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Areca the palm of Madagascar

Posted by Maria Luisa Strippoli on

Dypsis lutescens : everybody calls it Areca, but in reality, this plant, even if part of the Arecaceae, does not belong to the genus which gives it the name of the family.

In the areas of origin, the Areca becomes a real tree, but in an apartment it can reach a couple of metres.

It is therefore a tropical species, and is to be treated like most of these plants: the preferred position is quite bright but not in full sunlight. It is perhaps a little more demanding than other 'palmettes' in terms of water requirements, but without exaggerating: the best way to adjust is always to feel the substratum with a finger and get wet when the soil on the surface begins to dry up. The ideal temperature is around the 20 °C: temperature changes and cold air currents are to be avoided; in summer, if it can be moved, it can also be placed in open air, on a balcony or in the garden, avoiding the direct sunlight, but it is to be sheltered immediately when the temperatures start to decrease.
It is very useful to maintain a certain humidity of the air, with frequent spraying of the foliage.

It is to be repotted when the plant is not more proportioned to the pot which hosts it, with a deeper pot than the previous one. The substratum is the one used for most other indoor green plants, well balanced and well drained. For plants that have already reached a certain height you can even just remove the old potting soil in the first centimetres of surface replacing it with new substrate.

It doesn't require pruning, if not to eliminate the dry foliage.
It can be subject to attacks of red spider mite (which can be avoided by keeping the atmosphere around the plant moist) and cochineals, both cotton and waxy ones: as long as possible, remove them with a cotton swab soaked in alcohol, but in case of strong attacks you have to treat with specific anticoccident products (generally white oils).

Curiosities:

In nature you can find it in Madagascar and other islands close to Africa, such as the Comoros, Mauritius and Réunion and, on the continent, in Tanzania. Instead, the most widespread species belonging to the genus Areca is the Betel plant, A. catechu, which is native to Asia (Malaysia) and produces edible nuts.

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