Cocos palm (Syagrus romanzoffiana)

Also known as: queen palm

Cocos palm is a tall, single stemmed tree that produces clusters of orange fruit. It grows quickly and competes with native plants.

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How does this weed affect you?

Cocos palms grow quickly and produce lots of seeds. They invade eucalypt forests, rainforests and along stream banks and waterways where they compete with native plants.

Animal health

The fruits may be poisonous to dogs but no specific toxins have been found. Symptoms reported include: vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, lethargy, weight loss, blindness and muscle tremors.

Cocos palms have caused injuries and death to many flying foxes.  They are attracted to the fruit but their wings can get caught in the flower sheaths or leaves. Seeds can cause severe constipation resulting in dehydration and death in younger flying-foxes. Seeds can also get caught behind teeth of young flying foxes making it difficult to

What does it look like?

Cocos palms are a large, single stemmed palm with an average height of 12 m. Plants can flower all year round but mostly flower in spring and summer. Old fruit and dead leaves hang on the plant, giving it an untidy look.

Leaves (palm fronds):

There are 7 to 25 leaves in a spiral coming from the top of the trunk (crown). Leaves are up to 5 m long and have a thick main stalk. Each stalk has 300-500 leaflets. Leaflets grow in clusters of 2 - 7 along different sides of the leaf stem giving them a three dimensional feathery look. Leaflets are:

  • green on top, paler underneath
  • glossy and hairless
  • up to 4 cm wide and 1m long
  • with pointed tips.

Flowers:

  • grow in groups of 3, with 1 female and 2 male flowers
  • male flowers are cream - pale yellow 
  • female flowers are yellow
  • grow in large, branched clusters up to 2 m long.

Fruit:

  • egg-shaped
  • 2 – 3 cm long and 1-2 cm wide
  • grow in large, hanging clusters 
  • go from green to yellow, then orange when ripe
  • are fleshy on the outside and hard on the inside
  • have seeds up to 12 mm wide.

Trunk:

  • grey and smooth, with rings
  • usually 20 - 40 cm diameter (occasionally 50 cm)
  • average 12 m tall but can grow up to 20 m tall.

Where is it found?

Cocos palm is a weed on the north coast of New South Wales and in Queensland.

It is also a weed in the United States of America. It is native to South America. 

What type of environment does it grow in?

Cocos palm grows best in full sun on well drained acidic soil with high rainfall. But it can tolerate dry conditions, semi shade, frosts and a range of other soil types. It grows in a variety of environmnets including along roadsides and water courses and in forests, disturbed areasy, parks and gardens and urban bushland.

How does it spread?

By seeds

Flying foxes and other animals eat the fruit and spread the seed. Seeds can also spread in water and dumped garden waste.

The seeds take 3 to 6 months to germinate.

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Control

Physical control

Cocos palms can be controlled manually by cutting the trunk anywhere below below the lowest leaf. The trunks do not need to be treated with herbicides as they will not re-grow. After cutting the trunk remove fruit from the area and to reduce the number of new seedlings.  

Dispose of fruit appropriately to stop further spread. Contact your local council if you need advice on disposal.

Very small seedlings can be hand pulled.

Chemical control

Small plants can be spot sprayed.

Herbicide options

WARNING - ALWAYS READ THE LABEL
Users of agricultural or veterinary chemical products must always read the label and any permit, before using the product, and strictly comply with the directions on the label and the conditions of any permit. Users are not absolved from compliance with the directions on the label or the conditions of the permit by reason of any statement made or not made in this information. To view permits or product labels go to the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority website www.apvma.gov.au

See Using herbicides for more information.


Glyphosate 360 g/L (Roundup®)
Rate: 10 mL per 1 L water
Comments: Spot spray (for smaller plants)
Withholding period: Nil.
Herbicide group: M, Inhibitors of EPSP synthase
Resistance risk: Moderate


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Biosecurity duty

The content provided here is for information purposes only and is taken from the Biosecurity Act 2015 and its subordinate legislation, and the Regional Strategic Weed Management Plans (published by each Local Land Services region in NSW). It describes the state and regional priorities for weeds in New South Wales, Australia.

Area Duty
All of NSW General Biosecurity Duty
All plants are regulated with a general biosecurity duty to prevent, eliminate or minimise any biosecurity risk they may pose. Any person who deals with any plant, who knows (or ought to know) of any biosecurity risk, has a duty to ensure the risk is prevented, eliminated or minimised, so far as is reasonably practicable.

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For technical advice and assistance with identification please contact your local council weeds officer.
For further information call the NSW DPI Biosecurity Helpline on 1800 680 244 or send an email to weeds@dpi.nsw.gov.au

Reviewed 2020