Chinese Fan Palm (Livistona chinensis)

Native range: southern China, southern Japan

How it got here: Introduced as an ornamental tree for gardens.

How it spreads: Fruit fall to the ground and sprout below the parent tree. Some fruit are spread by birds. Trees are also moved about by people.

Chinese Fan Palms look very much like our Bermuda Palmetto, but have a number of undesirable characteristics. Fan Palms produce more berries, germinate more successfully and grow faster than Bermuda Palmetto. Fallen berries germinate at the base of the parent tree, eventually forming thickets of palms of various sizes. These thickets can be seen along the road side, where other plants have been overshadowed and crowded out by Fan Palms.

Chinese Fan Palms can be distinguished from Bermuda Palmettos by the thorns found on the leaf stem of most Fan Palms. Palmettos never have thorns. Also the Fan Palm has a uniformly green leaf, hard oval grey-blue berries and the leaf meets the stem in a ‘C’ shape when viewed from above. Remember C is for Chinese Fan Palm. Distinguishing a young Fan Palm from a Palmetto is difficult, unless the parent tree is nearby.

Removal: Removing a Fan Palm of any size requires gloves to protect against their thorns. Seedlings can be pulled by hand. Larger saplings are more difficult to pull as there is no trunk to get hold of. They can be dug out with a fork, but will re-grow if you break them.

Mature Fan Palms can be cut back to ground level using a machete and bow saw. Fan Palms are fibrous so if using a chainsaw it will need to be unclogged regularly. Palms grow from a central heart, so using a machete or saw to chop up the centre of the stump should prevent the tree from re-sprouting. ‘Roundup’ herbicide can also be brushed onto the stump to prevent re-growth.

Poster: Chinese Fan Palm or an Endemic Palmetto? 

Further Reading: An Illustrated Guide to the Indigenous and Invasive Plants of Bermuda [PDF, 42MB].