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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

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Saturday - June 21, 2008

From: midway park, NC
Region: Southeast
Topic: Seed and Plant Sources
Title: Identification of palm plant
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

Hello! I just bought a tiny 10" tall feather leafed palm. I did my research first though, and thought I was buying an areca palm. Now after doing more research, I really have no idea what type of palm I have purchased! All the tag says is 'tropical foliage'. It has about 20 stems,really thin, each with 2-3 (no more than 3 on any of the stems) long fronds with a feathery look to them. I potted it into a 6" pot, thinking it would grow fast and then I could re-pot into a 17 qt pot in late winter or spring when it is a bit more established. There are so many that I have seen online that look the exactly like mine! The closest are the neanthebella or the chamaedorea cataractarum. One only grown 6 feet, the other 12'. One wants lots of light and the other doesn't. I need to know what you think I have so I can properly take care of it! Thanks so much! -Amy

ANSWER:

The two species you name, Chamaedorea elegans (neanthebella or parlor palm) and Chamaedorea cataractarum (cat palm or cataract palm), are not native to North America and, as such, are not in our area of expertise. Our focus is on plants native to the United States (including Hawaii and Alaska) and Canada. Our mission statement reads: "The mission of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is to increase the sustainable use and conservation of native wildflowers, plants and landscapes."

My suggestion is to take your question to the University of British Columbia (UBC) Botanical Garden discussion forums. They have a category called "Plant Identification" under Gardening Miscellany. The quote from their web page says: "The garden provides these forums for people from around the world to discuss plants and gardening with input from UBC researchers, staff and volunteers and other contributing experts." The site allows you to post photographs to aid with the identification and they discuss all sorts of plants—cultivated, exotic, non-native and native.

 

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