Questions? AskAuckland

NZ Plants

Rhopalostylis sapida - nīkau palm

Palm family: Arecaceae

Rhopalostylis sapida is an unbranched tree with a terminal crown of large leaves which encircle (sheath) the trunk at their point of attachment. Each leaf is divided into numerous linear leaflets that are attached to either side of a long midrib (rachis). Branches bearing flowers (an inflorescence) are formed within two large papery bracts (spathes) attached to the trunk at the base of a sheathing leaf. When the leaf falls away, the inflorescence expands and the spathes are pushed apart and shed. Each branch of an inflorescence contains a large number of small flowers arranged in groups of three: a central female flower and a large male flower to either side.  A second species (R. baueri) occurs in the Kermadec Islands and also on Norfolk Island.

Nikau is an endemic species distributed throughout the North Island down to the middle of the South Island and the Chatham Islands at 44°S, making it the world's southernmost growing palm. 

More on nikau: Takana Newsletter

Vegetative characteristics

Reproductive characteristics

Plant form: tree up to 10 m

Arrangement of parts: symmetric


Flower size:

Leaf form: divided into numerous linear leaflets

Sepals: 3, white

Leaf size: 1-2 m; leaflets 0.5-1 m

Petals: 3, white

Leaf arrangement: singly along stem

Sexuality: unisexual on different plants

Leaf attachment: sheath

Stamens: 3

Leaf margin: smooth

Ovary: above petals

Leaf surface: hairs

Fruit: fleshy