Butiagrus nabonnandii – Mule Palm

Butiagrus nabonnandii, better known by it’s common name the Mule Palm, is by far the most beautiful of all the frost-hardy pinnate-leaved palms. The name was created from combining the parent genera, Butia and Syagrus, as well as honoring Paul Nabonnand, a French horticulturist, who first reported the hybrid in the early 1900’s and developed the cross early on. An intergenetic species created through painstaking hand pollination of a Butia species with a Syagrus species (most common Butia odorata with Syagrus romanzoffiana), it gets it’s Mule Palm designation as the resulting plants grown from the seeds produced are sterile.

Once a rarity in the landscape, in recent years it’s popularity has grown as hybridizers have improved the process and major retailers in various markets now carry the mule palm in inventory. It’s near coconut like appearance make it a cold hardy option sought after by collectors and landscapers worldwide, especially in climates where Cocos nucifera would not survive. Once established and mature, the X Butiagrus nabonnandii mule palm has been reported to survive temps in the low teens without protection, depending on inherited traits from the parents.

A faster growing palm due to it’s hybrid vigor, the mule palm will grow to a height of approximately 25 feet with a canopy of about 15 feet with proper care and growing conditions. Mule palms thrive in full sunlight, are tolerant of various soil conditions, enjoy regular watering, fertilizer applications and are reported to even be salt tolerant in coastal areas. X Butiagrus nabonnandiim mule palms look best planted as a solo specimen with complimentary plants around it, however, some have planted in clusters of two or three.

Again, unlike the parent Butia and Syagrus palms, the Mule Palm typically sterile and thus does not produce fruit. For anyone that has had either of the parents in the landscape, the thousands of fruit produced annually not only create create a huge sticky but also can attract undesirable pests. This is something that will not happen with the mule palm, making it an ideal landscape palm for residential and commercial plantings.