Coconut Palm Cultivars in Florida

From the Horticultural Sciences Department, Florida Cooperative Extension Service
Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida

Cultivar Type Lethal yellowing resistance Petiole and immature fruit color
Jamaica Tall Tall Very low Green or bronze
Panama Tall Tall Low Green or bronze
Malayan Dwarf Semi-Dwarf Low Green, golden, or yellow
Maypan hybrid Tall Low Green or bronze
Fiji Dwarf (Niu Leka) Dwarf High? Green or bronze

Several cultivars of coconut palms are grown in Florida. These cultivars differ in their petiole and fruit color, straightness (or crookedness) of the trunk, leaflet and leaf width, growth rates, presence or absence of a swollen trunk base or bole, adaptability to Florida's soil conditions, and resistance to lethal yellowing disease (LY).

The Jamaican Tall (also called Atlantic Tall) is a rapid-growing coconut palm variety with a swollen trunk base and crooked trunk. This variety is well adapted to Florida. The Malayan Dwarf cultivar has three color forms that differ in the color of the immature fruits and petioles (green, yellow, or gold). This cultivar is smaller and slower-growing than the Jamaican Tall. Additionally, the Malayan Dwarf has a narrow, straight, non-swollen trunk. The Panama Tall (also called Pacific Tall) is a large, robust palm with a large-diameter trunk that is crooked and swollen. The Panama Tall has a rapid growth rate and either green or bronze-colored fruits and petioles. The Maypan is a hybrid between the Malayan Dwarf and the Panama Tall and resembles the Jamaican Tall in appearance.

The Malayan Dwarf cultivar and the hybrid Maypan have been widely planted in Florida because of their reported resistance to LY, a fatal disease of coconut palms in Florida and in parts of the Caribbean region. (For more on this disease, see EDIS Publication PP222, Although these varieties were originally believed to be highly resistant to LY, long-term trials in Florida have revealed that Malayan Dwarf and Maypan are only slightly less susceptible to LY than the Jamaican Talls these varieties were intended to replace.

One cultivar that has shown some potential for resistance to LY is the Fiji Dwarf (Niu Leka), although more extensive testing is needed to substantiate the promising results of studies done in Florida during the 1980s and 1990s. The Fiji Dwarf is slow growing and has very broad leaves and leaflets. This variety can have either bronze or green fruits and petioles and has a very thick, crooked trunk. The Fiji Dwarf is well adapted to Florida soils. Unfortunately, seed from the Fiji Dwarf produces a good percentage of tall, off-type palms that are known to be susceptible to LY.

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Broschat, T.K. and Crane, Jonathan H. "The Coconut Palm In Florida." This document is HS40, one of a series of the Horticultural Sciences Department, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. Original publication date Apr. 1984. Revised June 2014. Web. 4 Nov. 2015.

Published 28 Apr. 2014 LR. Last update 11 Nov. 2015 LR

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