Arecaceae (syn. Palmae) is a family confined to the tropics and warm-temperate regions of the world and counts about 189 genera and 2400 species (Mabberley 2008). It is particularly well represented in New Guinea (Mabberley l.c.) and, evidently, not native in Belgium.

Numerous species are of importance, e.g. economically (coconut, date palm, etc.) and horticulturally. A useful account for the palm family in horticulture in Europe is provided by Walters & al. (1984).

Only one genus (and species) has been recorded in the wild in Belgium so far, Phoenix L. An additional taxon, the East Asian Trachycarpus fortunei (W.J. Hook.) Wendland, one of the hardiest palm species in the world, is increasingly planted in western Europe and probably will be found self seeding in a near future in Belgium as well. It is known as such from the milder parts of the British Isles (Clement & Foster 1994) and recently started escaping in, for instance, Switzerland as well (e.g. Walther 2000). It is considered a significant bioindicator across continents for present-day climate change and reflects a global signal towards warmer conditions (Walther & al. 2007).


There is a very extensive literature on palms. Useful additional references are provided by Walters & al. (1984) and Mabberley (2008). See also:

PalmWeb – Palms of the World Online at:

EUNOPS – European Network of Palm Specialists at:

Clement E.J. & Foster M.C. (1994) Alien plants of the British Isles. BSBI, London: XVIII + 590 p.

Dransfield J., Uhl N.W., Asmussen C.B., Baker W.J., Harley M.M. & Lewis C.E. (2005). A new phylogenetic classification of the palm family, Arecaceae. Kew Bulletin 60: 559-569.

Mabberley D.J. (2008) Mabberley’s plant-book (3th ed.). Cambridge University Press, Cambridge: XVIII + 1021 p.

Walters S.M., Brady A., Brickell C.D., Cullen J., Green P.S., Lewis J., Matthews V.A., Webb D.A., Yeo P.F. & Alexander J.C.M. (eds.) (1984) The European Garden Flora, vol. 2 (part II). Cambridge University Press: 318 p.

Walther GR. (2000) Laurophyllisation in Switzerland. Dissertation, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) Zurich. [available online at:]

Walther G.R., Gritti E.S., Berger S., Hickler T., Tang Z. & Sykes M.T. (2007) Palms tracking climate change. Global Ecol. Biogeogr. 16:801-809. [available online at:]

Taxonomic name: 
Scratchpads developed and conceived by (alphabetical): Ed Baker, Katherine Bouton Alice Heaton Dimitris Koureas, Laurence Livermore, Dave Roberts, Simon Rycroft, Ben Scott, Vince Smith