Native to eastern Australia, the Livistona australis, or cabbage-tree palm, is a fan palm found in moist open forest, often in swampy areas, on margins of rainforests, and close to the ocean. It is widely spread along the New South Wales coast and extends north into Queensland and southwards to eastern Victoria, growing further south than any other native Australian palm.
It has leaves plaited like a fan. In summer it bears flower spikes with sprigs of cream-white flowers. In winter, the trees accumulate dead fronds or leaves, which usually need to be removed by a arborist.
Flowering and fruiting all year, first the fruit is red and later turn black when it is ready to be peeled and planted.
A very useful palm, the young and tender leaves are eaten like cabbages both raw or cooked. The mature leaves are also used for thatching and making hats. They are large and fibrous and can also be used for making baskets, bags, nets etc. Seeking protection from the sun, early European settlers in Australia used fibre from the native palm to create the cabbage tree hat, a distinctive form of headwear during the colonial era.
There is one Livistona australis thriving in the Merwin Palm Collection.
Want to “virtually explore” the Merwin Palm Collection? Search through our archive of Palm Facts of the Week, featuring palms hand-planted by W.S Merwin. To search through the Online Merwin Palm Database, visit this link.
If you’re inspired to help The Merwin Conservancy preserve and care for the world-renowned Merwin Palm Collection into the future, please consider making a tax-deductible donation.