Photo by Melody

PlantFiles: Mule Palm
X Butiagrus nabonnandii

Family: Arecaceae (ar-ek-AY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: X Butiagrus (bew-tee-AG-rus) (Info)
Species: nabonnandii

Synonym:X Butyagrus nabonnandii
Synonym:Butia capitata x Syagrus romanzoffiana

12 members have or want this plant for trade.

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30-40 ft. (9-12 m)
over 40 ft. (12 m)

12-15 ft. (3.6-4.7 m)
15-20 ft. (4.7-6 m)

USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)
USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)
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)
USDA Zone 11: above 4.5 C (40 F)

Sun Exposure:
Full Sun


Bloom Color:
Bright Yellow

Bloom Time:
Blooms repeatedly

Grown for foliage

Other details:
Drought-tolerant; suitable for xeriscaping

Soil pH requirements:
Unknown - Tell us

Patent Information:
Unknown - Tell us

Propagation Methods:
From seed; direct sow outdoors in fall
From seed; sow indoors before last frost

Seed Collecting:
Unknown - Tell us

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5 positives
3 neutrals
No negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

Neutral Ivanos1982 On Feb 3, 2014, Ivanos1982 from El Paso, NM wrote:

I also tried to grow this plant in my zone 8 area and it just lost its spear after a freeze of about 15 F one February night last year. It didnt even snow that year and rained like once. I live in the desert. It just went downhill from there and by summer all the leaves browned up and no new growth came out even by August after major "surgery". It was just rotten inside the bud. I think this plant is definetly more of a zone 9. I was experimenting and spent 100 bucks and it hurt. I bought a smaller one that I've kept outside protected from frost this year and it's doing fine, but temps havent dropped below 20 F so far here in El Paso, TX this winter yet. Hopefully it will make it.

Neutral donnacreation On Apr 24, 2013, donnacreation from Sumter, SC (Zone 8a) wrote:

After doing tons of online research, I don't think the 'Mule' palm is cold hardy in my zone 8a garden. Although the past 2 winters have been mild, during a cold winter, temps in the mid to low teens, even 10f occasinally, are common and would at least defoliate a young Mule palm. The next time temps hit 10f-14f, I plan to contact some fellow SC gardeners who are growing this palm to find out if it survived.

Positive Mendopalmfarm On Nov 2, 2012, Mendopalmfarm from Willits, CA wrote:

I have 5 of these beauties the largest having 8' of trunk and starting to flower regularly. Probably hardy to 15 degrees. Has a queen like trunk but hairy like a butia. They are quite expensive and not very easy to find on the west coast. Especially large ones. I love the way they makey driveway look.

Positive ErikSJI On Oct 16, 2011, ErikSJI from Friday Harbor, WA wrote:

There pretty easy to find in Florida. If you need one send me a message and I will be happy to help you track one down.

Positive SuburbanNinja80 On Jun 23, 2011, SuburbanNinja80 from Plainfield, IN (Zone 6a) wrote:

I have Desired to make it a House palm and try a few outside in Zone 6a. I have to warn people check this palm every 3 to 5 mouths. This is a Very fast growing Palm. I love it for this Reason those. its looks like a Relaxed Pindo palm that's is Thornless.

Neutral Joan On May 16, 2010, Joan from Belfield, ND (Zone 4a) wrote:

Also found listed as Butia capitata x Syagrus romanzoffiana

Positive fullsun007 On Jul 26, 2009, fullsun007 from Gainesville, FL wrote:

I have 3 of these palms in my yard,. One is 4 year old palm and the other a 2 year old. I also purchased an excellent 7 gallon specimen mule palm online. The fronds have a lush green appearance more closely resembling the Queen in the cross while obtaining some of the curvaceousness from the Pindo. This past winter we had 2 nights with back to back lows of 21oF neither of my palms received any additional protection and they are growing fine in my zone 8B garden. For those gardeners looking to emulate the look of a Queen or even the "Coconut" but live too far north this palm might be worth a try. They are not cheap due to being cross pollinated by hand, but reportedly hardy to 14oF. There are 30-40 feet specimens both on the University of Florida campus and at the Kanapaha Botanical Gardens here in Gainesville, suggesting they have been able to withstand lows in the mid teens observed over the last 25 years.

Positive palmbob On Dec 7, 2003, palmbob from Acton, CA (Zone 8b) wrote:

This is a great cross between two very hardy palms (Butia capitata female and Syagrus romanzoffiana pollen donor... though other Syagrus crosses have been successful, too). It is a fast grower, though sort of intermediate between the two parents (Syagrus, or Queen palm being a lot faster grower). It has some beefiness of the Butia with some arched leaves of the Butia, too. Generally, the leaves are usually quite green like the Queen palm (Butias tend to be bluish green). The adult plant has exceptional hardiness, able to withstand temps below 20F. It is also very wind and drought tolerant. This is a great palm for a large space, but is quite rare and expensive.

As one might expect with an intergeneric hybrid, these plants are extremely variable, not nearly as consistent in appearance as either of the parents. The name Mule palm refers to their typical intergeneric sterility (as is 'always' the case in the animal world)... but in fact many times these palms produce viable seed that germinate and turn into seedlings that are, themselves highly variable. This variability is probably due to the female flowers being pollenated by who knows what parent- could be a nearby Syagrus or Butia, or even a Jubaea, since most of these adult palms are growing in botanical gardens or gardens belonging to enthusiast who usually have a variety of other palms growing nearby.

Note, the reverse cross, Syagrus X Butia (Syagrus female flowers being pollinated by Butia pollen) is not only a very difficult palm to create since the Syagrus female flowers seem to reject pollen from other genera, but those rare seedlings that do arise are often weak and spindly, not showing any of the famous 'hybrid vigor' of the above cross. Reportedly most seedlings of this cross do not survive to adulthood.


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

Enterprise, Alabama
Orange Beach, Alabama
Tucson, Arizona
Granite Bay, California
Los Angeles, California
Mckinleyville, California
San Marino, California
Thousand Oaks, California
Ventura, California
Willits, California
Brandon, Florida
Fort Pierce, Florida
Gainesville, Florida
Loxahatchee, Florida
Ocala, Florida
Palm Bay, Florida
Sarasota, Florida
Spring Hill, Florida
Savannah, Georgia
Plainfield, Indiana
Denham Springs, Louisiana
Carolina Beach, North Carolina
Kure Beach, North Carolina
Wilmington, North Carolina
Cayce, South Carolina
Summerville, South Carolina
Schertz, Texas
Friday Harbor, Washington

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