Trachycarpus: Characteristics, Habitat, Distribution, Species

Trachycarpu s  is a genus of palm trees composed of ten species belonging to the Arecaceae family. It is distributed in the north of India (in the Himalayas), in the north of Thailand, in China and Vietnam.

They have slender trunks and are covered by the fibrous bases of the leaves. These are mostly dark green, and waxy on the underside. The flowers are arranged in inflorescences of up to four orders. The fruit is dispersed by the birds that feed on them.

Its use is mainly as an ornamental. The stems of these palms are used as poles and the fibers of the leaf sheaths and stems are used to make brushes and crafts.

The species that comprise this genus are T. fortunei, T. geminisectus, T. latisectus, T. martianus, T. nanus, T. oreophilus, T. princeps, T. ravenii, T. takil, and T. ukhrulensis .



These are palm trees with lonely stems, high and some short or underground. The stems are covered by fibrous leaf sheaths. This cover of the stem is lost as the plant ages, and only the rings are observed.


The leaves of this genus are webbed and form a dense crown, which, like the leaf sheath on the stems, loses this crown of leaves as the plant ages, and the stem is bare.

The foliar sheaths are open, composed of fibers and have long petioles that show blunt teeth along their entire margin. The hastula is present and can be small or protruding.

The leaves are normally greenish-gray in color, while others are bright white, with a waxy layer on the abaxial part and are divided into many rigid segments whose tip or apex is divided.


The flowers of these palms can branch into inflorescences of up to four orders. The inflorescences are formed between the leaves, being wrapped in yellowish bracts.


The fruit produced is oblong or kidney-shaped, monosperm, yellowish or brown in color and, in some species, the fruit is dark (black-purple). The dispersal of the seeds is thanks to the birds that feed on them.


The genus Trachycarpus is a monophyletic genus, unrelated to the genus ChamaeropsRegarding its etymology, the word Trachus means rough, and karpos means fruit.

-Kingdom: Plantae

– Phylum: Tracheophyta

-Class: Liliopsida

-Order: Areclaes

-Family: Arecaceae

-Gender: Trachycarpus H. Wendland (1863)

Species : T. fortunei, T. geminisectus, T. latisectus, T. martianus, T. nanus, T. oreophilus, T. princeps, T. ravenii, T. takil, T. ukhrulensis .

Habitat and distribution

This genus lives in the Himalayas, north of India, and from there it is distributed to Thailand, China, and Vietnam. They are grown in various countries around the world that meet their climatic requirements of cold, temperate or warm-temperate zones.

They grow on limestone, although on other soil characteristics as well. Some species reach 2,500 meters above sea level. They can live in direct exposure to the sun from an early age, and irrigation with saline water can kill an adult specimen.

Representative species

Trachycarpus latisectus

It has leaves with leaflets that measure up to 5 cm, which together give off a lot of beauty. The leaves are green, shiny and firm in texture. The bearing of this plant is robust, fast growing, cold tolerant and has strongly fragrant flowers.

Trachycarpus martianus

This species lives in limestone hills, normally up to 2400 meters above sea level, its presence in this type of rock not being exclusive. It is known as Hindu or Nepalese palm.

It also inhabits mountain rain forests from 900 to 2500 meters above sea level. It has a trunk about 6 m high and 18 cm in diameter, light or dark gray in color. It has an open and hemispherical crown of leaves.

The leaves are supported by a petiole that can measure between 1 to 2 m long, the leaves are green on the upper side, and bluish-gray on the underside. It is less cold resistant than T. fortunei , but it is more tolerant of tropical climates and requires more water than this species.

Trachycarpus takil

It is found in humid oak forests, at altitudes of up to 2400 meters above sea level, where the ground can be covered with a layer of snow from November to March.

Trachycarpus fortunei

It is the species with the greatest tolerance to cold in terms of palm trees, and can be cultivated in cold areas such as the outside of the British Isles. It is possible to develop from 100 to 2400 meters above sea level. It is mainly grown in Bhutan, Nepal, and Vietnam.

It has a trunk about 12 m high, with an elongated woody part and a maximum diameter of 25 cm covered with the fibrous bases of the leaves that give it a dark brown appearance; these leaves can be removed and a long, elegant trunk with narrow rings exposed.

The leaves produce an obovate spherical crown. Both on the upper side and on the underside, the leaves are dark green, reaching a width of 90 cm, while the petioles are 45 to 130 cm long.

It grows very well in cool climates and is practically absent in tropical or subtropical areas. However, in countries that have temperate and warm-temperate zones they can also develop perfectly. Scotland, New Zealand or the high mountains of Ecuador and Colombia are some of the areas in which this species is distributed.

Review that its fibers are used to create clothing, brooms or other utensils as well as for basketry. A hemostatic drug is extracted from its seeds.

Trachycarpus oreophilus

It is a palm that is found in a high altitude range, between 1,700 and 2,500 meters above sea level and where there is an incidence of strong winds. It is extremely slow growing.

It is an imposing species, with a slender stem, very showy crowns. The leaves have about 60 grooved leaflets of regular depth.


These palms have a mainly ornamental use since they are easy to grow in greenhouse or field conditions.

In China, the stems are used as posts, while the fibers from the leaf sheaths and stems are used to make brushes and crafts. The high cost of these plants is due to their slow growth.

The seeds are used in traditional medicine for their possible anti-cancer properties.

Also, with the fibers and strips of the leaves, padded and waterproof layers are manufactured that help protect from precipitation and allow carrying heavy loads.


  1. Guillot Ortiz, D., Laguna Lumbreras, E., Roselló Gimeno, H., Roselló Gimeno, R. 2012. Species of the genus Trachycarpus cultivated and / or commercialized in the Valencian Community. Bouteloua 11: 3-18.
  2. Catalog of Life: 2019 Annual Checklist. Genus Trachycarpus . Taken from:
  3. Tropics. 2019. Trachycarpus H. Wendl. Taken from:
  4. Elicriso, Magazine about the environment and nature. 2019. How to grow and cure Trachycarpus plants . Taken from:
  5. Del Cañizo, JA 2011. Trachycarpus H. Wendland. In: Palm trees, all genera and 565 species. 3rd ed. Editions Mundi-Prensa. Page 1026. Taken from:

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