Tree Profiles Bismarck Palm

The majestic and massive Bismarck Palm (Bismarckia nobilis) belongs to the Genus Bismarckia, which is part of the family Arecaceae. It originated in Madagascar.

It is a very impressive, strong growing palm, too big for most modern gardens but ideal as a lawn specimen on large, residential properties. It is just as attractive as a grouping of several trees. Parks, gardens and avenues would all be ideal as locations for these magnificent palms. Surprisingly, although it grows so tall, it can be grown in a pot to be enjoyed either indoors or on a patio. If kept indoors, it is best in a brightly lit area. Keep moist but not wet and reduce water through the winter.

It likes full sun and grows to a height of 15 to 20 metres with a spread of 3.5 metres. It does best in a mildly acidic soil and has average water needs. It is drought tolerant but will benefit from regular watering in dry times. It can be fed with a suitable fertiliser during the growing season.

The Bismarck palm is quite a fast grower and prefers well-drained, sandy soil. It is a most imposing specimen when full grown and should be allowed plenty of room to grow and spread. It is salt tolerant and contracts few diseases. It is also an ideal palm to grow in colder areas and will tolerate light frosts.

Its single, stout trunk supports a large and heavy crown, giving it a very imposing appearance. There may be 20 to 30 fronds creating an almost spherical crown. The heavy fronds are stiff and waxy, fanning out symmetrically. Young plants retain old leaf bases but the trunks of mature trees are smooth. The petiole or leaf stalk is covered with small, sharp teeth. The Bismarck palm is dioecious meaning that it has male and female flowers on separate plants.

When young, the foliage is an attractive silver- or blue-grey. As the plant grows to full height at maturity the leaves become more green. The palmate or fan leaves are huge, reaching up to 3 metres wide. The leaves are broader than they are long. The cream flowers are borne on large stalks which themselves may reach up to over a metre in length. The brown fruits are around 1.2cm in diameter and are round and inedible. The Bismarck palm is very sensitive to transplanting so is best planted as a young specimen. It has no major nutritional requirements.

The Bismarck palm is truly sensational and will draw many favourable comments if you have room for one in your garden.