661 Copernicia hospitaCommon Names: Cuban Wax Palm, Guano Palm, Cano Palm, Guano Espinoso Family: Arecacea (palm Family)
The Cuban wax palm is a handsome ornamental palm of moderate dimensions. The circular gray waxy leaves of the Cuban wax palm spread out like fans on long, thin stems (petioles). Up to 40 leaves form a very characteristic circular outline around the top of the trunk. The smooth columnar trunk can grow up to 1 ft (0.3 m) in diameter and up to 26 ft (7.9 m) tall. Dainty brown flowers extend past the leaves on uniquely hairy branches. The flowers are bisexual, so one Cuban wax palm may produce seeds by itself! The fruits resemble black marbles, up to 1 in (2.5 m) across.
The Cuban wax palm, Copernicia hospita, occurs throughout Cuba in the country's open savannas, woodlands and in coastal regions, adjacent to mangrove swamps.
CultureLight: The Cuban wax palm thrives in full sun. Moisture: The Cuban Wax Palm is highly tolerant of drought, but thrives in moist soil with excellent drainage. Hardiness: USDA Zones 10 - 11. Mature and established plants can tolerate temperatures down to 26ºF (-3.3ºC) Propagation: By seeds which germinate in 4 to 12 weeks.
The Cuban wax palm belongs to the genus of palms considered by many to be the most spectacular of American palms. In profile, the Cuban wax palm is quite striking, with the outline of the leaves forming a great circular arc around the top of the trunk. This palm is considered quite a prize outside of Cuba and is now available from some nurseries and palm seed providers. The Cuban wax palm thrives in full sun locations in tropical settings, like southern Florida.
In its native Cuba, the hard and durable stems of the Cuban wax palm are used extensively for fence posts and its leaves are woven into hats, panniers (load-carriers) and baskets.
This genus of plants was named after the astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543). The specific part of the name, hospita, is from the Latin, meaning hospitable, believed to refer to the palm being a hospitable, welcome home to a wide variety of birds.
The Cuban wax palm has a close cousin, the carnauba wax palm (Copernicia prunifera) from South America from whose waxy leaf coating is obtained the carnauba wax used to make automobiles shiny.
The Cuban wax palm is somewhat spiny, so caution is advised when handling. It is advised not to plant this palm close to walkways.
Chuck McLendon 4/15/00; updated 1/9/04