Dioon Edule: Rising Virgin’s Palm

Should you’ve vacationed to the japanese coast of Mexico, you in all probability got here throughout a Dioon edule. Possibly you mistook it for a palm tree or perhaps a fern. What you noticed is definitely a cycad plant species that’s been round for longer than people – and even dinosaurs – walked the earth! 

Dioon edule, additionally referred to as virgin’s palm, is a big, evergreen cycad. Due to its subtropical origins, it’s a drought-tolerant plant that’s additionally delightfully low upkeep. Virgin’s palm is a staple xeriscaping plant in USDA hardiness zones 9/11. It may be grown within the floor, the place it’ll keep for a whole lot of years, or planted in containers beginning at 4 inches huge. 

Like all cycads, dioon edule is a gymnosperm. It grows feminine and male cones that vary from 2-16 inches lengthy. Extra noticeable is the quick, woody trunk that’s topped with a festive fountain of leaves. This plant will certainly add texture and form to your landscaping. 

On this article, we’ll be taught all concerning the rising habits and cultivation of this assortment of native Mexican species. Then, with a heat surroundings and a few endurance, you may develop your individual!

Fast Care Information

D. edule leaf
The leaf frond of D. edule. Supply: amortize
Widespread Title Virgin’s palm, chestnut dioon, palma de la virgen, Mexican palm, Mexican blue chamal, Mexican fern palm
Scientific Title Dioon edule
Household Zamiaceae
Top & Unfold As much as 8 ft tall, 6 ft huge
Mild Full solar, partial shade
Soil Nicely-draining, poor soils
Water Sparse
Pests & Ailments Caterpillar, cycad aulacaspis scale, root rot, fusarium wilt

All About Mexican Cycad

Immature Dioon edule cones
When immature, the cones are onerous to determine as male or feminine. Supply: brewbooks

Dioon edule was once cut up into two subspecies: edule and angustifolium. Nevertheless, the latter was just lately reclassified as its personal species underneath the Dioon genus (although the 2 are nonetheless very related). 

We’ll deal with care necessities for Dioon edule on this article, although they will in all probability even be utilized to D. angustifolium and different species within the Dioon genus, reminiscent of Dioon imbricatum, Dioon aculeatum, and Dioon strobilaceum. It’s additionally value noting this similar species has the synonyms Macrozamia pectinata, Zamia rigida, and Macrozamia littoralis

This plant goes by many frequent names, together with chestnut dioon, virgin’s palm, palma de la virgen, Mexican palm, Mexican blue chamal, and Mexican fern palm. As you may inform by a few of the names, this plant is commonly confused with palms. The 2 are fairly unrelated, as palm bushes aren’t even gymnosperms (they produce flowers as an alternative of seed cones).

Probably the most noticeable factor about chestnut dioon is its plume of leaves. These leaves are pinnate, that means they’ve a row of opposing leaflets inserted down all sides of a central stem (like a fern). As a complete, every leaf grows as much as 6 ft lengthy. Nevertheless, they’re normally in proportion to the trunk and gained’t be that massive straight away.

The semi-glossy, blue-green leaves are very slender and create a gentle look. Once they’re younger, these basal leaflets are edged with small spines with a pointy level. The brilliant inexperienced leaves sit atop a thick, woody trunk that’s devoid of branches. Under the soil are nitrogen-fixing coralloid roots and a troublesome taproot that may discover water in even the rockiest backyard soils.

Dioon edule vegetation can develop as much as 8 ft tall (and so they aren’t even the tallest cycads!). Nevertheless, they develop very slowly, so most cultivated ones are so quick that they give the impression of being extra like a bush than a tree within the web site they’re initially planted. These slow-growing vegetation aren’t in a rush as a result of they will dwell for over a thousand years.

With such a protracted lifespan comes an advanced and considerably uncommon technique of copy. Dioon edule is a dioecious species, that means every plant solely grows male or feminine cones. Each vegetation should be in shut proximity to supply viable seed. 

Which intercourse the plant is isn’t simply identified till the feminine or male cones develop. Even then, they aren’t simply instructed aside until in contrast to one another (the feminine cones are usually bigger). The feminine cones include two ovules and produce paired seeds. 

Mexican cycad grows up from the tip with new leaves sprouting from the middle, like a succulent’s rosette. Previous leaves will finally fall off from the underside of the tuft, generally leaving a innocent scar on the trunk. Gradual-growing feminine cones will take up residency within the middle of the palm-like leaves for a few years earlier than releasing their paired seeds.

For an evergreen plant with growing recognition in gardening, dioon edule is near turning into an endangered species. Sadly, plenty of cycad vegetation are already endangered or on the verge of extinction. 

They’re cultivated for his or her edible (but poisonous) roots in some areas of Mexico. Despite the fact that they’re thought-about edible right here, it’s greatest to keep away from consuming them. The individuals who traditionally use the poisonous and edible roots have a deep understanding of the proper methods to course of the plant earlier than consumption.   

These magnificent cycads that survived the mass extinction that took out the dinosaurs could not have the ability to survive the presence of people. You may assist! By rising a dioon edule in your backyard or assortment of vegetation, you’re doing all of your half to protect this lovely species.

Chestnut Dioon Care

Dioon edule with cone
A dioon edule with its cone. Supply: Hello Tech Bio

So long as you present the optimum situations, this palm-like plant shall be very straightforward to develop in your backyard. Right here’s what it’s essential know for correct dioon edule care.

Solar and Temperature

Mexico palm vegetation will thrive in full solar. Nevertheless, because it’s usually grown in hotter climates, they admire half shade now and again. Should you’re rising it indoors, you need to put your dion vegetation by a sunny window (preferrably south-facing). In case your dioon lives exterior within the backyard amongst a set of different vegetation, place it someplace with half shade throughout the hottest a part of the day.

Dioon edule hardiness is what units it aside from different vegetation in its household. Regardless of being native to Mexico, this is without doubt one of the most cold-hardy cycads, tolerating occasional temperatures as little as 10°F. 

Water and Humidity

Water your dioon vegetation when the soil begins to dry out. Be very cautious of overwatering your vegetation, as dioon ought to by no means be left sitting in water (particularly if it’s planted partly shade). Through the winter, when the temperature and progress has dropped, reduce on watering.

Notice that chestnut dioon is simply drought tolerant when well-established. Don’t neglect a younger, newly planted chestnut dioon. When the plant has gotten its bearings, you may go longer stretches with out watering. We advocate you don’t go too lengthy although and keep away from watering sporadically, as this will stress out any plant.

This Dioon species likes humid situations, however isn’t reliant on them. Both approach, it is best to be sure that there’s good airflow between the leaves. Give it area in a set of different vegetation. When watering, attempt to hold the foliage and quick, stocky trunk as dry as attainable.


Good drainage is probably an important a part of dioon edule care. These vegetation will develop in virtually any soil, be it rocky, sandy, or loamy, so long as it drains effectively. Nevertheless, any of those well-drained soils additionally want to carry some moisture. If wanted, add some mulch or composted plant materials to maintain the backyard soil from drying out too rapidly.

For container evergreen cycad vegetation, use a soil combine meant for cacti, succulents, or palms. Make sure that the pot has drainage holes and empty the water-catching tray as wanted. 

Fertilizing This Gradual Rising Plant

Virgin palm female cone
The feminine virgin palms produce these cut up “fruit” from the cone. Supply: liangjinjian

Dioon edule vegetation normally develop simply fantastic in poor soils, however their progress will velocity up in case you present a set of some further vitamins. Through the rising months, feed ceaselessly with a lightly-dosed, balanced fertilizer. You too can use sandy compost to spice up the backyard soil’s fertility.


Your dioon edule houseplant doesn’t should be pruned. It is best to solely take away leaves in the event that they’re diseased or infested with pests.


Mexico cycad vegetation could be propagated by seed, however that might imply procuring each female and male vegetation, presumably hand pollinating, and ready till the feminine cone unravels and releases its seed. Or, to save lots of time and vitality, you should buy a brand new assortment of seeds, soak them, and floor sow them straight away. Though they take a very long time to develop, dioon edule seeds germinate very simply.

Should you don’t wish to wait so lengthy for a longtime plant, vegetative propagation is the best way to go. A mature Dioon edule plant will produce offshoots on the base of its trunk. Utilizing a pointy, clear knife, minimize the “pup” off of the mum or dad plant. If it already has roots of its personal, be sure to maintain them intact. Plant the chopping in a small container stuffed with one of many well-drained soils you’d use for potted established vegetation. 


Male cone
The male cone slowly opens at its high however stays conical. Supply: tatogra

So long as you present the proper backyard surroundings, dioon is without doubt one of the best vegetation relating to pest and illness issues. There are just a few issues to be looking out for.

Rising Issues

Like most drought-resistant vegetation, overwatering is a big trigger for concern. An excessive amount of moisture within the soil can rapidly result in root rot which in flip results in stem and leaf rot. It’s onerous for a plant to come back again from this, so prevention is essential. Earlier than watering, examine that the primary few inches of the soil is dry first (moisture meters are very helpful right here). Should you by chance overwater, let the soil dry out for longer than standard earlier than resuming a sparser watering schedule.

Cycads can get sunburned in the event that they get an excessive amount of solar publicity. Their foliage will flip yellow or pale brown when scorched. This normally occurs when the plant is in direct daylight and the air is dry and scorching (we’re speaking over 100°F). The harm is normally simply aesthetic however can’t be undone. The perfect you are able to do for a sunburned cycad is transfer it to a shadier location in your backyard.

When you’ve got a set of vegetation which can be taller than your Dioon edule, strive shading it underneath them to treatment sunburn. 


Caterpillars are all the time hungry for some leaves – particularly cycads! To avoid wasting your dioon’s blue-green leaves from turning into lunch, choose off any caterpillars you see and take away them from the backyard. If the issue persists, think about using BT spray or diatomaceous earth.

Dioon edule vegetation are additionally susceptible to scale bugs, significantly cycad aulacaspis scale. This uncommon, non-native pest was by chance launched to the US within the 90s and has been wreaking havoc ever since. They’ll settle into the decrease leaves of a cycad plant and feed, turning the leaves yellow and brown. You gained’t mistake this for sunburn although as a result of their white our bodies are very noticeable.

You’ll want to chop off infested leaves and destroy them distant out of your backyard. Nevertheless, these scales could unfold to the stem and roots, so that you must also apply an insecticide (search for one containing malathion or dimethoate). After all, the very best methodology is prevention, which is completed by solely shopping for wholesome cycads from respected sellers.


Your dioon is unlikely to have any illness issues. Nevertheless, if the roots are rotting from overwatering, they might turn out to be contaminated with micro organism or fungi already within the backyard planting web site. Fusarium wilt, which comes from a soil-born fungus, generally impacts D. edule’s cousin Dioon spinulosum. Should you see spots of browning leaves or different uncommon growths, strive making use of a normal fungicide.

Often Requested Questions

Dioon edule
Dioon edule is an interesting cycad. Supply: wallygrom

Q: How briskly does Dioon edule develop?

A: This can be a very slow-growing plant. The quick stocky trunk grows so slowly that you simply’ll normally see this plant at bush top in a backyard. These vegetation dwell for a whole lot of years, in order that they aren’t in a rush to sprout up.

Q: Is Dioon edule toxic?

A: Sure. Although the edible roots have traditionally been used to make tortillas, the leaves and stems are poisonous to people.

Q: Is Dioon edule sago palm?

A: No, however they’re each within the cycads household. Sago palm could be acknowledged by its arched leaves, whereas dioon edule vegetation have flat ones. Sago palm additionally has a golden-colored feminine cone whereas dioon edule’s is white.

Q: How do you plant Dioon edule seedlings?

A: Plant them into what shall be their everlasting residence (in case you’re rising them exterior in your backyard). Gently place them in well-draining soil in a location that’s heat and will get loads of full solar.

Q: How do you plant Dioon seeds?

A: Soak the onerous seeds in water for 1-2 days after which place them on high of the soil in a small container. Hold the seed heat and moist till it germinates and sprouts (you may transfer it to the backyard later).

Q: Are cycads toxic to cats?

A: Sure, in reality these vegetation are usually toxic to all mammals, although they’ve traditionally been considered as edible in sure cultures.

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