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Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Possible to Stop Berries Produced by Palms

Q. My palm trees continuously produce berries. I keep cutting them off but they come back. Even the new 1-year-old palms I planted have green berries on them.  Is there any way to keep them off?  Are there palms that do NOT produce berries?

A. Production of these berries or fruits and dropping them on the ground is a natural occurrence every year on all palms. They produce flowers on long stalks, the flowers become fruits or berries and they drop from the tree and litter the ground.

This is a major objection to palms growing near swimming pools. Once a palm is old enough for flowering, it will continue to flower and fruit every year. There is nothing that you can do to prevent the sequence of events leading up to the production of these berries. There are no chemicals you can apply to prevent this from happening.

However, there is one simple thing you can do. When it is ready to begin flowering you will see stems growing from the trunk. When they are long enough, cut off them off with a pruning shears.
Flowers emerging from Canary Island date palm in the spring.
Cutting off these flower stems prevents the production of fruit and will not harm the palm. If the palm is too tall, use a pole pruner to cut them off or a ladder and a loppers.
These flowers will make thousands of "berries" that will drop to the ground. Cut off the flower stalks with a loppers or pole pruner.
If you want it done commercially, coordinate the pruning of your palm at the same time it produces flowers and cut them off at the same time the palm is pruned.


  1. Perhaps because of our relatively mild winter and sudden jump into nearly-continuous hot weather (few cool spring evenings in this year!), the seed stalks of our Mexican Fan Palms are making a huge mess. Our pool and pool decking require daily scooping and sweeping. It's bothersome not only for us but also our neighbors, who are dealing with the droppings from our trees.

    We considered getting our palms trimmed early this year—now rather than later—to avoid not only the messy seeds but also the fruit, which when mature, drops and sprouts all over the yard.

    So this week, we had a local tree company arborist come over to take a look and give advice. He said if we cut off the seed stalks now (mid-July), there was a fairly good chance that the trees would respond by putting on new stalks and generating new fruit by the end of the growing season—thereby nixing our plan to avoid messy seeds and fruit for the rest of the year.

    What is your experience with Mexican Fan Palms re-flowering the same year the seed stalks are removed?

    Thanks much,

    Mindy (the carob tree lady)

    1. I rather doubt that in our climate. Palms will flower and fruit multiple times in the tropics but it is normally a one time event in temperate climates where environmental triggers of the seasons and daylength occur and push it into this type of reproductive growth. In the tropics it is timed to events such as the wet season (monsoons) rather than temperature or daylength. In parts of the tropics with not much of a distinctive wet or dry season, flowering can be continuous, as soon as they gather enough energy and can produce some new reproductive growth.