One of the Japanese sago palms (Cycas revoluta) in the conservatory is displaying some new growth right now. The sago palm is a cycad and not a true palm. The moniker “palm” is a common name for this plant, leading to some of the confusion we often have when talking about plant names and identification. The photos show the female plant as it looks now and after it developed a cone and seeds in late 2010.
April 2013: the sago palm
showing new growth

Matthaei-Nichols horticulture manager Mike Palmer became curious about the sago palm’s age and growth rate when he recalled that the plant doesn’t make new growth every year, and especially not in the year in which it makes a cone. Our plant records indicate we acquired the sago on August 8, 1916. We don’t know the plant’s height in 1916, according to Palmer (the trunk can be subterranean when young) but today it’s 40 inches tall. If you do the math, that adds up to an average annual growth rate in height of .41 inches!

Take a close look at the photo showing new growth: the new foliage emerging is deceiving. The leaves first emerge and grow straight up, then fall flat (like opening an umbrella) to an orientation of 90 degrees from the trunk. Not much height is added to the overall plant.

The sago palm in early 2011 showing
the cone and nearly mature seeds 
Visit the conservatory today and check out the Japanese sago palm for a lesson in patient growing!