Are there palm trees in Scotland?

Written by Chris Thornton | 9th of January 2023
Are there palm trees in Scotland?

Yes! There are palm trees in Scotland, mainly on the southwest and west coast.

Scotland isn't the first place you think of when you mention palm trees... but these amazing trees grow and thrive in Scotland. I might not have believed it, but my mother has one growing in her front garden, so I thought I would write about this fascinating tree and appeal to all you budding horticulturalists out there!

Palm trees in Scotland

Although I say palm trees grow in Scotland, they are most likely found on Scotland's west/southwest coast and the Scottish islands, where the unique climate creates favourable growing conditions.

The Gulf Stream

The west coast and islands are more suited for palm trees due to the warm waters of the gulf stream, which makes its way all the way from the gulf of Mexico, past Florida and across the Atlantic Ocean to Scotland!

The gulf stream is also why the west coast of Scotland is much wetter and greener than the east coast... and full of dreaded midges (see my Midge Survival Guide). Scotland isn't as cold as most northern nations of the same latitude, for example, Alaska, due to the gulf stream.

Rhinns of Galloway

Scotland's highest concentration of palm trees can be found at the Rhinns of Galloway peninsula in the southwest south of Stranraer. Palm trees can be seen everywhere here, including within people's gardens and at tourist spots just for decoration.

Logan Botanic Garden

Logan Botanic Garden is a great place to see some huge palm trees (Google maps link). This is a fantastic garden and a must-see while in the Rhinns. The star attractions are:

  • Palm trees and tree ferns.

  • Eucalyptus trees.

  • Giant Gunnera - It looks like a giant rhubarb!

  • Logan Conservatory - showcasing a variety of plants from South Africa.

  • Guided walks around the gardens.

Admission is £8 for adults, and children under 15 are free.

Arran Palms, Goatfell mountain.
Palm trees on the Isle of Arran, looking towards Goatfell.

What types of palm trees grow in Scotland?

The two types of palm trees that grow naturally in Scotland are:

  • Trachycarpus fortunei / Chusan Palm.

  • Trachycarpus wagnerianus / Dwarf Chusan Palm.

Trachycarpus fortunei (Chuscan Palm)

Fast-growing and hardy, the Chusan palm (Windmill Palm) is an excellent choice for Scottish gardens. It can be grown all year round, and if planted in a shady spot, it can resist wind damage and temperatures of -15°C.

Preferred position: Full sun/shade, within a sheltered area.
Max height: More than 12 metres.
Time to full height: 20-50 years.
Hardiness rating: H5.
Lowest temperature: -15°C.

Trachycarpus wagnerianus (Dwarf Chusan Palm)

This smaller variety of palm tree is a good choice for more exposed areas with its thicker, stiffer leaves. It also does not grow as tall as the fortunei variety, hence the dwarf title.

Preferred position: Full sun/shade, within a sheltered area.
Max height: 6 to 8 metres.
Time to full height: 10-20 years.
Hardiness rating: H5.
Lowest temperature: -15°C.

Cordyline Australis

This plant is often mistaken for a palm tree in Scotland, and after some research is actually the tree that grows in my mother's garden. Also named the "Cabbage Tree", the trunk and leaves do look very palm-like, but it is a monocotyledon plant - it has more in common with the banana/plantain plant.

Scottish Palms
My mum's Cordyline Australis in her front garden.
 
Loch Carron also has palm trees.
Another view of the Cordyline Australis.

An eastern palm?

Despite being a "west coast" thing, palm trees have been grown on the east side of Scotland too. Ian Imrie grew a 22ft tall palm tree in his garden at Bridge of Earn, near Perth. The palm growing extraordinaire said:

"The experts say they can grow from six to 10ft tall at most, in some warmer parts of Britain, aided by the Gulf Stream.

But everyone is baffled as to how I could grow one more than 20ft high in Bridge of Earn, on the east of Scotland".

Rare palm trees in Scotland

Other less common palm trees that can grow in Scotland are:

  • Brahea armata.

  • Butia capitata.

  • Chamaerops humilis.

  • Jubaea chilensis.

  • Phoenix canariensis.

  • Rhapidophyllum hystrix.

  • Trithrinax campestris.

  • Washingtonia filifera.

These trees are much rarer and harder to grow here; it's possible you will see these varieties within botanical gardens and specialised greenhouses.

FAQs on palm trees in Scotland

Here are a few frequently asked questions about palm trees growing in Scotland.

Can palm trees grow in Scotland?

Yes, they grow and thrive on Scotland's west/southwest coast.

Do coconuts grow on palm trees in Scotland?

No, the varieties of palm trees that grow in Scotland do not grow coconuts. The two main varieties do produce marble-sized dark-coloured fruit. As far as I can see, these are edible, but it's hard to find much about them, so I would not eat them.

Where in Scotland have palm trees?

The following places are known for palm trees on mainland Scotland:

  • Rhinns of Galloway peninsula.

  • Plockton Bay.

  • Largs.

  • Stranraer.

  • Greenock.

  • Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh.

  • Bridge of Earn, Perth.

Which Scottish island has palm trees?

Here are some places on Scottish islands that have palm trees.

  • Brodick Castle, The Isle of Arran.

  • Ardbeg Point, Isle of Bute.

  • Port Bannatyne Pier, Isle of Bute.

  • Jura Hotel, Isle of Jura.

Arran. Find palm trees in the Scottish Highlands too.
Palm trees on the Isle of Arran.

Can palm trees survive Scottish winter?

Yes, but as with all trees, they can be damaged by bad weather or extreme cold. In December 2021, an iconic palm tree in Plockton bay, Wester Ross, was felled by strong winds. The tree had graced the front garden of the Plockton Hotel for 70 years.

How can I protect my palm tree and manage winter damage in Scotland?

Even though the palm trees that grow in Scotland are considered "hardy" and have an H5 RHS hardiness rating, these trees are still at risk from harsh winters.

Wrapping palm trees in fleeces over the winter months is the best way to protect your palm tree from plunging temperatures. Trees badly damaged by cold and wind do not recover well, and if no improvement is seen by the summer's end, it's likely they will need to be replaced.

Do palm trees grow in other countries of the UK?

Yes, the microclimate created by the gulf stream allows palm trees to grow in areas of England and Ireland.

  • Isle of Wight.

  • Penzance.

  • Isles of Scilly.

  • Cornwall.

Key information

  • The most common palm trees in Scotland are: Trachycarpus fortunei / Chusan Palm, Trachycarpus wagnerianus / Dwarf Chusan Palm.

  • Palm trees are mostly found on the west and southwest Scottish mainland, particularly the Rhinns of Galloway.

  • The Scottish islands have many examples of palm trees.

  • The gulf stream on the west coast of Scotland is the primary reason palm trees grow in Scotland.

  • Scottish palm trees do not bear coconuts.

  • Cordyline Australis is often incorrectly identified as a palm tree.

Brodick Castle. Picturesque Highland village of Plockton.
Brodick Castle Gardens.

Conclusion - Are there palm trees in Scotland?

So to answer the original question - Yes, Scotland has palm trees! Keep an eye open for them while travelling the islands and west coast.

Images by Magnus Hagdorn, Phyllis Buchanan and BScar23625.

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