About the cocos palm
Cocos palms (Syagrus romanzoffianum) are popular street and garden trees because they are inexpensive and fast-growing. They grow to an average height of 12 metres and leaves may be up to five metres long.
Each tree produces a large amount of fruit, which occurs in large clusters. Each fruit is up to 2.5 cm in diameter. The fruit consists of a hard nut surrounded with a thin layer of fibrous flesh that is orange and sticky when ripe.
The seeds germinate easily on land and wetlands next to rivers and streams (riparian areas) and dry eucalypt forests. They spread easily and displace native species.
Flying-foxes and other animals feed on cocos palm fruit as an alternative to native foods. As a result, some residents have found that cocos palms on their property attract flying-foxes looking for food.
Residents also report that after feeding on cocos palm fruit, the flying-fox droppings can be very sticky and difficult to clean off cars and outdoor areas.
Some residents choose to remove cocos palms from their gardens to remove the food source and therefore unwelcome visitors. In some cases, local councils have helped with subsidies for tree removal.
Impacts on flying-foxes
Removing cocos palms helps flying-foxes.
Flying-foxes attracted to cocos palms may be injured or die.
- When eaten green by flying-foxes, cocos palm fruit can be toxic.
- Sticky palm fruit can cause severe constipation. This causes dehydration and death in younger flying-foxes.
- Flying-fox toes can get caught in palm flower sheaths, causing injuries as animals try to escape.
- Flying-foxes can be trapped in the strappy frond leaves, causing distress or death and they can damage wing membranes on the tough flower spikes.
- Young flying-foxes can get seeds caught behind their canine teeth, leading to a slow death by starvation.
- Flying-foxes may come down to ground level to eat dropped seeds, increasing their vulnerability to attack from dogs and cats.
- If the palms are planted near barbed wire or inappropriate netting, flying-foxes can be caught and trapped.
Cocos palm fruit can also attract unwelcome flying-foxes to your garden, street or local parks.
Department of Primary Industries (2018) Cocos Palm Fact Sheet. Accessed 10 December 2019.
Gardening Australia (2007) Fact Sheet: Cocos Palm. Accessed 10 December 2019.
NSW Government (2014) Government Gazette of the State of NSW Number 23. Accessed 10 December 2019.