A tropical palm the seeds of which form the basis of a huge industry. As a consequence, this palm, which probably originated in either Malaysia or the Philippines, is a familiar sight in tropical regions around the world. It has become naturalised in many countries. It is characteristically a very tall, slender palm with a crown-shaft and a small, crowded crown of semi-erect, silvery pinnate fronds. The fruit, if they are allowed to ripen, are quite large and colourful, varying from orange to scarlet.
The species is reputedly cold-sensitive and will only thrive in the warm tropics although healthy plants are known from gardens in subtropical regions. It likes deep, well-drained soils and plenty of water during dry spells.
Young plants will tolerate considerable exposure to sunshine and will also grow in the shade. Although very wind-resistant, the crown becomes very tattered following strong blows. Seedlings grow rapidly in good conditions and may flower at six or seven years of age.