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Needle Palm Rhapidophyllum hystrix

Other Common Name(s):

Phonetic Spelling
rap-i-doe-FILL-um HIS-trix
Description

Needle palm is a dwarf temperate fan palm in the Arecaceae (arum) family that grows slowly up to 6 feet tall and 8 feet wide.  This clump forming palm is shrubby and dense. Its native habitat is swampy parts of the southeastern USA, but it is endangered.  The common name needle palm is in reference to the 6 inch long black spines that emerge from the leaf sheaths.  Its scientific name comes from the Greek word rhaphis which is needle and phyllon which means leaf. 

It tolerates wet soil and full sun but prefers part shade. Needle palm is the most cold hardy of the palms, tolerating zone 6b especially if the roots are mulched well and it is in a protected location.  It spreads easily by suckers so it can be propagated by dividing these suckers or through seeds.  This nearly trunkless palm will survive sub-zero weather for short periods of time and is therefore hardy in the southeast.

Leaves are very large and glossy most strongly resembling those of Trachycarpus. The flowers are yellow-brown and three petaled, not particularly showy.  Sharp spines usually preclude moving it once established and are dangerous for people and animals. This plant is seldom damaged by deer, is tolerant of drought once established, and is moderately salt tolerant.

This plant is used as a specimen and as a container plant.   The spiky evergreen leaves add texture and interest to the winter landscape.

Quick ID Hints:

  • Stiff, multisegmented leaves resembling a fan
  • Each leaf segment has 2 midveins, and it is toothed at the apex
  • Sharp, long 'needle' remains after leaf abscises

Insects, Diseases, and Other Plant Problems: No serious problems.

See this plant in the following landscape:
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#evergreen#drought tolerant#specimen#salt tolerant#palm#large leaves#winter interest#dwarf#high maintenance#cpp#deer resistant#glossy leaves#spiny leaves#fantz#wet soils tolerant#container plant#landscape plant sleuths course
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#evergreen#drought tolerant#specimen#salt tolerant#palm#large leaves#winter interest#dwarf#high maintenance#cpp#deer resistant#glossy leaves#spiny leaves#fantz#wet soils tolerant#container plant#landscape plant sleuths course
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Rhapidophyllum
    Species:
    hystrix
    Family:
    Arecaceae
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Seed
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    South East U.S.A
    Distribution:
    AL, FL, MS, GA, SC
    Dimensions:
    Height: 3 ft. 0 in. - 6 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 4 ft. 0 in. - 8 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Shrub
    Habit/Form:
    Clumping
    Spreading
    Growth Rate:
    Slow
    Maintenance:
    High
    Texture:
    Coarse
    Appendage:
    Spines
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil Texture:
    High Organic Matter
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Available Space To Plant:
    3 feet-6 feet
    6-feet-12 feet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Mountains
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    6b, 7a, 7b, 8b, 8a, 9b, 9a, 10a, 10b
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Red/Burgundy
    Fruit Type:
    Drupe
    Fruit Description:
    Fruits are orbicular red-brown drupes
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Gold/Yellow
    Insignificant
    Purple/Lavender
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Insignificant
    Panicle
    Flower Size:
    > 6 inches
    Flower Description:
    6 to 12 in. compact inflorescence (interfoliar panicle) with tiny yellow to purplish brown flowers
  • Leaves:
    Leaf Color:
    Gray/Silver
    Green
    White
    Leaf Feel:
    Glossy
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Shape:
    Palmatifid
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Length:
    > 6 inches
    Leaf Width:
    1-3 inches
    Leaf Description:
    Large leaves up to 30 " are simple, palmately lobed, nearly completely incised, and crowded. Lobed segments (20-40) are linear with 2 mid-ribs, entire, toothed at apex, waxy above, silvery glaucous beneath, semi-rigid, and induplicate. Petioles can grow up to 3' long.
  • Bark:
    Bark Color:
    Light Brown
    Bark Description:
    Trunks are erect or reclining, short, covered with persistent leaf sheaths and bases, have dark fibers and sharp, erect spines which become bare.
  • Stem:
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Coastal
    Container
    Patio
    Pool/Hardscape
    Landscape Theme:
    Drought Tolerant Garden
    Design Feature:
    Security
    Specimen
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Deer
    Drought
    Salt
    Wet Soil
    Problems:
    Spines/Thorns