Butterfly Palms

Areca Palms Bring a Bit of Clean Caribbean to Your Home

Like their coconut bearing cousins, areca palms are synonymous with the Caribbean. Neither are actually from the region, however. Areca palm trees, also known as butterfly, golden cane, and yellow palms, are actually native to Madagascar. (The scientific name is Dypsis lutescens, by the way.) These pretty plants have thrived in the Caribbean for centuries, though, their wispy-thin leaflets a staple of well-manicured lawns and resorts throughout our islands.

Another place where arecas proliferate: homes like yours! 

Areca Palms – Prime Air Purifier

Of all house plants commonly associated with the Caribbean, none are more popular than arecas. We have NASA to thank for this.

Back in the 1980s, the famed U.S. space agency commissioned a study measuring the air purifying effectiveness of certain plants. Research encompassed 50 different flora.

The resulting NASA Clean Air Study found that areca palms helped us breathe easiest! The pretty palms have been a mainstay of American households and offices ever since.

Butterfly Palms in Appearance Only

By virtue of its butterfly byname, one might think that areca palms do double duty; attracting scores of flamboyant flying insects while also clearing the air.

Not so.

The butterfly in butterfly palms actually refers to the appearance of the palm’s fronds. The manner in which they curve upwards and out mimics butterfly wings, ergo the name.

Still, I often see giant swallowtail butterflies dancing about the areca palms in my backyard, so maybe there’s more to the connection…


*Photo credit: Patrick Bennett

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