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11 Plants That Look Like Palm Trees

11 Plants That Look Like Palm Trees

Palm trees are easily recognizable by their large evergreen fronds. They are common in tropical and subtropical climates.

But not all trees with these feather-like fronds are palm trees. Here are 11 look-alikes that you may already have in your outdoor space.

1. Sago Palm (Cycas revoluta)

Sago Palm (Cycas revoluta)
Image: Seeds for Africa
Scientific NameCycas revoluta
Common NameCycad, Japanese sago palm, King sago palm, Living fossil, Sago cycad
Height0.5 to 2 meters

The Sago Palm is a native Japanese plant belonging to the cycad family. This shrub has a long lifespan of over 200 years.

It is also called the “Living fossil” because it dominated the earth for over 100 million years. It has been used as an ornamental plant ever since ancient times. 

Although it looks like a palm tree, it is actually a cone-bearing plant. 

The Japanese Sago Palm has a short thick trunk with a rosette of large arching glossy green and feather-like leaves. Its leaves are feathery with light green spikes and are 0.9 meters long.

It is also dioecious, or either male or female. Male cycads produce a cone while female cycads produce flowers. 

They grow slowly from 0.5 up to 2 meters tall and spreads up to 1.5 meters. 

2. Ponytail Palm (Beaucarnea recurvata)

Ponytail Palm (Beaucarnea recurvata)
Image: Wikipedia
Scientific NameBeaucarnea recurvata
Common NameElephant foot tree, ponytail palm, bottle palm
Height30 feet tall

The Ponytail Palm is an evergreen caudiciform tree native to semi-desert areas of Guatemala, Belize, and southeastern Mexico. 

Despite the resemblance, it does not belong to the palm family but to the asparagus (Asparagaceae) family. 

The ponytail palm has a swollen trunk that stores water so it can survive long periods of drought. 

It has long green curly and thin leaves growing on top of the trunk. 

It also does not require much care and attention, which is why it is a common houseplant in Europe. 

3. Spineless Yucca (Yucca gigantea)

Spineless Yucca (Yucca gigantea)
Image: World of Succulents
Scientific NameYucca gigantea
Common NameSpineless yucca, giant yucca, soft tip yucca, blue stem yucca
Height30 feet

The spineless yucca is a large succulent indigenous to Mexico, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, Costa Rica and Belize. It thrives in an arid and sandy environment.

This plant is also not part of the palm tree family. It’s actually part of the Asparagaceae family.

The spineless yucca is a succulent with a single trunk that grows up to 30 feet tall. It has spineless leaves that span up to 4 feet long. 

During the summer, it produces white flowers that turn into fleshy oval brown fruits. 

It has become a common ornamental plant because of its tolerance to different environmental conditions and minimal need for care and attention. 

Other yucca plants that also resemble palm trees are the beaked yucca (Yucca rostrata), aloe yucca (Yucca aloifolia), and Mojave yucca (Yucca schidigera).

4. Dragon Tree (Dracaena marginata)

Dragon Tree (Dracaena marginata)
Image: Ashley Hosmer
Scientific NameDracaena marginata
Common NameDragon tree, Madagascar dragon tree
Height6 feet

The dragon tree is a tropical plant native to Madagascar.  

It has a single trunk with leaves that grow in a spiral manner. It has green sword-like leaves, which have red edges. 

Dragon trees are common indoor houseplants that can survive in low light conditions and do not need constant watering. They are also helpful in purifying indoor air. 

5. Traveler’s Palm (Ravenala madagascariensis)

Traveler’s Palm (Ravenala madagascariensis)
Image: In Defense of Plants
Scientific NameRavenala madagascariensis
Common NameTraveler’s tree, traveler’s palm, east-west palm
Height30 to 50 feet tall

The traveler’s palm is a flowering plant from the family Strelitziaceae.It is easily recognizable with its paddle-shaped leaves arranged like a fan on the top of its trunk. 

It is widely cultivated due to its exotic foliage, especially in tropical and subtropical areas.

6. Madagascar Palm (Pachypodium lamerei)

Madagascar Palm (Pachypodium lamerei)
Image: Gardenia
Scientific NamePachypodium lamerei
Common NameMadagascar palm, club foot
Height4 to 20 feet

The Madagascar palm is a succulent from the family Apocynaceae. 

It has a tall silver trunk with sharp spikes. As a stem succulent, its photosynthesis process occurs through its trunk.

At the top, you will see shiny dark green leaves that grow in clusters. It also produces white fragrant flowers.

This plant thrives in various types of soil and is drought-tolerant. 

7. Banana Palm (Musa acuminata)

Banana Palm (Musa acuminata)
Image: Gardenia
Scientific NameMusa acuminata
Common NameBanana palm, cavendish banana, banana plant, dessert banana, edible banana
Height12 to 20 feet 

The banana palm is a perennial herb indigenous to Southeast Asia. 

It has a trunk with short stems. Attached to these stems are large, paddle-shaped leaves. 

It produces yellow-green flowers that later turn into yellow banana fruit.

This plant is widely cultivated for banana production and ornamental decoration because of its distinct foliage. 

8. Cardboard Palm (Zamia furfuracea)

Cardboard Palm (Zamia furfuracea)
Image: Terra Forma Landscapes
Scientific NameZamia furfuracea
Common NameCardboard palm, cardboard plant, or Jamaican sago, cardboard sago
Height0.5 to 1 meter

The cardboard palm is actually a cycad from the family Zamiaceae. It is indigenous to the humid and dry areas of Mexico and Central America. 

It has a cylindrical trunk with leaves growing from the center. It also has compound, round, and pinnate leaves with fuzzy leaflets and serrated margins.

This plant is low maintenance and can survive in full sunlight or partial shade.

9. Gum palm (Dioon spinulosum)

Gum palm (Dioon spinulosum)
Image: Gardenia
Scientific NameDioon spinulosum
Common NameGiant dioon, gum palm, Mexican dioon
Height12 meters

The gum palm is another palm-tree-looking cycad belonging to family Zamiaceae. It is indigenous to the tropical rainforests of Mexico and Central America. 

It is one of the tallest cycad plants in the world. However, it was recently declared endangered due to the destruction of its natural habitat. 

It has a short stout trunk with feather-like leaves arranged like a rosette on top. It also produces a 15- centimeter red berry as a fruit. 

The gum palm is an outdoor ornamental plant in tropical and subtropical regions. 

10. Vulcan Palm (Brighamia insignis)

Gum palm (Dioon spinulosum)
Image: National Tropical Botanical Garden
Scientific NameBrighamia insignis
Common NameŌlulu, Alula, vulcan palm, cabbage on a stick, false kamani, palila lokelani
Height16 feet

The vulcan palm is a perennial flower plant native to Hawaii. It comes from the family Campanulaceae.

This plant is commonly found in the islands of Kauaʻi and Niʻihau in Hawaii where there are dry forests. 

The vulcan palm has a swollen base that is actually a succulent stem. It develops into a smooth gray bark. 

At the top of this plant are rosettes of light green cabbage-like leaves – hence its nickname “cabbage on a stick.”

Unfortunately, the vulcan palm is endangered due to the loss of its natural habitat, which has been converted to pastureland for raising cattle. 

11. Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia nicolai)

Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia nicolai)
Image: Garden and Bloom
Scientific NameStrelitzia nicolai
Common NameCrane flower, bird of paradise, isigude
Height3 to 5 feet

The Bird of Paradise is a flowering plant indigenous to South Africa. It thrives in warm climates. 

It has stiff oblong green leaves, with a red-colored rib. These leaves are arranged in two levels, resembling a fan-shaped crown.

It is widely cultivated for its crane-looking flowers. It is also low-maintenance making it a popular ornamental plant. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between cycad and palm trees?

Cycads and palm trees differ in their leaves. Cycads generally have flat blue-green or green leaves while palms have small and narrow yellow-green leaves.

Are yuccas related to palms?

Yuccas and palm trees are not related. Yuccas come from the Agave family while palm trees come from the Arecaceae family.

What is the cactus that looks like a palm tree?

A yucca plant is a cactus that looks like a palm tree. They have stiff and narrow leaves that resemble the leafy crown of a palm tree. 

What plants are similar to palm trees?

These plants often get confused with palm trees: cycads, yuccas, beaucarnias, cordylines, and tree ferns.

Which of these palm tree look-alikes have you seen? Share your photos with us in the comment box below!

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