Roystonea borinquena

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Figure 1. R. borinquena in secondary forest, Luquillo National Forest, Puerto Rico.


Common Names:

Puerto Rico royal palm,
palma de costa,
palma de yaguas,
palma real

Distribution & Habitat:

R. borinquena is native to Puerto Rico, the Puerto Rican island of Vieques, St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands, and possibly Tortola in the British Virgin Islands.

In Puerto Rico, natural regeneration is most aggressive on the slopes and valleys of moist limestone hills. The species regenerates naturally in areas annually receiving 1250 to 2500mm of rain; its native range has a mean annual temperature of 25°C and is frost free.


It is a tall, solitary, pinnate palm to 25m tall, with a trunk diameter up to 70cm across. It has a smooth, gray trunk with a swollen base, a green crownshaft between 1-3m long and gracefully drooping fronds up to 3.5m long.


It is a common sight in the Puerto Rican cities. Its ability to withstand a polluted atmosphere and to grow well on either moist, well-drained soils or partially compacted fill dirt makes it valuable as a landscape plant. The roots don't damage sidewalks or curbs even when the trees are planted in constricted spaces. The palm lumber was once widely used in rural construction, and the leaves were used as a roof thatch. Dry leaf sheaths (yaguas) can be spread out flat to make sides of buildings.


Likes a full sun, well drained position preferably on limestone based soils. Seed is easily germinated and seedlings can take full sun immediately and are very fast growing. Mature trees withstand hurricane force winds, and also transplant very easily.

Figure 2. R. borinquena

Contributed by:

Dr. Stevens Heckscher (Figure 1)
Ryan Gallivan (Figure 2)

External Links:

Kew, PalmWeb, JSTOR, Trebrown

Google, Google Images, Flickr, PACSOA Forums, PalmTalk