garden of Padua is the oldest specimen, planted in 1585 and known as Goethe’s palm, because the German writer, fascinated by its beauty, dedicated an essay entitled Metamorphosis of plants.

There are over 100 different species of dwarf palms, each with different characteristics.

The most widespread in Italy is the Cycas Revoluta, which, although it has a slow growth rate, in some decades can reach 3/4 meters high. It is widely grown both as a garden plant and as an apartment plant.

Then there is the Cycas Revoluta Aurea, which is characterized by the yellow color of the edges of the leaves.

Another species of dwarf palm particularly widespread in our country is the Chamaerops humilis commonly called St. Peter’s palm and originating in northern Africa and southern Europe.

The Dwarf Palm: General Characteristics

The dwarf palm is formed by a central cylindrical and woody trunk, covered with brown scales, at the top of which a tuft of dark green leaves, rigid and pinnate, sprouts up.

The cycas is a dioecious plant, that is, it produces both masculine and feminine flowers. Both inflorescences develop inside the leaves, but, whilst the male specimen is characterized by a long and scaly flower, the female one produces a shorter flower covered by bracts, at the margins of which form the ovules which, once fecundated, assume a pink color.

How to Care For the Dwarf Palm

The dwarf palm, thanks to its adaptability and resistance, adapts to various types of climate, is easy to grow and does not require special care.


The ideal exposure of the dwarf palm is certainly in full sun, however, avoiding excessive exposure to sunlight as it also likes a slight shade.

It also adapts well to closed environments, as long as they are well-lit.

This plant, in fact, needs to receive a good amount of light for at least four hours, in the morning or afternoon. However, it can bear, for short periods, temperatures below zero.

If cultivated in the Central or Southern regions, it can be easily cultivated in the garden, whilst at the same time, in the

North it is recommended to place it in a pot and in winter shelter them in apartment or in cold greenhouses.


The dwarf palm is to be watered regularly, when we note that the soil is dry, leaving it humid and never excessively wet, avoiding stagnations of water.

If we keep the dwarf palm in apartment, it is good at times to vaporize the leaves with demineralized water, in order to re-establish the natural ambient humidity.

The Dwarf Palm: Parasites and Diseases

The yellowing of the leaves is the most frequent inconvenience that can happen to the dwarf palm.

This can be caused by two reasons: either a nutritional deficiency or a parasitic attack, especially of cochineal, which, sucking the sap of the plant releases a sugary substance that promotes the proliferation of fungi.

Generally, cochineal yellowing is manifested by punctuation on the entire leaf, while nutritional deficiencies yellow the leaf with larger areas.

  1. If you think your dwarf palm has been attacked by cochineals, check the underside of the leaf for these pesky animals. Then spray the plant with a suitable plant protection product, or, if you prefer to remove them manually, fry the leaves with a cotton ball soaked in alcohol and water.
  2. But maybe your dwarf palm is suffering from a lack of water or mineral salts. In this case you need to pay more attention to the health of your plant and provide it with enough water and a slow release organic fertiliser.
  3. On the contrary, it may also be that the cause of the yellowing of the leaves is due to excessive irrigation or too much fertilizer. You yourself will know and understand what the real reason is.
  4. Remember again that the dwarf palm does not tolerate water stagnation that could lead to rottenness and radical death of the plant. You can prevent this by mixing normal soil with sand to increase water drainage.

Last Tips

Finally, you should know that all cycases have a high degree of toxicity.

Therefore, it is always preferable to protect your hands with suitable gardening gloves when handling them and pay attention to your pets, because the fruits are extremely poisonous.

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