Most people are familiar with palm trees, however, there are many more varieties than most of us could even imagine! Two of the most prominent species of palm trees are King Palm and Queen Palm, and although they are of the same family, these two trees are quite different. So let’s find out what the differences are.
The major differences between the King and Queen Palm trees can certainly be seen in their physical attributes, and also within the way their fronds are discarded and how they respond to the environment around them.
If you want to be able to tell the difference between a King Palm and a Queen Palm on sight, and truly understand the subtle and structural differences, you have found just the article you were looking for. We are going to discuss these two amazing species, including what makes them special and of course, the specific contrasts and variations between the two.
What Is a King Palm?
A King Palm, otherwise known as the archontophoenix alexandrae, is a subtropical palm tree, native to Queensland and New South Wales, Australia.
These big beautiful trees are quite popular amongst landscapers as they are known for their perfect symmetry, and you can find them along boulevards and avenues throughout the West Coast of the United States, as well as around the world.
What Do King Palms Look Like?
One way to tell if you are looking at a King Palm is to look at the trunks. If you are standing in front of a palm tree with a gray or grayish-brown trunk, with leaf scar ridges that resemble stair steps and ends with a beautiful green crownshaft, you may well be looking at a king palm.
Another feature that can help you analyze your tree is that king palm’s trunk diameter can reach up to about 10 inches and tends to be larger at the base.
Looking up to the sky, you may notice a glossy dark green on the outer surface of the fronds and a whitish-gray on the inner surface. The fronds can reach about 7 to 10 feet long.
How Tall Can King Palms Grow?
King Palms can grow up to eighty feet high in the wild, but would not reach this kind of highs in a house garden.
Although they are not the tallest palm tree species in the world, they are certainly tall enough to make an impression. If well cared for, a King Palm can grow 3 feet every year, and the good news is, King Palm’s are quite resilient and will most likely have a long, and eventually tall, life.
What Is a Queen Palm?
The King Palm’s counterpart, Queen Palm, or syagrus romanzoffiana, which was originally cultivated in South America, is equally as royal in its physical characteristics, and it is also often used by landscapers to line important roads or borders because of its impressive stature and beautiful structure.
What Do Queen Palms Look Like?
To the untrained eye, a King and Queen Palm may look identical, but there are a few easy-to-spot attributes that only a Queen Palm will have.
Queen Palms have smooth gray trunks with spaced scars all the way up to the top, with a diameter up to 17 inches. The fluffy fronds are arched and are dark green, although the color can vary a bit. Incredibly… the fronds can reach up to 16 feet long.
If you spot a queen you may see beautiful creamy white flowers that come down in long lines that almost look like hair. Later on, clusters of yellow to orange fruits will appear and eventually fall off to the ground.
How Tall Can a Queen Palm Grow?
The height of a standard Queen Palm is just shy of their royal partner, King Palm, as they will only grow to about fifty feet high.
These are long-lived trees, and in good conditions, you can expect them to grow about 2 feet a year.
What are the Differences Between the Two?
Now that we know a little more about these two amazing palm trees, you may have already noticed a few differences, but let’s go through each one by one and understand what makes them so different.
One easy-to-spot difference that may help you distinguish these palms is the crownshaft. The King Palms have a beautiful green crownshaft on top of the trunk while the Queens have a gray smooth trunk until the end of it. As your eyes turn skyward under the crown you will certainly notice it.
The Queen Palm is generally wider, and depending on the species the diameter may vary along the trunk, appearing more swollen in some portions. On the other hand, the King Palm tends to be wider only at the base.
If you have the opportunity to closely observe these trees you will definitely understand how different their fronds really are.
The fronds of Queen Palms are known to be quite a lot fluffier and bend gently to create a rounder crown than the King’s. This happens because Queens have long arched fronds with leaflets placed irregularly in different planes while Kings have shorter fronds with linear leaflets growing in a single plane.
Despite the fact that both fronds are dark green, the king palm is usually of a whitish-gray underneath.
Another way to tell these palm trees apart is to notice how their fronds are discarded. The King Palm is known for self-cleaning his fronds, which fall off on their own, and the tree looks tidy most of the time. The dead fronds of Queen Palms are more persistent and often require pruning to keep pests and diseases away, and of course to look attractive.
Flowers and Fruits
Even the flowers and fruits are different on each of these large palm trees.
The Queen Palm has long creamy-yellow flowering branches that turn into ellipsoid orange fruits. They are around 1 inch in size and each palm can have about 800 of these little fruits, that eventually fall off to the ground and some do become new baby Queen Palms.
The fruits of a King Palm are red when ripen, a bit smaller, ovoid, and produced in less quantity. They come from gorgeous flowering branches that remind us of waterfalls. The flowers rise from below the crownshaft and are more of a creamy-white.
While King Palms love water and can handle flooded rainforests and heavy rainfall periods, Queen Palms are more drought resistant.
The Queen can be a bit picky when it comes to soil composition— they don’t like alkaline soils and may experience several mineral deficiencies if planted on these. They rather prefer acidic and well-drained soils. It is not the best palm to have indoors or in containers as it gets big and top-heavy.
The King is not so demanding regarding the type of soil, but may be sensitive to the stress of transplantation. They can be grown indoors although this is not its preferred environment to live in.
Queens palms look abundant and are actually identified as invasive in some regions.
What are the Similarities?
Now that we have discussed the various differences between the King and Queen Palm, we can take a moment to talk about why they are often confused for one another and even why they are both used for similar landscaping projects and in similar climates.
Both of these trees are of course in the palm family, and they provide a regal and beautiful look that fits well in what we expect to find in tropical and subtropical climates.
At first glance, they are essentially offering the same visual effect, and they also both encourage significant shade, even in a small space.
They are easy to grow and very resistant. Both trees love to be in full sun and can also tolerate partial shade. They thrive in hot weather but can resist frosts up to 25 ºF (-4ºCelcius) for short periods.
These two trees belong to the same family and in a rough way, they are very similar. However, if you take a closer look you can see that they are quite different!
The King Palm has a crownshaft and the Queen Palm does not. The Queen’s fronds are fluffy with irregular leaflets while the King is more organized. The Queen’s fruits are orange and ellipsoid while the King’s are round and red.
There are plenty of details that we can consider and that allow us to easily tell if we are dealing with a king or a queen.
Fauna and Flora Web
Identifying Commonly Cultivated Palms – Archontophoenix Alexandrae
Identifying Commonly Cultivated Palms – Syagrus Romanzoffiana
The Encyclopedia of Palms and Cycads – Archontophoenix Alexandrae
The Encyclopedia of Palms and Cycads – Syagrus Romanzoffiana