Macarthur PalmMacarthur Palm (Licuala macleayana) is an attractive small palm is noted for its multiple, slim, ringed grey trunks which are topped with soft green, feathery, flat, broad leaves with tips that appear jagged and torn. Although able to reach 30 feet in height, Macarthur Palm is most often seen 10 to 15 feet in height with a variable spread.
Macarthur Palm is found in Papua New Guinea, Australia, and the Solomon Islands in mostly mountainous areas in rainforests at elevations of 100 to 1,300 feet. It rarely occurs in coastal or lowland regions. It prefers rich soils (sand or clay) or volcanic soils (fellfield) on stream banks or ridges. It also does well on lower slopes, but may not grow on upper hillsides because of the cold.
This palm prefers high humidity and good drainage. Although it is tolerant of windswept locations, Macarthur Palm will be burned by direct sun if planted in hot locations. It does not transplant well, so it should be planted in a location where it will grow for many years.
Macarthur Palm is very hardy with its most serious disease being lethal yellowing (its relative, Licuala grandis, also affected). During the rainy season in the tropics, this palm may suffer from leaf spot diseases due to high humidity and poor air circulation.
Macarthur Palm will grow in a variety of soil types with neutral pH (6.5 – 7.0). The best soils are well-drained loam, sand, or clay-type soils that have good organic matter contents. Volcanic soils are also preferred for this species because they tend to be nitrogen-rich and low in alkalinity.
Macarthur Palms are dioecious, meaning male and female flowers are borne on separate plants. This species rarely sets viable seeds because of cross-pollination with other individuals so it can be reproduced by planting suckers or taking rhizome cuttings.
The seeds are red when ripe, but the seedlings are miniscule. The weeds that grow around Macarthur Palm can provide homes for many rodents, which will eat the seed within five days of reaching maturity.
Macarthur Palm grows slowly for the first few years but has been reported to grow up to 2 feet per year when mature. The fruit is red berries that are borne in clusters of two or three near the top of both male and female plants. They are edible but have hard seeds inside, so they are usually discarded without being eaten.
Macarthur Palm is not often seen for sale in American nurseries, but it is occasionally available. It should be massed planted as a specimen or clustered around an entryway for its attractive form. This palm can also be used as a screen on the side of the home with cold winter temperatures.