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More Information About Jubaea

Jubaea is a small genus of cold hardy palm containing just a single species, J. chilensis, that in the wild can only be found growing in a small mountainous region of Chile near Santiago and Valparaiso. Jubaea is known for being one of the most cold hardy of the pinnate leaved palms (leaves that look like a feather instead of a fan). In addition to the attractive fronds, Jubaea trees have the thickest trunk of any palm that is smooth, gray, and stout, not unlike an elephant leg in appearance.

Like most palms, Jubaea is fairly slow growing and it will take several decades before the trunk exceeds 20' tall. It takes even longer for it to approach its mature height of 40-80'. However, Jubaea produces its distinct wide elphanthine gray trunk while still fairly young. When mature, the pinnate fronds can exceed 12' in length. Unlike many palms that feature long, sharp needles, the friendly Jubaea palm is unarmed. Because of its slow growth, Jubaea is very expensive and owning one has become a symbol affluence in southern Europe.

Jubaea is a very attractive palm that has become quite popular on the west coast and in the southwest US which have a chaparral climate similar to its native habitiat. In addition, Chilean Wine Palm can be grown in the mild climates of South Africa, and certain European countries like southern Britain, Switzerland, and northern Italy. Chilean Wine Palm has had limited use in the east because of our combination of summer heat and humidity which stresses the plants and promotes root rot.

Chilean Wine Palm is known for producing a walnut sized edible fruit (called a coquito) that is not unlike a small coconut, with a yellow-orange hard outer shell and a white meaty center. But this fruit is not the source of the Chilean wine that the palm is named for. In this case, wine can be made from the sap of the tree, called miel de palma or palm honey, which is a maple syprup-like liquid whose collection unfortunately requires cutting down the tree and killing it. For this reason and due to its usefulness as lumber, Jubaea is threatened by over-harvestation in its native home.

The genus Jubaea is named for a Roman era king Juba II who ruled an ancient kingdom called Mauretania in North Africa from roughly 25 BC to 23 AD and who was a well educated naturalist as well as the son-in-law of Antony and Cleopatra. The name Juba also lives on as the name of a Euphorbia species (E. regisjubae) and as the name of a city in the Sudan.

As you might expect from its native habitat, in the garden Chilean Wine Palm prefers a warm dry climate and very well drained soil. It cannot tolerate salt spray, so do not plant Jubaea at your beach house. Jubaea is very drought-tolerant and when young, prefers part-sun, but as it ages it can graduate to a full sun exposure. When you are ready to buy Jubaea for your garden (or perhaps its hybrid love child with Butia called xJubautia), check out our online list of Jubaea for sale below.