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Manalto

Finally! A Needle Palm

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Manalto

Today I planted a nice Rhapidophyllum hystrix that I got from my local nursery here on the Gulf Coast. It was in a 15 gallon pot and it's got about a foot of trunk. I chose it because all the needle palms were growing in the same conditions (high overhead canopy) and this one seemed the most robust and open in habit, which I attribute (erroneously?) to seedling variability. It now occupies a position of honor where I can see it from the back door. I've wanted a needle palm since I learned about them in 1992 from Dr. Lawrence Crockett, my horticulture professor at The City College of New York. He brought in an article from the New York Times introducing us to this remarkably cold-hardy palm. The palm's botanical name was not in italics and Dr. Crockett expressed mock horror at the venerable Times' error. (Since then, I've tried to be diligent about this rule.) He was a font of knowledge and exuberance and the world is a poorer place without him. If anyone has suggestions for cultural requirements for the needle palm, please share. The only thing I found was that they resent transplanting so, although it was pot-bound, I didn't disturb the root ball and planted it as-is. I gave it a scoop of composted rabbit manure, several buckets of water (it was 74F today in Mobile) and mulched with pine straw.

This brings my total species of palms to six! They're all dead common, but reliably hardy (well, the Rhapis got hammered by the temps in the high teens last winter but is slowly recovering.) I can hear the folks in zones 9 and up rolling their eyes, but I'm thrilled. I have one each of the following other palms, except for Sabal minor, of which there are several since they've naturalized under my giant live oak.

X Butiagrus nabonnandii

Rhapis excelsa

Sabal palmetto

Sabal minor

Chamaerops humilis (very blue!)

Rhapidophyllum hystrix

Since I'm a landscape designer and use my yard to promote my business, I have to plant with discretion. I'd like to find a spot for a Butia that won't fight visually with the Sabal, which is 14' tall. All the other palms are just getting established.

Thanks for indulging my spillover of excitement for, after 27 years, acquiring my (first) needle palm.

Edited by Manalto
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Swolte

A whole post about that palm but no picture?!

;)

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Manalto

LOL - I planted it at dusk, swatting mosquitos. Manana!

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RJ

:ttiwwp:

 

 

;)

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Manalto

20190108_192538.jpg

Harassing me will get you a nasty flash photo!

Edited by Manalto
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PalmTreeDude
41 minutes ago, Manalto said:

20190108_192538.jpg

Harassing me will get you a nasty flash photo!

Looks like you got a nice one! I am sure it will thrive there, mine thrives here and of course in never protected or damaged from any cold near Richmond, VA!

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NC_Palms

I never knew you have to italicize scientific names. I should start doing that when I write professionally about palms. 

I don't have a Rhapidophyllum hystrix yet, but I love them. They surely are a mysterious Southeastern native palm.  

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mdsonofthesouth

Awesome news! I have wanted needle palms for a long time and finally got mine in 2018. Out in the open and unprotected they seem to thrive here in the DMV. Stately palm of the southeast I feel everyone who can grow one should grow one. 

Edited by mdsonofthesouth

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Manalto

Do they prefer sun or shade - or does it matter? More than once I've heard people say that they're not as slow-growing as their reputation would have you believe. Years ago, I inquired about a seedling that I was hoping to grow in Connecticut. The seller said, "It's a good palm for your grandchildren to enjoy in their old age." It's a pretty good line (I suspect this wasn't the first time he'd used it.) and that might be true in the cooler climates, but I've seen a few along the Gulf Coast that are considerably taller than me.

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mdsonofthesouth

They grow taller than people in the DMV on the outer fringes of humid subtropic but it takes a while. Bellow os a link and in the link there is a picture in 2004 of one of the bigger rhapidophyllum hystrix in the area planted in the 1960s and it's much taller than the folks in the picture. Haven't been to the arboretum in many years but I'm sure its grown in the past 15 years.

 

As for growth rate, well the specimen I got from @TexasColdHardyPalms put off about 2 fronds its first year as a bare root from March til now and the other little half strap half starting to palmate little guys put off what seemed to be 3 to 4 per (rough estimate) and some even put offshoots out from early July til now. They are slow for sure, and I expect them to take off next year seeing as it's not a plantation year. I reckon the reason they said grandkids up in Connecticut is they dont have the even close to the heat we have let alone right on the gulf coast. With our climates I fully expect my kids to be teenagers by the time the palms really get going. I feel that outside of the hottest climates they do well in either but prefer full sun. Not sure as to where the line is drawn where they start needing shade but I assume its places like south Florida.

 

Here's what they looked like at the start:

20180627_121610.thumb.jpg.1fb59cfeaf369d20180403_170420.thumb.jpg.b24ca6c083c93d

Edited by mdsonofthesouth
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NC_Palms
21 minutes ago, mdsonofthesouth said:

They grow taller than people in the DMV on the outer fringes of humid subtropic but it takes a while. Bellow os a link and in the link there is a picture in 2004 of one of the bigger rhapidophyllum hystrix in the area planted in the 1960s and it's much taller than the folks in the picture. Haven't been to the arboretum in many years but I'm sure its grown in the past 15 years.

 

As for growth rate, well the specimen I got from @TexasColdHardyPalms put off about 2 fronds its first year as a bare root from March til now and the other little half strap half starting to palmate little guys put off what seemed to be 3 to 4 per (rough estimate) and some even put offshoots out from early July til now. They are slow for sure, and I expect them to take off next year seeing as it's not a plantation year. I reckon the reason they said grandkids up in Connecticut is they dont have the even close to the heat we have let alone right on the gulf coast. With our climates I fully expect my kids to be teenagers by the time the palms really get going. I feel that outside of the hottest climates they do well in either but prefer full sun. Not sure as to where the line is drawn where they start needing shade but I assume its places like south Florida.

 

Here's what they looked like at the start:

20180627_121610.thumb.jpg.1fb59cfeaf369d20180403_170420.thumb.jpg.b24ca6c083c93d

Imo needles look nicer in the shade. It gives them more of a natural look, probably because they are naturally found mostly in deep shaded descidous woodlands. 

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mdsonofthesouth

In their native habitat they certainly are understory palms. Mine currently are mostly sun, but will be understory once the trachycarpus take off.

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cm05

I used to think Needles were ugly, until I got one (for their hardiness), I quickly became a fan of their Rhapis look. In my opinion, they give off more of a tropical look than Sabal minor, which I’m also a fan of.

My Needle is in full sun and still has an open look like yours, which I prefer, even if it means more wind/snow damage at times. Mine’s a bit smaller than yours, it was an overgrown 3-gallon when I purchased it back in the spring of 2017, it’s gotten at aleast 1.5x girthier since then, 7 gallon size now, at minimum.

As far as their rate of growth is concerned, Rhapidophyllum hystrix grows at a moderate pace in my experience, mine put out 5 fronds (and flowered) last year, whereas my Sabal ‘Louisiana’ only put out 3 fronds, and my Trachycarpus fortunei put out 7. And I’m in New York, which is a far cry from the Gulf Coast outside of summer. This is hardly a palm for children/grandchildren (unlike Howea), it already satisfies.

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kinzyjr
3 hours ago, Manalto said:

Do they prefer sun or shade - or does it matter? More than once I've heard people say that they're not as slow-growing as their reputation would have you believe. Years ago, I inquired about a seedling that I was hoping to grow in Connecticut. The seller said, "It's a good palm for your grandchildren to enjoy in their old age." It's a pretty good line (I suspect this wasn't the first time he'd used it.) and that might be true in the cooler climates, but I've seen a few along the Gulf Coast that are considerably taller than me.

Where I'm at, they die out in full sun and prefer shade with perpetually moist soil.  In the northern latitudes, they tend to prefer more sun.

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PalmatierMeg
3 hours ago, Manalto said:

Do they prefer sun or shade - or does it matter? More than once I've heard people say that they're not as slow-growing as their reputation would have you believe. Years ago, I inquired about a seedling that I was hoping to grow in Connecticut. The seller said, "It's a good palm for your grandchildren to enjoy in their old age." It's a pretty good line (I suspect this wasn't the first time he'd used it.) and that might be true in the cooler climates, but I've seen a few along the Gulf Coast that are considerably taller than me.

Here in SWFL I keep my surviving needle in full shade. I had two other needles fried by exposure to my ferocious summer sun. It struggles anyway and I think it isn't fond of my calcareous sandy soil. You are much further north but I caution about planting one exposed to blazing summer sun. When I looked at habitat photos, I noticed this palm is very much an understory palm in SE US forests. From what I've read this species is a relict palm that was on its way to extinction (from loss of its primary seed vector - a giant sloth?) when Europeans arrived. Looks like palm lovers may give it a future. It's a very lovely palm that deserves to survive. 

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Chester B

I personally really like needle palms too.  I'm surprised you had such a hard time finding one in your area.  At least you were able to find a decent specimen - congrats!  There is only one wholesaler I can get them from locally.

I have about 6 of needles now with only one being of a reasonable size.  I personally would say they grow at a medium rate.  The largest one grows at a fairly decent clip and the small ones are outgrowing sabals of similar size.  

Here in the Pacific Northwest I would say the ones in sun are definitely growing faster versus ones in shade.

I found that they don't mind being transplanted and the big one I got seemed unphased when I stuck it in the ground.  I can say they do seem to be very drought hardy but I think they are much happier with regular water, and I did fertilize it a couple of times as it was a little yellow when I first got it.

Big needle today after a windstorm.  42" tall x 60" wide x 48" deep.  Still pushing out growth and loaded full of seeds which I am assuming are sterile.

One of the smaller ones starting to form a trunk and sending up its first suckers.  This was put in the ground spring 2017 as a strap leaf seedling, and has been moved at least three times and is watered not nearly enough.

 

Needle 6.jpg

Needle 7.jpg

Needle 9.jpg

Needle 4.jpg

Edited by Chester B
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Chester B

Pics of a small one

Small needle 1.jpg

Small needle 2.jpg

Small needle 3.jpg

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mdsonofthesouth

Here is a 2004 shot of the bigger DC needle.5c36347063527_needlepalm2004.thumb.PNG.d

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Chester B

That thing is a beast.  I wish I had about 5 of those.

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RJ

Wow lots of pic! Bravo! :greenthumb:

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PalmTreeDude
2 hours ago, mdsonofthesouth said:

Here is a 2004 shot of the bigger DC needle.5c36347063527_needlepalm2004.thumb.PNG.d

Nice picture and Needle Palm! Don't forget about the Watercountry Needle Palm in Williamsburg, VA. I wish I had more, because I would love to have them flower and seed, I had older seed and they still grew, I am sure fresh seed would be a lot better, of course. They are faster than I thought, but still slow. Also, get ready for it to turn into a hedge after many years. But they are one of the small bunch of palms that you can say truly THRIVE in the Northern Southeast or Southern Mid-Atlantic. 

20180829_123436.jpg

Edited by PalmTreeDude
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PalmTreeDude

Here is the most recent photo of mine from December. Still small, but is getting bigger every summer. It also suckers A LOT. 

20181123_122212.jpg

Edited by PalmTreeDude
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Manalto

Great photos but they were all taken during the daytime. Weird.

Maybe I should move my palm. I planted where it will get almost a full day of (Alabama) sun.

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PalmTreeDude
12 minutes ago, Manalto said:

Great photos but they were all taken during the daytime. Weird.

Maybe I should move my palm. I planted where it will get almost a full day of (Alabama) sun.

You might want to while you can, mine gets part shade in the Summer and full sun in the Winter. Also, the shade makes them get nice long fronds! 

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Manalto
9 hours ago, Chester B said:

 I'm surprised you had such a hard time finding one in your area.

I didn't have a hard time finding one, I just didn't live in a place where I could grow one. I just moved (part time) to the Gulf Coast a year ago.

Thanks for the great photos, Chester. Inspiring!

You mention that the seeds are probably sterile. Is that the case with this palm? Is it only propagated by division?

Edited by Manalto

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kinzyjr
5 minutes ago, Manalto said:

I didn't have a hard time finding one, I just didn't live in a place where I could grow one. I just moved (part time) to the Gulf Coast a year ago.

Thanks for the great photos, Chester. Inspiring!

You mention that the seeds are probably sterile. Is that the case with this palm? Is it only propagated by division?

Needle palms do grow from seed, but their germination can be erratic and time consuming.

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Chester B
32 minutes ago, kinzyjr said:

Needle palms do grow from seed, but their germination can be erratic and time consuming.

I think I'd be optimistic if I said I had 20% success rate.  Had to crack the outer shell to get them to germinate.  Here's a pic of one of my seed grown needles, I can't remember when I got the seed but I think it's getting close to 2 years since I started the germination process.  I'm keeping it inside this last winter to try and speed its growth along.

Needle seedling.jpg

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kinzyjr
11 hours ago, Chester B said:

I think I'd be optimistic if I said I had 20% success rate.  Had to crack the outer shell to get them to germinate.  Here's a pic of one of my seed grown needles, I can't remember when I got the seed but I think it's getting close to 2 years since I started the germination process.  I'm keeping it inside this last winter to try and speed its growth along.

I have a few clumps of them around the yard.  I'm hoping to have a seeding population at some point, but that is a while off.  I notice down here that they want copious amounts of water, to the point where the ground is swampy at points and they don't like full sun.  All of mine are planted in areas with fairly deep shade at this point and have that deep green color they have when they are healthy.  Very nice seedling by the way!

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Manalto

Update - I called the landscaper I bought the needle palm from. This nursery/landscape company has many years of experience with palms in this region and a solid reputation. I said I had planted the palm in full sun. "Perfect!" was the reply. Could it be the ample rainfall (74" in 2018) in this area that makes it OK? Or do they just want me to buy a replacement? (jk) In reality, it will get shade from a nearby live oak (in my neighbor's yard) late in the day. I've removed some serious competition from the oak - four large weed trees right on the property line - so I expect the oak will shade the palm in a couple of years.

Edited by Manalto

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kinzyjr
7 minutes ago, Manalto said:

Update - I called the landscaper I bought the needle palm from. This nursery/landscape company has many years of experience with palms in this region and a solid reputation. I said I had planted the palm in full sun. "Perfect!" was the reply. Could it be the ample rainfall (74" in 2018) in this area that makes it OK? Or do they just want me to buy a replacement? (jk) In reality, it will get shade from a nearby live oak (in my neighbor's yard) late in the day. I've removed some serious competition from the oak - four large weed trees right on the property line - so I expect the oak will shade the palm in a couple of years.

I'd say let us know how it works.  As you go further north they tend to tolerate more sunlight.  

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Chester B
1 hour ago, kinzyjr said:

I'd say let us know how it works.  As you go further north they tend to tolerate more sunlight.  

I think you're probably correct.  I'm at 45 degrees north and have them in blazing hot full sun against south facing walls and they do just fine.  We get absolutely no rain and almost no clouds for months in the summer and early fall.  Last year 20+ days over 90F and plenty in the upper 80's and I won't water for a couple of weeks or more at a time.  Humidity is usually around 30% but can drop into single digits during heat waves.  The needles never seem to flinch, whereas I've killed many other plants in the same area which are supposed to love the heat.  They're really tough plants.

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mdsonofthesouth
1 hour ago, Chester B said:

I think you're probably correct.  I'm at 45 degrees north and have them in blazing hot full sun against south facing walls and they do just fine.  We get absolutely no rain and almost no clouds for months in the summer and early fall.  Last year 20+ days over 90F and plenty in the upper 80's and I won't water for a couple of weeks or more at a time.  Humidity is usually around 30% but can drop into single digits during heat waves.  The needles never seem to flinch, whereas I've killed many other plants in the same area which are supposed to love the heat.  They're really tough plants.

 

Wow only 20 days. We are 45+ 90F+ days here but can get brutal in the winter in comparison. Im pretty sure we dont drop much bellow 50% humidity ever and if it does it is rare. Might be a factor in full sun vs shade. I wont for a second compare my humid subtropic to say peninsular and south Florida, but I can say that rhapidophyllum do well just about anywhere most likely due to the break from heat we get for 3-5 months. Humidity is across the board year round...while I love it for the sweltering summer it makes winter bite just that much worse! 35F here feels markedly colder to me than 35F in less humidity. 

 

Wish I could keep my spring to mid fall and have your winters lol!

Edited by mdsonofthesouth

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Chester B

I'm from Toronto, Ontario and being surrounded by 3 great lakes the humidity is usually in the 80-90% range so its much different here.  Up until about 5-10 years ago the Portland area would only get 2 or 3 days a year going to 90F or above so things have changed dramatically recently.  Whether this is the new norm only time will tell, but the west coast has been hotter and drier than  historical numbers.  Native Portlanders seem to hate the warm weather and I always here how they're looking forward to winter and the rain!  90F at 20% humidity is so easy to tolerate for anyone from the east coast.  The only time I ever felt hot here was the day we went to 105F.

I totally agree with you on the weather, I miss the oppressive summer heat, but love the winters here.  I've already noticed buds starting to open on a few plants and we have many things starting to come into flower, so we're kind of in early spring already. 

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Zifool

Agree totaly, here sun burn leaf, too dry in summer, and hate temperatures over 100°f go yellow leaf, all of my needle palm are planted in full shadow and prefer this ! ^_^

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Laaz

A lot of water is the key to keeping needles happy. The grow in swamps & standing water.

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Zifool
17 hours ago, Laaz said:

A lot of water is the key to keeping needles happy. The grow in swamps & standing water.

Exactly, I flood mine during summer B)

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Manalto

A lot of water - good! The spot I chose is at the bottom of a gentle slope; it was too wet there for castor beans to grow last summer (they were meant to serve as a temporary screen but they fizzled) the cantaloupe thrived, and large trees were recently removed so they won't be drinking. Yesterday someone told me he had them planted around his pool in full sun and they grew so large he wishes he hadn't. He also objected to the needles because small children are frequently around. I replied drily that the name of the palm should have provided him a clue. Fortunately, he laughed.

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Laaz

Mine are in full blazing sun & do excellent.

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Bigfish
On 1/12/2019 at 10:28 AM, Laaz said:

A lot of water is the key to keeping needles happy. The grow in swamps & standing water.

Yes, they do grow in swamps...but they can also be found growing high on bluffs and drier ground as well.  But always near water!

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