Needle Palm - Blue Palmetto
Rhapidophyllum hystrix - (Pursh) H. Wendl. & Drude
Arecaceae (Palm) Family

 

 Needle Palm is found in the southern half of Alabama; occurring on high floodplains and terraces along rivers and streams, on moist hardwood slopes, in ravines, and around caves. Needle Palm is a slow growing species with a short trunk. The trunk may reach a height of 6-8 feet in old individuals. Several individuals often grow from a single trunk. The trunk is covered in characteristic black needle-like spines that originate between the leaves. The spines are up to 10 inches in length with a sharp tip; aiding in the protection of new leaves and flowers. Needle Palm is a “fan palm” with broad leaves on a long stalk that are up to six feet long. The leaves are divided into segments of various widths.

The leaves are deep green above and silvery white below; thick and evergreen, and persist for 2-3 years or longer. Needle Palm is dioecious (separate male and female plants).

The flowers are produced in a short inflorescence. A spathe (bract) encloses the developing flower bundle. The inflorescence is very short and is often hidden by fallen leaves and old fronds. The flowers are yellowish green; sometimes tinged with purple occurring in June and July.

Fruit is a brown or reddish drupe with a wooly outer covering.

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