Lipstick Palm, Cyrtostachys renda query

noonamah, Australia

My small Lipstick Palm has been sitting in a pot for ages patiently awaiting completion of my current landscaping project so it can be planted out. It's a three faceted project. One aim is simply providing a water feature in an otherwise bland area adjacent to the main gardens. Secondly, the water feature also doubles as a sump and filter for water running into my dam (ornamental). Thirdly, as a result of having the water feature I thought it'd be a nice place for a Lipstick Palm, so I bought one to go in on completion.

So the big question relates to water levels suitable for the Lipstick Palm. I know they come from lowland coastal swamps. Can't do much about the coastal (I'm about 50 kilometres away) but the lowland I've got and the 'swamp' I'm developing. But how deep should the water be for them? It will fluctuate between the wet and dry seasons. Don't want to go too deep, but there still has to be plenty of water for fish that will eat mosquito larvae.

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Acton, CA(Zone 8b)

though I am sure they grow in swamps, most growers grow them just like any other palm... in the ground. They need a lot of water, but they don't need to be swamped

noonamah, Australia

It's the same here, all the ones you see growing around the place are in dryland situations. But I've seen photos of them growing in ponds.

The wet area I'm developing is part of the dam system and will be there regardless during the wet season, although it normally slowly dries out during the dry season. Making that permanently wet, and with suitable plants, will add to the landscape.

Keaau, HI

I grow it in a well drained area, it does well with little help.

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noonamah, Australia

Some friends have it growing on a mound and it's doing really well. The council in Darwin had it growing in very large pots on pavements. It grew remarkably well for being surrounded by concrete and mortar out in the hot sun all year, but it was well irrigated. I'll be happy to see it growing in my wet area along with some Cyrtosperma sps. Just not sure what depth of water I should aim for.

Acton, CA(Zone 8b)

to be safe, the shallower the better

noonamah, Australia

Yes, that was my thinking Geoff. Closer to the edge, and some deeper water in the middle for the mosquito larvae eating fish. When it floods the water'll get up about an extra half metre, but only for short periods - less than half a day.

Thanks both of you for the comments.

noonamah, Australia

The rains beat me with this project so I can't line the pond area until the end of the wet season when the water goes right down. The Lipstick Palm will be okay in its pot until then, it doesn't grow very fast. But the Cyrtosperma merkusii that was going to join it in there is rapidly outgrowing its pot. Might have to temporarily put it into a much bigger pot.

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MIssion Valley, TX(Zone 9a)

Enjoyed this thread. Yet another palm I saw selling
locally I will never attempt to grow after researching.
Wish I could. Hope you post pics of the water garden
when finished.

Was tempted to post a jpg of mosquito fish
(I am of the opinion that mosquito fish outweigh all
other concerns) frozen in my deep creek
but thought better. How do you stop them from
"migrating" when it rains a lot (out the overflow)?

noonamah, Australia

I only use native fish. We have a species of "Blue-eyes" here that eat mosquito larvae but don't touch tadpoles. Most of our freshwater fish move upstream when the rains come, that's how they get into my dam. Since this pond is part of a filter system for the dam, other fish won't be able to get through. The filter will keep the tadpole eating fish out. If the pond overflows out the side (not through the filter) and some of the Blue-eyes get washed down into the creek system it doesn't matter because they're natives.

Are your mosquito fish Gambusia sp? They were introduced down south and have been an environmental disaster. Virtually impossible to get rid of now.

MIssion Valley, TX(Zone 9a)

Yes, most mosquito fish around here are. But my neighbor has dammed up the creek and made
a small fishing lake. He stocks it with game fish that eat the mosquito fish before they clean out
all the other larvae and amphibians. We also have a massive turtle population controlling them
both. His run-off populates my creek...more aptly termed a "draw" now, since it will go dry during

On top of that they spray way out here in the country...when you see the flashing lights you learn
to dive for cover...they say it only kills mosquitoes but I find birds and lizards everywhere afterwards
on certain mornings.

I can imagine those fish cut your frogs way down like they did in California.

noonamah, Australia

I haven't seen any studies done on the effects of Gambusia on the local fauna. We're lucky not having them here although not sure whether the environment/climate would suit them anyway.

A place I lived before did fogging for mosquitos, never did like the smell of what they used. Later they just went around the nearby swamps. Now they don't do it at all and there aren't any more mosquitos than before. They'd probably been killing more mosquito predators than mosquitos.

My creek, swamp and dam dry up every dry season. Some springs upstream on my creek (about 6 - 8 kms up) act as refuges for fish. The main river they drain into stops flowing and becomes a series of waterholes which are also refuges for fish, along with some rather large sets of sharp teeth ;O)

Atawhai,Nelson, New Zealand(Zone 10a)

I take it you are referring to Crocs? Do you get many Crocs around your area?

noonamah, Australia

The big ones come up my creek, the smaller ones get up into my swamp. But that's really only during the wet season. They will get around a lot more then, usually chasing around for feral pigs. Last year an 11 year old girl was killed by a croc just near here. I know that kids are hard to get through to at times but the parents/elders should have been more involved in their activities that time of year. I don't go swimming in my dam before I've checked it out, and it's only connected to the creek via the swamp.

MIssion Valley, TX(Zone 9a)

There is a reservoir a few miles form me full of gators.
Yet there is a roped off (not netted off) public swimming
area...I have been in post a good spotter on
shore to also for snakes that decide to leave
their branches, etc. It is one of the few places due to
the warm water that I saw a mature king palm.

I'm told gators have never been a problem unless some
fisherman is cleaning fish on his boat too close.

When they get too thick and start coming up the creeks
we have "roundups" on horseback and try to stay out
of quicksand. They like hogs, too!

Never met a croc...they must be interesting yard guests.

noonamah, Australia

Crocs, specifically Estuarine Crocs - Crocodylus porosus, are a very different proposition to alligators. They're not to be tangled with in any way.

Atawhai,Nelson, New Zealand(Zone 10a)

It's often foreign tourists that fall victim to saltwater crocs. Sometimes I don't think they even realise that they are about and if they don't ask the locals then they can't be warned. There haven't been any deaths so far this summer?

noonamah, Australia

Nothing this year, but we had a spate of deaths last year, I think all locals. There's been an advertising campaign this year but people are usually careful for a few years and then become lax. Croc numbers are getting very high, They're territorial, displaced animals have to find new territory. That's why they're pushing into new places. Human population is also growing. Encounters are going to keep increasing. They remove a couple of hundred from Darwin harbour each year. Latest discussion is a 50 km exclusion zone for crocs. The detractors have been asking if they're going to put up "No Entry for Crocodiles" signs at the 50 km mark.

Atawhai,Nelson, New Zealand(Zone 10a)

Would be interesting to know how they are going to be kept out. Nets or something?

MIssion Valley, TX(Zone 9a)

I just read about your Crocodylus porosus ... glad we
don't have 'em. Have to put bigger springs on our trailers.
I read where one of those dudes killed a good sized shark.

Similarly, we manage to catch alligators in the Gulf of Mexico
and find gators on islands pretty far out...the mystery to me
is how the rattlesnakes get out there. Never thought I'd think
of gators as "nice little fellas".

noonamah, Australia

The crocs range from India to Australia and were hunted for their skins. It's the best quality because it doesn't get the patchy hardness that occurs in all the other species. By the early 1970's they were becoming rare. The government had, a couple of years earlier, banned the hunting and killing of Freshwater Crocs, Crocodylus johnstonii. They then banned the hunting and killing of the much bigger Salties (C. porosus). The Salties of those days were scared of people and as they grew larger still kept away. And there was lots of habitat depleted by hunting for them to re-occupy. The new younger crocs, never having known hunting, were wary of people but not really afraid. The population of them and people grew.

So now there's a 'war' between the conservationists, who say the crocs were here first, and the 'others' who think there should be culling. There are already "crocodile management areas", there's 2 where I work. We put out traps and do night surveys. 6 consecutive clear surveys (each a number of days apart) and then the public is allowed in. One sighting and the surveys have to start again. Salties found in croc management areas are destroyed. We ignore the Freshies. I assume this is what would happen in a declared "exclusion zone" as well. Although closer to Darwin they could send them to croc farms.

The photo is of Moline, a bit under 5 metres long. He was trapped where I work to attach a satellite tracker (see it at the back of his head). After about a year of hanging around he suddenly took off downstream and out to sea. Moved up the coast to another river system and is now about 150 kms up there. To get there he must have passed a lot of "gatekeepers". That's what we call the dominant croc that controls a section of river, that's their territory. Just recently we trapped another one in the same system Moline moved into and attached a satellite tracker to it. So far it's stayed in its territory, a section of the river and part of a large tributary.

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Atawhai,Nelson, New Zealand(Zone 10a)

You don't realise just how big they are until there are couple of people next one for scale. It's easy to see how they can consume a human.

noonamah, Australia

Koolpin was only 3.8 metres long but a lot more vicious than Moline. When trapped I thought he was going to rip the trap apart from inside. He was suspected of going into the management area during the wet season when access was cut off by flooding. But he was always gone when we put the trap in at the end of the wet (we got him in the main river well away from the management area). That was last month (December) that we got him.

In the photo I'm standing on his head and Gary is attaching the satellite tracker. Even though drugged up they can suddenly flick their head or tail. Still enough force to easily break a leg, or permanently re-arrange the 'male credentials'. A cover over the eyes blocks visual stimulation and tends to keep them quiet. At one point the cover came of and it was difficult getting him back under control despite being drugged, hence tying him to the car.

The snout is taped up and tied with a rope. Call it "insurance". I was in the car when he was released. Since then he's been to the management area once and then back. Coincidentally, he's in the same river Moline's moved into. Maybe they've been talking via satellite, going to get together and compare trackers, maybe. ;O)

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MIssion Valley, TX(Zone 9a)

How did you get Moline up the hill, a winch?
These don't look like the kind of fellas Steve Irwin
used to "top-jaw" (before he decided to branch out
into ocean adventures).

Atawhai,Nelson, New Zealand(Zone 10a)

Have you met Steve Irwin? Was her ever up your way?

noonamah, Australia

Steve Irwin was never popular in this area but over in Queensland he was more acceptable. What made him wasn't any popularity in Australia. It was his popularity in the USA via his films. His death gained him more of a following in Queensland and other southern areas from people who didn't know the difference between "entertainment documenatries" and real documentaries. Anyway, I won't go any further, I've got into trouble before on the internet expressing views about him. As far as I know he never came over this way.

Moline was darted in the trap and the vehicle in the top (right) of the photo was used to drag him up the embankment. He was only pulled up enough to work on attaching the tracker.

One thing about crocs, the jaws can exert several tons of pressure on anything they get between them. Once closed a human could hold the jaws closed, for some reason they've evolved with weak 'jaw opening' muscles. So the thing is, if you're being attacked grab them around the snout before they can open it and then hang on for dear life. If you can keep hanging on with all the shaking and rolling then you're alright. But if not, then as they say in the classics, "You're RS!"

I have a friend who was grabbed by a croc 15 or so years ago. The croc was only trying to scare him (and by the way, it did a good job of it) and let him go. I always say to him that he tastes so foul the croc had to spit him out. He still has a lot of trouble with his hips, his pelvic bone was cracked and punctured. For an unlucky encounter he was very lucky.

MIssion Valley, TX(Zone 9a)

No, but I ran into some folks I liked in my travels who claimed to
be related to him (since he is/was married to a Yank) so I followed his

My neighbors all told me he was a fake, but I didn't care if
that were true. He came to the States and made some
shows that weren't great, but he was good entertainment
...although I don't handle snakes much...mostly I put them in buckets and
transport them.

Did you like him? Is he Paul Hogan-legendary (not to a Kiwi,
I understand)?

MIssion Valley, TX(Zone 9a)

Darn, wish I'd read the authentic Aussie assessment...I was already typing.
My neighbors were right. They were Missourians at the time (the "Show Me" state).

As probably the last American to own a legacy jar of Vegemite
and actually eat it (it is banned here)...I hoped to mentally perpetuate the
kind of Paul Hogan status I found that Queenslanders worship.

But then again, I myself don't seem much like John Wayne either I guess...I
don't even want to run over a gator in my's hell on the oil pan.

noonamah, Australia

Irwin was an entertainer, purely and simply. He harassed and tormented animals for the entertainment value. I personally think people liked that because of their deep seated fear of these creatures. He showed them that the objects of their fear could be tormented and ridiculed. People who understood animals and were conservationists couldn't stand him. But that's all past history now.

MIssion Valley, TX(Zone 9a)

Up here we've done in non-human things that hunt us.
Most of us never make it past Queensland/Cairns.
I've spent my adult life "looking down" and it has saved my life
at least three times...I was waiting for Irwin to handle one of our
snakes...not the coral snakes I found in the pool:
the ones you can't see bite.

However now that I'm in Texas I see a guy do it all the time, and
a trailer topped with dead gators at the gas station is boring.

What is seen on US TV are Aussie "nature shows": tiger
snakes, crocs, great whites (maybe they were next
on Irwin's menu). Whatever happened to just watching "Skippy"...

noonamah, Australia

I think Skippy ended up on a BBQ ;O)

Atawhai,Nelson, New Zealand(Zone 10a)

That's really interesting what you say about Irwin because me being a novice when it comes to animal handling/conservation I always thought he was the genuine article rather than simply an entertainer. Obviously the true conservationists saw things differently. Goes to show it's difficult to make sound judgements through a TV screen.

Anyway, before we get into trouble from the admin, I actually have a palm question for tropicbreeze. I'm growing a couple of Hyophorbe indica seedlings which are in pots at present. I'm going to attempt them in the ground in a couple of years which will be a challange for me in my part of the world. Have you had any experience with this palm? Any advice would appreciated.

MIssion Valley, TX(Zone 9a)

Good point...I'm bowing out with one comment:
it must be inevitable that Tropicbreeze faces
comparisons to guys like Irwin once people find
out more about him.

It must be really aggravating to actually perform
such duties and explain away market-hype. You
have my admiration...I know how serious Aussies
take indigenous nature.

This was a great thread in an age where we've gone to the trouble
of redefining "conservation" as "extirpation."

noonamah, Australia

I don't know anything about Hyophorbe indica. Got this off the net:

"Prefers shade when young, but can take full sun as it gets older. Quite a fast grower. "

Comes from Reunion Island (Indian Ocean), so probably doesn't like it too cold. Unless, of course, if it comes from high up in the mountains on the island. I like to find out where plants come from to give me an idea on what needs to be done for them. That can help prevent long losing battles to keep certain plants alive, only to end up disappointed.

Acton, CA(Zone 8b)

knowing where a palm comes from sometimes does not help you know how hardy it is. Phoenix roebellenii comes from some of the most tropical areas of all of Asia, yet it is a very hardy palm, never seeing temps anywhere near what it can tolerate in cultivation... yet Ceroxylons are amongst the highest living of all the palms growing at thousands of feet elevation... yet can't handle much out of a very narrow temperature range- too hot or too cold will kill them off (not all, but most). You just gotta try them all out and see what happens (by now, most have been tried, so there are less surprises left than there were 20 years ago... but maybe there are still some wonders left out there)

Atawhai,Nelson, New Zealand(Zone 10a)

Hyophorbe indica is supposed to be the hardiest of the genus so that's why I decided to give it a go. Apparently they grow to a higher elevation than the other Hyophorbes which will explain why it's a little more resilient.

I'm going to keep mine in pots for another couple of years and then plant them and see what happens......

noonamah, Australia

While they're all pot sized and easy to handle then staying in a pot is no problem. When they get a bit older they get a bit more resilient. The only drawback is once in the ground they can spend a while sorting out the roots before they begin to grow again.

Atawhai,Nelson, New Zealand(Zone 10a)

It is strange how hardy P roebellenii are considering their origins. There are four of these in my garden and they do very well and are low maintenence.

noonamah, Australia

I've always thought of Phoenix as a cold climate plant, so roebellenii seemed an exception. I wonder whether it still has some of that same genetic material that makes the other species so cold hardy.

noonamah, Australia

Well, nearly a year after the last post, thought I'd resurrect it since there's been progress on what this thread started out on.

Just before the current wet season I got stuck into this project again and managed to get the ponds reasonably sorted before any significant flooding started. What was going to be one larger pond has ended up as 5 not so large ones. Two are fairly deep, the others shallower. With heavy rain it becomes one larger pond and by the time the wet season sets right in it stays as one pond until the end of the wet.

Before the flooding I put in a large clump of Cyrtostachys renda, Lipstick Palm, into the shallowest pond. A couple of weeks later it was standing in at least half a metre of water. And since then the water only drops a little before the next rains put the level right up again.

It's only had about a month of this so far, a few more months before the wet season eases off. The palm's still looking quite happy with the situation but I'll have a better idea in a few months time.

This is it sitting in nearly half a metre of water.

Thumbnail by tropicbreeze

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