The sago palm (Cycas revoluta) is a slow-growing evergreen tree that is not a true palm tree, but a cycad. Sago palms only grow about 12 feet tall, and they do not reach their full height until they are 50 years old. The trees have a crown of 4- to 5-foot-long, glossy green fronds growing in a circle from the top of a central trunk. Sago palms grow in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 8 through 10. Only the female sago palm produces seeds, and only if there is a male tree nearby for pollination. In early spring the female sago palm develops a feathery ball in the center of the fronds while the male grows a cone in the center of the fronds. The cone is especially easy to see as it can grow up to 2 feet tall.
1 Cut carefully about 1 to 2 inches above the cone base with a sharp knife to remove the mature cone from the male sago palm. When the scales on the cone open, the cone is mature and the pollen is released.
2 Shake the cone over the top of the open flower on the female tree to release the pollen. You can do this once a day until the flower closes. Check in late summer for the formation of seeds. If the pollination was successful, the seeds begin to develop after about two to three months. They take another two to three months to mature, at which point they turn bright red.
3 Remove the mature seeds individually from the flower at the center of the fronds. The seeds are easy to spot -- they are bright red, round, about 1 1/2 inches wide and easily visible inside the cream-colored feathery leaves of the flower. The seeds mature in winter and will detach from the flower without much effort. Place the seeds in a container.
4 Soak the collected seeds in water for 48 hours to soften the outer covering if you plan to sow them. Remove the outer coverings and pat the cleaned seeds dry with a paper towel.
Items you will need
- Long-sleeved shirt
- Face mask
- Eye protection
- Sharp knife
- Ladder (optional)
- Use a ladder to reach the seeds if you cannot easily see the top of the tree.
- If there is a male tree near the female, insects or wind will probably pollinate the flower for you. If there is no male plant nearby, you will have to do the job yourself.
- Store the male cone in a plastic bag while you are using it for pollination.
- Wear long-sleeved clothing and heavy gloves when gathering the seeds or handling parts of the tree. Scratches from the sago palm can cause skin irritation. When handling pollen, wear a face mask and eye protection.
- Keep the seeds away from pets or children. Do not eat any part of the tree. All parts, especially the seeds, are highly toxic.
- Texas Riviera: Cycas Revoluta
- Palm & Cycad Societies of Australia: Cycas Revoluta
- Clemson Cooperative Extension: How to Remove Sago Palms
- Floridata: Cycas Revoluta
- Texas AgriLife Extension Service: Male & Female Sago Palms
- University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources: Sago Palms in the Landscape
- Rhapis Gardens: Cycas Revoluta -- "Sago Palms" -- How to Grow Them From Seed
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