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Tree Botanics

Nikau Palm Previous


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Other Names: (Rhopalostylis sapida)

Nikau palm, being New Zealand's only native palm, is very easily recognised/identified within its forest environment, reaching heights of up to 10m, rarely branched with a straight trunk up to 25cm in diameter.  Member of the Palmae family, it is found in coastal, lowland and hilly forests throughout the North Island & in the South island as far S as Banks peninsula Eastern side, Wanganui Bluff W.  Nikau palm ascends from sea level to 600m. The trunk is ringed by the scars of the fallen fronds, the bark green and smooth except for mature specimens.  The number of leaf scars on the main stem does not indicate the age of the palm contrary to popular belief. The fronds can grow up to 3m in overall length exhibiting a very broad sheathed base which gives the top of the trunk an elongated bulbous appearance, another key identifying feature. The inflorescence (a characteristic arrangement of flowers on a stem/a flower cluster) arises from just below the base of the fronds, measuring between 30cm - 60cm and is many-branched.  Nikau palm is monoecious (having unisexual reproductive organs or flowers, with the organs or flowers of both sexes borne on a single plant, as in corn and pines), the small, densely crowded flowers are a pale purplish-lilac to pinkish colour & appear December - February.  The green fruits ripen to red between March/April. The unexpanded inner leaf buds/young inflorescences were used as a Maori food source at one time.  The fronds were formerly used for cladding Maori whares and bushmen's huts, and strips from the fronds used for weaving in the production of baskets/mats and the like.