Archontophoenix purpurea

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purpurea (puhr-puhr-EH-ah)
ApDSCN0359 3.jpg
Mt Warning Caldera.. Nth NSW Australia. Photo by Pete.
Scientific Classification
Genus: Archontophoenix
purpurea (puhr-puhr-EH-ah)
None set.
Native Continent
Habit: Solitary
Leaf type: Pinnate
Height: 60 ft/18 m
Trunk diameter: 18 in./45 cm
Sun exposure: Full sun
Survivability index
Common names
Purple King Palm, Mount Lewis Palm.

Habitat and Distribution

Archontophoenix purpurea is endemic to northern Queensland, Australia where
it grows in swamps and rain-forests to 1200 m in elevation. In habitat, it grows in well-drained, humus-laden soils and tolerates periodic flooding.


Archontophoenix purpurea is a stunning relative of the more common King Palm (Archontophoenix cunninghamiana). Its common name, "Mount Lewis" is derived from the fact that its natural habitat is limited to the Mount Lewis area of northeast Queensland, Australia, where it grows in montane rainforests at up to 1200m/3900' above sea level. Editing by edric.

The attractively ringed gray trunk grows to 25m/80' tall and up to 300mm/12" in diameter with a nice basal flare. The slightly recurved pinnate fronds have a fairly flat leaflet arrangement and grow to 4m/13' in length. Leaflets are anywhere from a bright mid green to dark green, varying with light exposure. The undersides of the leaves, like a King Palm, have small brown hairs, but unlike the King have a silvery underside . This species is easily distinguishable from other "Archies" by its long, purple, slightly bulbous crownshaft, which can be almost red immediately after an old leaf base has fallen or been removed.


Although still fairly rare in cultivation compared with the King Palm, A. purperea shows similar adaptability being suitable for a variety of climates ranging from tropical right through to some cool temperate. This adaptability, combined with its stunning features, should help to improve its popularity in cultivation, although it is somewhat slower growing than some of the other palms in the genus. Archontophoenix purpurea looks best grown in partial shade, but will handle full sun with an abundance of water and can even sit happily in fairly wet, poor draining soils. Whilst it will handle pot culture, its eventual size makes it unsuitable for most interior settings, although its relatively slow growth and ornamental features may be enough for some people to use it in a large greenhouse or conservatory during its early years. It will survive minor, short term frosts, but will require some protection in most cool temperate areas, which will obviously become a difficult proposition as the palm gets larger.

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Southern California: A. purpurea thrives in Southern California. Like the rest of its Archontophoenix cousins, A. purpurea likes plenty of water, plenty of sun, rich soil and needs enough vertical space to reach its maximum eventual height.

Comments and Curiosities

It is the slowest growing species in Archontophoenix.

External Links


Phonetic spelling of Latin names by edric.

Special thanks to Geoff Stein, (Palmbob) for his hundreds of photos.

Special thanks to, Dr. John Dransfield, Dr. Bill Baker & team, for their volumes of information and photos.

Glossary of Palm Terms; Based on the glossary in Dransfield, J., N.W. Uhl, C.B. Asmussen-Lange, W.J. Baker, M.M. Harley & C.E. Lewis. 2008. Genera Palmarum - Evolution and Classification of the Palms. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. All images copyright of the artists and photographers (see images for credits).

Many Special Thanks to Ed Vaile for his long hours of tireless editing and numerous contributions.

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