needle palm Arecaceae Rhapidophyllum
hystrix (Pursh) H. Wendl. & Drude ex Drude symbol: RHHY
Leaf: Alternate, palmately compound (fan-like), with 8 to 16 leaflets each 15 to 20 inches long and 1 to 2 inches wide, tips pointed to square, petiole 18 to 28 inches long, leaflets are shiny dark green. Long needle like spines originate from leaf sheath.
Flower: Species is dioecious; short (6 to 12 inch long) cluster of yellow to brownish flowers, held close to the stem and often not visible without close inspection, appearing in spring and early summer.
Fruit: Fleshy drupe, oblong, 1 inch across, reddish brown, fuzzy, held close to stem in a tangle of fibers and sharp needles.
Twig: Absent, since leaves appear directly out of unbranched trunk.
Bark: Dark, reddish brown mat of sharp, dark brown (nearly black) needles and fibers. Conspicuous needles often reach 6 inches long.
Form: Very short, clumping palm with a dense round crown up to 6 feet in height and often wider than tall.
Looks like: bush palmetto - cabbage palmetto - saw palmetto
Additional Range Information: Rhapidophyllum hystrix is native to North America. Range may be expanded by planting. See states reporting needle palm.
External Links: USDA Plants Database
All material © 2017 Virginia Tech Dept. of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation; Photos and text by: John Seiler, Edward Jensen, Alex Niemiera, and John Peterson