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Windmill Palm

Trachycarpus fortunei

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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Arecaceae (Palms)
Also in this family:
Evergreen tree
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
12 metres tall
Gardens, parks, seaside, towns.

Yellow, 6 petals
The Windmill Palm produces small yet striking flowers characterized by their bright yellow hue and delicate structure. These flowers form dense, branched clusters known as inflorescences that emerge from the palm's crownshaft in late spring to early summer. Each flower consists of six distinct petals arranged in a radial pattern, creating a star-like appearance. The overall effect is a charming contrast against the palm's sturdy, fan-shaped leaves, adding a touch of elegance to its appearance. While the individual flowers are relatively small, their collective display can be quite impressive, attracting pollinators and adding seasonal interest to garden landscapes where these palms are cultivated.
The Windmill Palm produces small, round fruits that ripen over the course of several months. These fruits are typically blue-black when mature and are about the size of a small marble, approximately 1 to 1.5 centimeters in diameter. They grow in clusters on long stalks emerging from the palm's crownshaft. The fruits contain a single seed enclosed in a thin layer of flesh. While not typically consumed by humans due to their small size and fibrous texture, they are attractive to birds and other wildlife, which help in dispersing the seeds. The fruiting season for Trachycarpus fortunei usually occurs in late summer to early fall, following the flowering period in spring and early summer.
The leaves of the Windmill Palm are one of its most distinctive features. They are fan-shaped and palmate, meaning they radiate from the center like the fingers of a hand. The leaves can reach lengths of up to 1.5 meters (5 feet) and are typically supported by long, slender petioles. The leaf blades themselves are typically dark green, though some specimens may exhibit a bluish-green hue. Each leaf is deeply divided into segments that give it a gracefully arching appearance. The tips of the segments often feature a gentle droop, adding to the palm's aesthetic appeal. Windmill palm leaves are durable and can withstand moderate frost, making this species well-suited for temperate climates where it adds a tropical touch to landscapes.
The Windmill Palm is not particularly known for having a distinct aroma. Unlike some other palm species that may have fragrant flowers or leaves, Trachycarpus fortunei is appreciated more for its ornamental value and hardiness rather than for any notable scent. The palm's leaves and flowers do not emit a strong fragrance that would be characteristic or noticeable in a garden setting. Therefore, it is primarily valued for its visual appeal and ability to thrive in various climates rather than for any aromatic qualities.
Other Names:
Chinese Windmill Palm, Chusan Palm, Hemp Palm, Nepalese Fan Palm.
Frequency (UK):

Similar Species

Other Information

Trachycarpus fortunei, commonly known as the windmill palm, is a distinctive and versatile palm species appreciated for its hardiness, ornamental value, and architectural presence. Native to East Asia, particularly China and possibly parts of Nepal, this palm has gained popularity worldwide, including in regions with temperate climates such as the UK. Its key features include fan-shaped leaves that can reach lengths of up to 1.5 meters (5 feet), supported by slender petioles. These leaves are typically dark green with a graceful arching habit, adding a tropical flair to gardens and landscapes. Trachycarpus fortunei produces small, yellow flowers in dense clusters during late spring to early summer, followed by blue-black fruits that are primarily ornamental and attract wildlife. This palm is known for its ability to tolerate cold temperatures and wind, making it suitable for coastal areas and urban landscapes where other palm species might struggle. Its adaptability to various soil types and light conditions further enhances its appeal for both amateur gardeners and professional landscapers seeking to introduce exotic elements into temperate environments. Overall, the windmill palm stands out as a robust and visually striking addition to gardens, offering a touch of the tropics in climates that traditionally support more temperate flora.

Exploring the Windmill Palm: A Resilient Icon of Exotic Elegance

In the realm of garden landscapes, few plants evoke the allure of the tropics quite like the windmill palm, scientifically known as Trachycarpus fortunei. Originating from East Asia, particularly China and possibly Nepal, this striking palm species has captured the hearts of gardeners and landscapers worldwide, including those in temperate regions like the UK. Its unique blend of resilience, ornamental appeal, and architectural presence makes it a standout choice for anyone looking to infuse their outdoor spaces with a touch of exotic charm.

A Closer Look at Trachycarpus fortunei

At first glance, Trachycarpus fortunei immediately captivates with its fan-shaped leaves that can grow up to 1.5 meters (5 feet) in length. These deep green leaves, supported by slender petioles, gracefully arch outward, creating a distinctive silhouette reminiscent of a windmill in motion. This characteristic form not only lends a tropical aesthetic to gardens but also adds a sense of structure and height, making it an ideal focal point or backdrop in various landscaping designs.

Seasonal Splendor: Flowers and Fruits

One of the highlights of the windmill palm is its seasonal display. In late spring to early summer, mature specimens produce large, branched clusters of small yellow flowers. Each flower, adorned with six delicate petals, adds a subtle yet elegant contrast against the dark green foliage. As summer progresses, these flowers give way to small, spherical fruits that ripen into a striking blue-black hue. While these fruits are not typically consumed by humans due to their fibrous texture, they serve as a visual feast and attract wildlife, enriching the biodiversity of garden environments.

Adaptability and Resilience

What sets Trachycarpus fortunei apart from many other palms is its remarkable resilience to cold temperatures and wind. Unlike more tropical species that require consistently warm climates, the windmill palm thrives in temperate regions, including coastal areas where it can withstand maritime exposure. This adaptability makes it a favored choice for gardens throughout the UK and other parts of Europe, where unpredictable weather patterns can challenge less hardy plants.

Cultivation Tips

For aspiring gardeners intrigued by the windmill palm's allure, cultivating Trachycarpus fortunei requires attention to a few key factors. It prefers well-drained soil with moderate moisture levels and benefits from regular watering during dry spells, especially when establishing new plantings. While tolerant of various light conditions, including partial shade, it thrives in full sun, which promotes vigorous growth and lush foliage. Pruning is minimal, primarily focusing on removing dead or damaged fronds to maintain its tidy appearance and encourage healthy growth.

Landscaping Applications

In garden design, the windmill palm offers versatility and adaptability. It serves as a striking standalone specimen, particularly when planted against a backdrop of evergreen shrubs or contrasting foliage. When clustered together in groups, it creates a tropical oasis effect, ideal for creating privacy screens or defining outdoor living spaces. Its architectural form also complements modern and minimalist landscaping styles, adding a touch of sophistication and visual interest.

Environmental Benefits and Wildlife Appeal

Beyond its aesthetic qualities, Trachycarpus fortunei contributes to environmental sustainability by providing habitat and food for local wildlife. Birds are particularly drawn to its fruits, aiding in seed dispersal and fostering biodiversity in urban and suburban landscapes. Its ability to thrive in diverse soil conditions and withstand urban pollution further underscores its role as a resilient and environmentally beneficial plant species.


In conclusion, Trachycarpus fortunei, the windmill palm, stands as a testament to nature's resilience and beauty. Whether adorning a private garden, enhancing a public park, or accentuating urban streetscapes, this palm species embodies the allure of the tropics in temperate climates. Its robust growth, architectural elegance, and seasonal splendor make it a cherished addition to any landscape where gardeners seek to blend exotic allure with practicality and sustainability. For those looking to cultivate a slice of paradise in their own backyard, the windmill palm promises enduring beauty and a touch of tranquility, year after year.

30 Windmill Palm Facts

Here are 30 interesting facts about the Windmill Palm (Trachycarpus fortunei):

  1. Origin: Trachycarpus fortunei is native to East Asia, specifically China and possibly parts of Nepal.

  2. Common Names: It is also known as the Chusan Palm, Chinese Windmill Palm, and Nepalese Fan Palm.

  3. Height: Mature specimens can reach heights of 10 to 12 meters (33 to 39 feet).

  4. Leaves: The palm's leaves are fan-shaped (palmate) and can grow up to 1.5 meters (5 feet) in length.

  5. Leaf Color: Typically dark green, though some may have a bluish-green tint.

  6. Leaf Structure: The leaves are deeply divided into segments that give them a gracefully arching appearance.

  7. Flowers: Trachycarpus fortunei produces small yellow flowers in dense clusters called inflorescences.

  8. Flowering Season: Flowers bloom in late spring to early summer, typically May to June.

  9. Petals: Each flower has six petals arranged in a radial pattern.

  10. Fruit: After flowering, the palm produces small, spherical fruits that ripen to a blue-black color.

  11. Fruit Size: Fruits are about 1 to 1.5 centimeters (0.4 to 0.6 inches) in diameter.

  12. Edibility: The fruits are technically edible but are not typically consumed by humans due to their fibrous texture.

  13. Wildlife Attraction: The fruits attract birds, aiding in seed dispersal.

  14. Hardiness: It is one of the hardiest palm species, tolerating cold temperatures down to approximately -15°C (5°F).

  15. Climate: Prefers temperate climates and is suitable for USDA hardiness zones 8-11.

  16. Adaptability: Can tolerate a range of soil types but prefers well-drained soil.

  17. Light Requirements: Thrives in full sun to partial shade but performs best in full sun.

  18. Growth Rate: Moderately slow-growing, especially in cooler climates.

  19. Lifespan: Can live for several decades, with some specimens surviving for over a century.

  20. Landscaping Use: Popular in gardens, parks, and urban landscapes for its exotic appearance and architectural value.

  21. Propagation: Typically propagated from seeds, which germinate slowly, or by division of suckers from mature plants.

  22. Maintenance: Requires minimal pruning, mainly to remove dead or damaged fronds.

  23. Pest Resistance: Generally resistant to most pests and diseases, making it low-maintenance.

  24. Symbolism: Often associated with resilience and longevity, symbolizing endurance and steadfastness.

  25. Cultural Significance: Used in traditional Chinese medicine for various purposes, including treatment of fevers.

  26. Economic Importance: Cultivated commercially for landscaping and ornamental purposes worldwide.

  27. Global Distribution: Widely planted in Europe, North America, Australia, and other temperate regions.

  28. Environmental Benefits: Helps mitigate urban heat islands and improves air quality in urban environments.

  29. Historical Context: Introduced to Europe in the 19th century during the Victorian era's fascination with exotic plants.

  30. Botanical Classification: Belongs to the Arecaceae family and is characterized by its solitary trunk and large, fan-shaped leaves.

These facts illustrate why Trachycarpus fortunei remains a beloved choice for gardeners seeking a touch of the exotic in diverse climates around the world.


The Windmill Palm filmed at these locations:
  • Mousehole, Cornwall: 7th and 9th of June 2023
  • Penzance, Cornwall: 12th June 2024

Music credits
B-Roll - Islandesque by Kevin MacLeod is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license.

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