Rhapidophyllum hystrix

From Palmpedia - Palm Grower's Guide
Jump to: navigation, search
hystrix (HISS-triks)
Rhhy 004 pvp.jpg
Photo: USDA.com
Scientific Classification
Genus: Rhapidophyllum
hystrix (HISS-triks)
None set.
Native Continent
Habit: clustering
Leaf type: Costapalmate
Height: 1-1.2 m
Sun exposure: part to full sun
Survivability index
Common names
Needle Palm, Blue palmetto

Habitat and Distribution

Native to southeastern United States, central Florida to Georgia,
Bowie, MD. This palm has withstood temperatures down to -8.4F. Photo by Tom Walters.
Mississippi, South Carolina and Alabama.


A palmate palm with a short, dense clustered base eventually to 1-1.2 m tall, covered in dense long needle-like spines from the leaf bases. Editing by edric.

Old specimens have a rounded crown up to 3 m tall, of dark green palmate leaves 1-2 m long, with 8-16 leaflets, these 60-80 cm long, arranged in an open fan at the end of a 60-120 cm petiole.

The species is dioecious, with separate male and female trees. The fruit is dark brown when ripe, oval, about 2 cm long, with a single seed. They are produced on densely branched panicles.

Needle palm is a shrubby, clustering (soboliferous), nearly trunkless, fan palm that grows to 3-6’ tall and as wide. It is native to moist to wet woodlands, slopes, ravines and stream bottomland in the southeastern U. S. (South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama and Mississippi). It is one of the hardiest if not the hardiest of the palms. It is noted for its large, palmate, glossy green leaves that grow on long upright petioles (to 30” long). Each deeply divided leaf (almost to the base) is fan-shaped (to 30 inches across) with 5-12 narrow segments (each to 20” long). Leaves are evergreen. Genus name is from Greek meaning sharp (rhapis) and leaf (phylum). The specific epithet (from Greek meaning porcupine) and the common name of needle palm are both in reference to the long, stiff, sharply-pointed, needle-like, black spines (to 6” long) that project from the leaf sheaths. Spines make the clumps impenetrable to most wildlife. Three-petaled, yellow-brown flowers in small dense clusters bloom in early summer among the leaf sheaths. Flowers are usually hidden by the foliage. Fruit is a reddish brown drupe. (missouribotanicalgarden.org) Editing by edric.


Rhapidophyllum hystrix is likely the hardiest palm known, tolerating winter temperatures down to about -20°C but unlike Trachycarpus fortunei, the hardiest large trunk-forming palm, it demands a hot summer continental climate with long periods over 30°C. Winter temperatures below -20°C will cut this palm to the ground, but as it is a suckering palm, it may come back from freezes that kill the foliage. The length of the freeze is important, though, and any prolonged freeze that low will freeze the soil will kill the palm.

PFC for PP.png

Comments and Curiosities

Etymology: The specific epithet from the latin, literally; 'porcupine'

This is a monotypic genus.

External Links


Phonetic spelling of Latin names by edric.

Special thanks to Geoff Stein, (Palmbob) for his hundreds of photos.

Special thanks to Palmweb.org, Dr. John Dransfield, Dr. Bill Baker & team, for their volumes of information and photos.

Glossary of Palm Terms; Based on the glossary in Dransfield, J., N.W. Uhl, C.B. Asmussen-Lange, W.J. Baker, M.M. Harley & C.E. Lewis. 2008. Genera Palmarum - Evolution and Classification of the Palms. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. All images copyright of the artists and photographers (see images for credits).

Many Special Thanks to Ed Vaile for his long hours of tireless editing and numerous contributions.

Back to Palm Encyclopedia

Retrieved from "https://palmpedia.net/wiki/index.php5?title=Rhapidophyllum_hystrix&oldid=162930"