Photo by Melody

PlantFiles: Mexican Blue Palm, Blue Hesper Palm, Gray Goddess
Brahea armata

Family: Arecaceae (ar-ek-AY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Brahea (BRAH-yuh) (Info)
Species: armata (arm-AH-tuh) (Info)

Synonym:Erythea armata

4 members have or want this plant for trade.

Tropicals and Tender Perennials

20-30 ft. (6-9 m)

10-12 ft. (3-3.6 m)

USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)
USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)
USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 C (30 F)
USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 C (35 F)

Sun Exposure:
Full Sun
Sun to Partial Shade
Light Shade

Plant has spines or sharp edges; use extreme caution when handling

Bloom Color:
Pale Yellow

Bloom Time:
Mid Summer

Grown for foliage

Other details:
Drought-tolerant; suitable for xeriscaping

Soil pH requirements:
6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)
7.6 to 7.8 (mildly alkaline)

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:
From seed; germinate in a damp paper towel
From seed; germinate in vitro in gelatin, agar or other medium

Seed Collecting:
Remove fleshy coating on seeds before storing
Properly cleaned, seed can be successfully stored

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There are a total of 94 photos.
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8 positives
1 neutral
No negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

Positive Kell On Feb 12, 2015, Kell from Northern California, CA (Zone 9b) wrote:

Per Jan Emming owner of the Destination:Forever Ranch and Gardens, a 40 acre desert botanical garden and sustainable living homestead in the Arizona desert with a nursery:

Brahea armata is an extremely attractive palm endemic to the Baja Peninsula. A true desert native, it tolerates high heat and dryness along with significant cold, making it a good choice for harsh desert locales where many other palms won't perform well. They are fairly slow-growing and large plants of 50 feet/15 meters tall may well be well over 100 years old.

Mexican blue fan palm (Brahea armata) is distributed in the central and northern parts of the Baja California peninsula, from about San Ignacio to within about 15 miles of the US border. The most well-known stands are probably those shown here, near the small town of Catavina. The Transpeninsular Highway 1 crosses several drainages within a few miles where nice groves of these plants can easily be seen from the paved road.

Also known as blue hesper palm, Brahea armata tends to survive best where there is water within a few meters of the surface. In my second photo, this mixed-age stand is growing along the Arroyo La Bocana just south of Catavina near Santa Inez.

In my 3rd photo, the juvenile blue fan palms about 6 feet (2 meters) tall grow in the floodplain of Arroyo la Bocana while the white granite hills are studded with grand examples of boojum tree (Fouquieria columnaris) and cardon (Pachycereus pringlei), among many other desert plants. The reddish hills in the distance are volcanic basalt. This complex geology probably plays a role in why there is surface water in this part of the arroyo, and why much of the rest has a shallow water table.

In my 4th photo, the pair of heavily-fruiting Brahea armata rising to almost 60 feet tall (18 meters) is in the background. The blackened trunks indicate that the dead leaf shag of these palms was set aflame at some point in the past, perhaps decades ago, since the one on the right has managed to regenerate a good portion of it. Fortunately fire does not kill most of these desert type fan palms, and once charred they probably won't be burned again since now the remaining leaf shag is too far above people's reach. And you know that it is people who burned them..

The lengthy flowering spikes that extend far past the leaf crown are likely to be an adaptation towards facilitating wind pollination for these trees, which are frequently isolated from one-another. Long floral spikes that can freely distribute their pollen to the wind will maybe have a better chance of fertilizing a receptive female flower at some distance than spikes hidden within the leaves. Birds and mammals favor the fruits, which don't have much flesh but are still eaten quickly once ripe.

The glaucous blue color of Brahea armata leaves makes it a strikingly handsome plant and very worthy of garden and landscape cultivation. Bluish-leaved plants are common in arid and semiarid regions. Generally caused by a layer of wax, it inhibits water loss via transpiration, and the pale color reflects away some of the potent desert sunlight, thereby keeping leaf surface temperatures cooler and lessening cell damage or death.

The dead leaves are persistent and may hang along the trunk for decades. This is also adaptive for the palms, because it protects the trunk from temperature extremes. However it is an "attractive nuisance" for humans wielding lighters and matches, who often set the leaf skirts ablaze for a brief but dramatic torch-like display. While this does harm the palms, it is fortunate that most manage to survive and grow new leaf crowns from the apical meristem at the top of the trunk.

Positive marino760 On Aug 8, 2013, marino760 from Victorville, CA wrote:

I love this palm. It's one of only a handful of palms that do very well in this high desert climate. Temps as low as 14 degrees for a couple of nights never fazed it at all. It is slow growing and takes many years to become a specimen. The color can and does vary from plant to plant being anything from a striking dark gray blue to a lighter greenish gray with only a hint of blue. Do not expect it to become bluer with age. Rather purchase one that already has the color you prefer. I don't baby this palm at all and it thrives pretty much on it's own with periodic deep watering. This palm should be a staple for the desert southwest.

Positive Mendopalmfarm On Nov 4, 2012, Mendopalmfarm from Willits, CA wrote:

These palms are super hardy. I have dozens in my collection and recently got a 36" box specimen. It has a super thick trunk about 6' tall and another 6 ' of canopy above. These palm are hardy and drought tolerant their roots stretch way out. I plant all mine directly in the ground never had a problem with transplant death. They love super hot sun

Neutral SuburbanNinja80 On Oct 20, 2011, SuburbanNinja80 from Plainfield, IN (Zone 6a) wrote:

Well I found this palm in my "Palm Won't grow here and other myths book." Don't like the thorns on it. On there other hand maybe I should try this also.

Positive swamptreenelly On Sep 5, 2009, swamptreenelly from Newark, CA wrote:

The Mexican blue hesper palm grows to an old age in the San Francisco Bay Area, many specimens growing in Union City, Hayward, Fremont and Newark area.
They look their best when cleaned to expose trunk. The Guadelupe palm also has an early history in our area.

Positive BayAreaTropics On Jan 24, 2009, BayAreaTropics from Hayward, CA wrote:

This really is a touchy palm masquerading as easy. Young newly planted palms or even if still in containers are NOT drought tolerant and require a good amount of water. Failing to get that they will just up and die,especially if combined with a heatwave.
Mine is blue leafed like the one in cactuslovers photo growing in light shade with morning sun under a tall Ash tree. Although many green leafed B.edulis are planted all over the bay area and even the silver armata can be found at local botanical gardens..the Blue armata is nowhere. So,I can't really picture what mine will look like in 20 years. I can't picture what I WILL look like in 20 years!..or don't want too.

Positive desertpalm On Sep 28, 2006, desertpalm from gilbert, AZ (Zone 9a) wrote:

In my experience, this palm is the easiest palm to grow in maricopa county arizona. It likes high pH soils and takes the heat as well as any palm I have tried. I have (6), planted from 15 gallon pots(2' tall) planted 2 to 2 1/2 years ago, with color variations from powder blue(no grey) to light blue-green to blue with shades of grey. My largest(~8' tall) have about 2' of trunk and are growing 6-8 new palms per year. At just after sunset and just before sunrise, when blue light(mie) scattering of the suns rays dominates the ambient light, these palms positively glow. I never water more frequently than a 7 day drip irrigation schedule in the hot summer once established, and about 12 days in winter, but I will spritz them with the hose frequently at the end of hot, dry days(>104, dry). Generally keep thirsty plants, and plantlines away from their roots as these palms prefer a complete dry cycle. Also, do not grow around grass as frequent watering will impact the dry cycle and negatively impact the health of this palm.

Positive jawadkundi On May 29, 2005, jawadkundi from Lahore
Pakistan wrote:

the grey goddes is an amazing specimen in terms of climate as for it is tolerant to a patio and even to a hardier direct sun sited environment, it requires lesser water and more heat (indirect preferred) it also stays as a contrast to its environment, i first placed him for two years in total shade and it shown as silver green and now it stays in an half direct sun light and half partial shady site, it shines almost white silvery, the humid of my garden in Lahore, Pakistan - it really enjoys the heat, it is a spectacular palm for an outrageous display of varied color transformation and speed in growth as compared to my other love the " bismark ", the extreme sensitive nature of him has really made me think out right for his regular precise water requirement. its new leaf takes almost three months to reach up to the hieght of the plant and an other month or so to open up and create a varied display, although the leaves are closely placed but when looked from beyond the actual picture resembles an intricate placement in aesthetical proportions like a being with brains and a thought pattern, it is in my opinion the most expressionistic and artistic of palms, the extreme hardy temprament is its prized attribute, it is a jewel in the crown to have one and to take care and make a soul mate, the most beautiful of nature's signature, this real goddess. its loved fertilizer is two to three years old cow dung on the upper layer of soil , slowly and very gradually it catches up in nutritional in take and shows regular growth results.

Positive palmbob On Jul 23, 2003, palmbob from Acton, CA (Zone 8b) wrote:

This is another palm rapidly becoming popular with landscapers, particularly in the warmer areas of the Southwest. It is prized for it's blue-green to silvery leaves, and incredibly showy flowers that droop way beyond the ends of the leaves. It is one of the hardier palms for this area (Southern California) and seems to be happy into the low 20s. The blue coloration on the leaves is a powder substance that helps it conserve moisture in the heat, reflect sun rays, and may even help it survive some cold. IT can easily be rubbed off on your hand. This palm is a moderately slow grower, though fast compared to most of the other 300 or so palm species that can be grown in So Cal. A 20 year old plant may have about 6-10 feet of trunk. Some plants in Mexico have reached heights over 30' but those are pretty rare. The trunk is bare once a few winters have hit it and pretty thick. Though very drought, wind and sun tolerant, it does pretty well in slightly shady areas of a nice green garden making an incredible contrast to the surround greenery. However it doesn't do well in humid climates (a few survive in Florida, but never look all that good).

One negative about this palm (and most Braheas for that matter) is its intolerance of being moved once established. So plant it where you want it to stay, since moving it later will probably kill it. For this reason large beautiful specimens are not worth financially because you can't sell them or move them (even large boxed specimens are touchy and a lot of care needs to be made when planting these).


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Gilbert, Arizona
Mesa, Arizona (2 reports)
Phoenix, Arizona
Queen Creek, Arizona
Tucson, Arizona
Aptos, California
Brentwood, California
Canoga Park, California
Encino, California
Hayward, California
Lemon Grove, California
Los Altos, California
Martinez, California
Merced, California
Mountain View Acres, California
Oakland, California
Oceanside, California
Reseda, California
Ridgecrest, California
San Leandro, California
Spring Valley, California
Union City, California
Visalia, California
Willits, California
Live Oak, Florida
Palm Bay, Florida
Augusta, Georgia
Savannah, Georgia
Metairie, Louisiana
Natchez, Mississippi
Fayetteville, North Carolina
Conway, South Carolina
North, South Carolina
Galveston, Texas
San Antonio, Texas

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