Bismarckia nobilis

Common Name

Bismarck Palm

Description

Stem: Solitary, upright stems to 20 m tall and up to 35-45 cm in diameter, bulging at the base of the stem, covered with remnants of old leaf bases in young palms, then with irregular leaf scar rings and vertical fissures on a gray background in older ones. Leaves: Costapalmate, induplicate, up to 3 m across, divided into stiff, single-fold segments about 1/3 the length of the leaf blade, with bifid leaf segment tips. The leaf color is a distinctive pale silvery blue to blue-green with a heavy white waxy coating and feathery, deciduous, cinnamon-colored scales. The leaf sheath splits to form a V-shape below the petiole, the petiole is smooth and sharp-edged or armed with minute teeth (to 1 mm long) along the margin, and the hastula is a spoon-shaped, asymmetrical flap. Flowers and fruit: Staminate and pistillate flowers grow on separate palms. Inflorescences can be over 1 m long with thick, catkin-like branches. Fruits are oblong, ovoid, or spherical and chocolate-brown in color (with some lighter brown mottling). Seeds are ridged and grooved.

Diagnostic Features

Field: Solitary palm with waxy blue-green costapalmate leaves and feathery, cinnamon-colored scales.

May be confused with

Latania loddigesii is also a solitary, erect palm with waxy, blue-green costapalmate leaves, but its hastula is triangular or arrow-shaped, not like the assymetrical spoon-shaped hastula found on Bismarckia nobilis. The wooly scales on the underside of Latania loddigesii leaves are pale, not dark cinnamon-colored as in Bismarckia nobilis, and the seeds of Latania are enclosed in sculpted pyrenes, unlike those of Bismarckia.

Distribution

Native to Madagascar

Additional Comments

This is a beautiful palm that can be a striking, but eventually very large, addition to the landscape.

Scientific Name

Bismarckia nobilis Hildebr. & Wendl.

Family

Arecaceae/Palmae

Synonyms

Medemia nobilis ( Hildebr. & H.Wendl. ) Gallerand

February 15, 2011