Rhapidophyllum hystrix
Common Name: needle palm 
Type: Palm or Cycad
Family: Arecaceae
Native Range: Southeastern North America
Zone: 6 to 10
Height: 3.00 to 6.00 feet
Spread: 4.00 to 8.00 feet
Bloom Time: June to July
Bloom Description: Yellow-brown
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: High
Flower: Insignificant
Leaf: Evergreen
Other: Winter Interest

Culture

Needle palm is noted for its excellent winter hardiness. In a protected location, it is considered to be winter hardy to USDA Zone 6b. It is typically grown in organically rich, evenly moist, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Best performance is in part-shade. Site in protected locations that are sheltered from winter winds. Mature plants will often survive some winter temperatures to -5 degrees F. Mulch around the base of the plant in winter. Plants will sucker along the stems, sometimes profusely, to form dense clumps. Propagate from suckers or from seed.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Rhapidophyllum hystrix, commonly called needle palm, is a shrubby, clumping, 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. 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.

Genus name comes from the Greek rhaphis meaning needle and phyllon meaning leaf for the needle-like appendages of the leaf sheaths.

Specific epithet from Greek means porcupine.

Problems

No serious insect or disease problems. Winter hardiness is a concern in the St. Louis area.

Garden Uses

Landscape specimen. Container/tub plant.