Livistona muelleri

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Figure 1. L. muelleri at



Livistona muelleri, named for Baron Ferdinand yon Mueller, is a beautiful species occurring from coastal Tully to Cape York and the west side of Cape York Peninsula. There is no recognized common name for this species except that like most other Livistonas it was probably called 'cabbage tree' by aboriginals who used the leaves as thatch and ate the centre growing cabbage.

In 1968, while holidaying at Bilyana between Cardwell and Tully, I examined a small colony of this palm growing near Bilyana Creek. The lower petioles of each fan were armed with quite formidable curved thorns on the margins. Combined with the bristly golden thorns of Calamus moti which grew around the palm, I became firmly entangled and had to be extricated by the Post-Mistress of the local Bilyana Post Office. This was much to my relief as we had all heard crocodiles bark in the creek at night.


This colony is probably the most southerly stand of these small palms. The leaves are palmate, up to 1 m in diameter, borne on a petiole of about 1.3 m in length. The height of each palm is up to 6 m, but generally most of them are around 3m. The trunk is relatively thin, to 30cm, the lower leaves are persistent and hang in a dead skirt just where the upper part of the trunk meets the leaf foliage.

The crown of Livistona muelleri is generally symetrical, having rather stiff, bright green and dense fans, and the flower panicle of about 1m in length has cream to pale yellow flowers approximately 25mm across. The seed is globular and bluishblack in colour.

[[www.huntington.orgBotanicalDivHEHBotanicalHome.html" Huntington Botanical Gardens.

Figure 2. L. muelleri in habitat.


In cultivation this palm is still not widely used, possibly because the plants grown from seed are notoriously slow. It should suit most well drained soils in the subtropical and tropical climates. Used as a potted plant, it has great potential and is extremely handsome at the juvenile stage. Seed can take as long as 6 months to germinate, but can be accelerated by soaking them in warm water and then putting them down in a small hessian bag with a quantity of peat moss that has been soaked in a nutrient solution.

Figure 3. A group of L. muelleri in habitat.

Contributed by:

Len Butt (Text - from Palms & Cycads No. 23, April-June 1989).
Colin Wilson (Figure 1)
Jonathan Cruickshank (Figure 2&3)

External Links:

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