Hardy Palms: The Windmill Palm: Trachycarpus fortunei

Continuing our series on cold hardy palms, we talk about a large group of hardy windmill palms; Trachycarpus fortunei.

T. fortunei ‘Bulgaria’

Palm grower Kiril Donov has collected this windmill palm seed from 35-year-old trees growing in Plavdiv, Bulgaria … that’s right, the one near Romania. According to Donov, these trees regularly experience very cold temperatures … After growing them to a larger size and seeing the stiffness of the leaves and their reduced size, we are quite sure that these plants represent hybrids between the typical T. fortunei and the T. fortunei. ‘Wagnerianus’. (Resistance zone 7b-10)

T. fortunei ‘Charlotte’

Always on the lookout for hardy palm selections, I spotted two magnificent 30 ‘specimens of very hardy windmill palms in the Myers Park region of Charlotte NC (3 hours west of Raleigh) in the 1980s. We were able to acquire seeds and we gave them the cultivar name T. fortunei ‘Charlotte’. (Resistance zone 7b-10)

T. fortunei ‘Greensboro’

The seed for this windmill palm came from a 20 foot plant that was growing in a church in Greensboro, North Carolina … 2 hours northwest of Raleigh and generally a little cooler. This may be the coldest place from which we have obtained seeds of this wonderful trunk palm. Unfortunately, several years later, the plant was destroyed when the church was expanded, so it no longer exists. (Resistance zone 7b-10)

T. fortunei ‘Hayes Stiffie’

Plant man and palm tree guru Hayes Jackson shared the seed of this fast-growing Trachycarpus which they refer to as its “stiff leaf shape.” Hayes thinks it could be a cross of T. fortunei ‘Wagnerianus’ x typical T. fortunei, but those who know for sure aren’t talking. The 20 ‘tall trunk has leaves whose tips do not become flaccid, as is the case with the typical T. fortunei. Hayes has grown this for many years in his Anniston, Alabama garden without damage. Having seen it in person in 2006, I can attest that it is unique and impressive … the palm, that is. (Resistance zone 7b-10)

T. fortunei ‘Nanital’

Everything we know about T. takil is wrong, as palm experts discovered in 2009 that instead of cultivating the actual species, we all had a form of T. fortunei from Nanital, India (northwest of Nepal). T. fortunei ‘Nanital’ has more finely divided leaves than most typical T. fortunei, along with a trunk that slopes slightly … to the Tower of Pisa. When it matures, it will develop a completely bald trunk … take out the Rogaine! (Resistance zone 7b-10)

T. fortunei ‘Norfolk’

Our seed for this came from a row of large 20-30 ‘tall specimens at the Norfolk Zoo in Virginia. (Resistance zone 7b-10)

T. fortunei Tennessee form

Thank you to palm harvester Will Taylor of Athens, Tennessee, for sharing the T. fortunei seed that has been growing and bearing fruit for years at his home in Zone 7a between Knoxville and Chattanooga, Tennessee. Will originally bought them from a local nursery in 1996, and they have withstood -2 degrees F, with no protection in the soil. (Resistance zone 7b-10)

T. fortunei Taylor Form

Originally, two windmill palm trees with distinctive leaf shapes were purchased in Florida and planted at Taylor’s Nursery in Raleigh nearly half a century ago. One tree survived and withstood our record temperature of -9 degrees F in the 1980s. The descendants of this tree are planted around Raleigh, including the local Jaycee Park palm garden. (Resistance zone 7b-10)

T. fortunei ‘Wagnerianus’ (Synonym: T. wagnerianus)

This palm is one of the true mysteries of the palm world, as it has never been recorded in nature and is probably nothing more than a short-leaved, very winter-hardy form of T. fortunei, hence our name change. . In culture, palmophiles recognize it as one of the most resistant of the trachycarpus group. In stature, it has a 20 ‘tall trunk exactly like the typical T. fortunei, except the stiff, round leaves are incredibly beautiful and much shorter (18 “in diameter compared to 33” in diameter of the typical T. fortunei ). (Resistance zone 7b-10)

The windmill palm is undoubtedly one of the most popular cold hardy palms in the US, but you can read about many more in the other articles in this series.

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