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A Floridata Plant Profile #141 Bismarckia nobilis
Common Names: Bismarck palm
Family: Arecacea/Palmae (palm Family)
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Palm  Has evergreen foliage Has Unusual or Interesting Foliage

Bismarck palm
Even young specimens of Bismarck palm (like this one at Miami's Fairchild Tropical Garden) are imposing, beautiful and impossible to ignore.
This massive tropical palm commands attention and inspires awe wherever it is grown. The Bismarck palm's stout trunk and symmetry of the huge crown lends a formal note while the startling blue green foliage amplifies the visual impact of this big beauty. It grows a single trunk that is smooth on mature specimens but young individuals retain old leaf bases. This palm may reach an ultimate height of 50-60 ft (15-18m) with a spread of 20 ft (6m) or more. Even young specimens that have yet to form a trunk sport full crowns of about 25 leaves with the maximum spread! The huge palmate leaves are bright light blue, waxy and are up to 10 ft (3m) across. They are supported on 6 ft (1.8 m) stems that can be 10 in (25cm) in diameter. The leaf bases split where they attach to the trunk (like those of Sabal palmetto) and the leaf stems are armed with small sharp teeth.

Bismarckia nobilis is native to the island of Madagascar which is off the east coast of Africa. Madagascar is home to hundreds of unique and fascinating plant species including many of our favorite palms like the bottle palm (Hyophorbe lagenicaulis) and the traveler's palm (Ravenala madagascariensis), a palmlike plant related to the bird-of-paradise (Strelitzia reginae).

This palm is adaptable to many kinds of soil.
Light: Prefers full sun but is tolerant of some shade.
Moisture: Once established this palm is drought tolerant.
Hardiness: USDA Zones 10 - 11. Bismarck palm can be grown in the warmer parts of Zone 9 where it is occasionally damaged by freezing temperatures from which it can recover in a season. I have seen very nice specimens in Orlando, Palm Harbor and Saint Petersburg, Florida (all in Zone 9).
Propagation: Seeds germinate easily in 6 to 8 weeks.

Bismarck palm
Bismarck palm can be grown in protected situations in parts of Zone 10 like this individual at Harry P. Leu Gardens in Orlando, Florida.
Because of its huge ultimate size and mass, the Bismarck palm is not recommended for small yards as it dominates its space, dwarfing and obscuring adjacent structures. This palm is best planted where it can serve as a focal point. Planted against a dark backdrop of foliage, it serves as living sculpture adding drama and interest to the landscape.

Bismarckia nobilis is the only species in the genus. It was a relatively recent introduction to American landscapes (and other warm zone regions of the world). Bismarck palm is rapidly gaining popularity as it is a spectacular species that is drought tolerant and not as subject to disease and nutritional deficiencies as many other landscape palm species. If you have the space to accommodate its impressive bulk, try this handsome brute in your garden.

Jack Scheper 01/22/99; updated 1/3/05

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