Garden Oracle / Drought and Heat Tolerant Gardening / Tucson - Phoenix - Arizona - California

Growing Pindo Palm / Jelly Palm:
Butia odorata

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Botanical Overview

Part of the Palm family (Arecaceae), members of the Butia genus are called "feather" palms, because of their leaf shape, and consist of 22 species. Butia odorata is the most cold-hardy.

Description

Form: Palm.
Lifespan: About 80 years.
Leaf retention: Evergreen.
Growth rate: Slow, 12-24" annually.
Mature Size: This species grows 10-30' high and 6-8' wide.
Flowers: Pale yellow to reddish, with 3 petals and 3 sepals, on many strands connected to a central stalk. This inflorescence is enclosed in a woody spathe which splits apart when the flowers are ready to open. Separate male and female flowers are grouped in threes - two male flowers and one female. Male flowers have 6 stamens.
Bloom: Spring.
Self-fruitful: Self-pollinating.
Years before fruiting: 8-10.
Fruit: Yellow to orange, round to oval, 1" diameter, with a single round seed and fibrous flesh, hanging in large sprays. It has a sweet-tart, mixed-fruit taste which has been compared to apricot, pineapple and banana, or mango and peach. Its quality varies from plant to plant.
Months for fruit to ripen: 3-4. The fruit are ripe when fully colored, sometimes with a slight blush. The fruit ripen a few at a time and fall off the stem onto the ground after a few days of being fully ripe. One palm may produce 50-100 pounds of fruit.
Storage after harvest: Refrigerate up to one week.
Leaves: Blue-green to silver, long, and arching. The v-shaped central stalk has long, narrow leaflets growing along both edges.
Stems: The trunk is 1' - 2' in diameter. The leaf stems have thorns.
Roots: Not invasive, but susceptible to root rot in moist soil.
Wildlife: The flowers attract pollinating insects. The fruit attracts mammals.
Toxic / Danger: Thorny leaf stems.
Origin: Southern Brazil and adjacent areas of Uruguay. Pindo palm has been cultivated for at least 2000 years.

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Cultivation and Uses

USDA hardiness zones: 8-11. This palm is hardy to 15°F when young, possibly 5-10°F or less when mature.
Chill hours: None.
Heat tolerant: Yes.
Drought tolerant: Yes.
Sun: Full sun. Part shade is tolerated.
Planting: Place this palm in full sun, in well-draining soil, in a 100-200 square feet area to provide adequate root spread. It should have 10-14 feet between it and the trunk of another palm or tree.
Soil: Very well drained. This palm is tolerant of soil types otherwise, and is salt tolerant.
Fertilize: Fertilization speeds growth but it is mainly used in case of potassium deficiency which is likely in alkaline soil. Potassium deficiency causes grey, necrotic tips in leaves and premature leaf loss. Manganese deficiency is also possible, but rare, and causes necrotic tips on newly emerging leaves. Apply a palm fertilizer mid-spring.
Water after becoming established: Deep water monthly. Additional water speeds growth.
Mulch: Do not mulch. The soil around its roots must dry quickly.
Prune: Remove lower leaves when they become untidy. Remove flower stalks before the spathe cracks open in the spring if fruit is not wanted.
Litter: Fruit if not harvested. Fruit fall on the ground a few at a time.
Propagation: To germinate Butia odorata, take seed, newly cut from ripe fruit, and gently crack and remove the outer husk. Place the seeds, sprayed with an antifungal, on top of moist perlite in a container and seal the lid. Keep the container at a constant temperature using bottom heat. Sprouting usually begins in 20-30 days. Temperature and humidity influence sprouting time, with chosen temperatures ranging from 80° to 90°F.
Uses: Ornamental, edible fruit. The fruit naturally contains pectin and is used to make jelly and wine. The seeds contain an edible oil.

Comments

This palm is often mislabeled as Butia capitata in nurseries. Pindo Palm is very wind tolerant, pest/disease resistant, and cold hardy. It is popular as an ornamental over a wide region of the world but rarely escapes cultivation or naturalizes on its own.


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Butia odorata: Pindo Palm fruit

Butia odorata: Pindo Palm


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Latest update: September, 2021.