Carpentaria acuminata

Carpentaria palm


Carpentaria acuminata

(H.Wendl. & Drude) Becc. 1885

pronounced: kar-pen-TAIR-ee-uh uh-kew-min-AH-tuh

(Arecaceae — the palm family)


common name: Carpentaria palm

native 4Carpentaria means ‘of or from the Gulf of Carpentaria’; acuminata is from the Latin acuminatus, pointed, sharp.

This palm is a native of the Northern Territory, occurring in rainforest areas on the flat land near lakes and rivers and at the heads of salt-water estuaries. Some are also found in nearby areas of Queensland, near the Gulf. Known around the Northern Territory as ‘Carpies’, they are the most widely grown palm there. Cultivated specimens are usually more robust than the wild palms.

This tall, slender, fast-growing palm grows to about 12 m on a single smooth grey trunk. Until the palm reaches maturity, the leaves are spaced evenly up the trunk, with the leaflets lying flat. As it ages, a smooth green crownshaft develops, the leaves arch, and the pinnae rise to form a V. The trunk is grey-brown, and smooth, with the leaf scars quite far apart due to the fast growth. The diameter of the trunk at maturity is about 25 cm, and it is only slightly enlarged at the base.

The attractive crown is composed of 10 – 12 gracefully arching leaves, which are deep green on top and blue-green below. Each leaf is pinnate, 1.5 – 2 m long with leaflets about 60 cm in length.

Both male and female flowers occur on the same inflorescence, in groups of 3 with 2 male flowers for 1 female, and are green to white in colour. The flower stalk comes from under the crownshaft, and is about 1.2 m long.

The fruits are ovoid, a little over 1 cm in diameter, and red in colour.

There are many of these beautiful palms on the island. The ones photographed are in the garden of ‘Seashells’, on the corner of Sooning and Kelly Streets, Nelly Bay. Transplanting of older specimens is usually successful, making this a popular palm with landscapers. It can also be used indoors, and is popular, triple-planted, with plant hire companies. In a community of mixed species Carpentaria Palms will soon outgrow the others, quickly adding height to the garden. When spaced out in the sun as an avenue, they will grow uniformly, and their self-cleaning habit is a bonus. They do require frequent watering, however, especially when they are growing, and may suffer in periods of drought. The palm has a relatively short life span of about 40 years.

dangerous 2The fruits should not be handled with bare hands, as they can considerably irritate the skin.

To propagate, it is better (but not absolutely necessary) to clean the flesh of the fruit from the seeds. The seeds should be planted when fresh, as they do not keep well. Bifid leaves will appear in 3 or 4 months, and a pinnate leaf after about 18 months. They should be ready to plant out at about 2 years old, with several pinnate leaves. To do well, they require full sun. Heavy watering, fertilizer and mulch are needed for best results. In good conditions, this palm will mature in 5 or 6 years.


Photographs taken in Nelly Bay 2009
Page last updated 31st October 2018