With showy spikes of cream flowers and edible red berries, perfect to nibble whilst gardening, the Walking Stick Palm Linospadix monostachyos is a small attractive plant.

A sub-tropical rainforest understorey plant, common within its range from Taree in north eastern NSW up to Gympie in south eastern Queensland and at altitudes up to 1200m, the Walking Stick palm often grows in colonies (sometimes up to 6-8 plants per square metre) alongside the Bangalow Palm Archontophoenix cunninghamiana.

A slow-growing delicate palm that rarely grows taller than 2m, it has a slender single-stemmed trunk with attractive bamboo-like rings. It lacks a crownshaft but has a dense crown of weeping fronds of glossy dark green leaves 30 -100 cm long. Feather-like, the leaves have a flat end and look almost as if they have been torn across. Long drooping spikes of flowers are followed by bright red berries. The plant’s common name comes from the strong straight stem which remains consistently around 3cm and was harvested post- World War 1 to make walking sticks for returned wounded soldiers. A comfortable hand grip was carved from the compact root ball found at the base of the stem.

Position

The Walking Stick Palm’s natural habitat is cool and humid due to the deep shade provided by the canopy so it prefers a shady sheltered spot, but will grow in filtered sun. It thrives in sub-tropical or tropical areas but being a hardy plant, once established it will also grow in cooler temperate climates. It dislikes extremes in temperature though, so keep it in a sheltered understorey position to help maintain constant temperatures and best mimic it’s natural habitat. Not generally suitable for areas of frost, however there is some evidence of success if an adequate microclimate can be established.

Especially good for small courtyards and is suitable for pot culture almost indefinitely due to its small size and slow growth rates. If inside, put in a warm low sun to dappled light position and provide regular spells outside in a shady spot.

Water Use

As this palm naturally occurs in very wet areas of the ranges (up to 3000mm of rainfall per year) it ideally prefers moist well-drained soils, so water well especially in early stages after planting. Once established it is more drought tolerant. Mulch well to help maintain moisture in soil and to reduce the need for extra watering.

For a potted plant keep the soil regularly moist and provide adequate drainage and aeration (a shallow layer of rocks or broken clay pots in the bottom of the pot will do the trick.

Soil and Fertiliser

Being a rainforest understory plant it likes humus-rich soil, so apply plenty of organic matter and a generous application of mulch. Potted palms need regular feeding with complete fertiliser and/or compost matter.

Flowering and Fruiting

The walking stick palm looks spectacular when flowering. It has unbranched long pendulous green to cream flower spikes to 1m from August to October, followed by drooping long strings of small bright red edible berries in Autumn. About 1cm in diameter, the fruits are waxy and cylindrical or oval-shaped with a thin fleshy layer surrounding a single seed. Time till first fruit and flowers is about 5 years.

Pests and Disease

Generally free from serious pests and diseases.

Propagation

Propagation is from seed which germinates reliably (over 90%) but slowly and may take between one month up to one year. Seedings are very slow initially and tender so handle carefully until about 20cm high when they are more hardy. Growth rate increases after 1-2 years.

Harvest

The small fruit is edible when bright red and fully ripe.

Pruning

Remove spent leaves at the base as they form.

Uses

Berries are sweet with a peppery aftertaste and have also been described as tasting like a nashi pear. Often a great source of vitamins, small native fruits played an important part in traditional Aboriginal diets. New shoots are also edible but harvesting will kill the plant.  Crash survivors were kept alive for nine days by eating Walking Stick Palm berries after their Stinson mail plane went down in Lamington National Park in 1937.

Aborigines are said to have used the stem for a spear and fishing rod and stripped the leaves and used the fine lining as string.

Other Benefits

The bright red berries attract birds (this is how the seed is dispersed) as well as the yellow and orange palm dart butterfly.

Availability

Available from specialised native nurseries – see links in references below.

References

Burringbar Rainforest Nursery – Upper Burringbar, NE NSW.  www.burringbarrainforestnursery.com.au/product/linospadix-monostachya-walking-stick-palm/
Cronin, L (2009) Cronin’s Key Guide: Australian Rainforest Plants, Jacana Books an imprint of Allen & Unwin Australia
Daley’s Fruit Tree Nursery. www.daleysfruit.com.au/Walking-Stick-Palm-Linospadix-monostachya.htm
Wrigley,J & Fagg, M (2007) Australian Native Plants : Cultivation, Use in Landscaping and Propagation. Reed New Holland, Australia.
Tweed Shire Council (2017) My Local Native Garden: A planting guide to promote biodiversity in Tweed Shire
Palmpedia.  https://www.palmpedia.net/wiki/Linospadix_monostachyos
Paton Park Native Nursery.
www.ppnn.org.au/plantlist/linospadix-monostachya.  http://www.ppnn.org.au/plantlist/linospadix-monostachya/
Sydney Morning Herald (2002) In a Hero’s Footsteps.
https://www.smh.com.au/national/in-a-heros-footsteps-20020625-gdfe7y.html
Palm and Cycad Societies of Australia (2014) Linospadix Monostachyos.  http://www.pacsoa.org.au/w/index.php?title=Linospadix_monostachya
Toowoomba Plants : Natives of the Region Suitable for Gardens (2010) Walking Stick Palm .
http://toowoombaplants2008.blogspot.com/2010/03/walking-stick-palm.html