Rhapidophyllum hystrix

Common name

needle palm, hedgehog palm, vegetable porcupine


Stems: Clustering, more or less trunkless, but sometimes with a very short stem hidden by a crown of matted fibers that can sometimes elongate to about 1 m in height. Sharp, stiff, needle-like fibers, 15-20 cm long, cover the stem and protect the inflorescence. Leaves: Palmate, or very slightly costapalmate, induplicate, with blades over 1 m wide divided very deeply by numerous, stiff, linear segments that split between the folds, with 2 to 4 veins. Upper leaf surface, dark green; undersurface, silvery; leaftips jagged. The hastula is very short and rounded or triangular. Flowers and fruits: Separate male and female inflorescences (ca. 30 cm long) are usually on separate palms (but reportedly can occur on one), branched once and usually hidden within the leaves. They may be yellow or pale lavender in color. Fruits are 1.5-2.5 cm in length, spherical to oval, covered with brownish, wooly hairs, and maroon-brown when ripe.

Diagnostic features

Field: Clustering, more or less trunkless fan palm with sharp, stiff, needle-like fibers, 15-20 cm long, covering the stem; leaf segments divided between the folds with 2-4 veins.

May be confused with

Serenoa repens perhaps, but the saw palmetto has armed petioles and no needle-like spines.


Native to the southeastern United States

Additional comments

Native to the southeastern United States (South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, and Mississippi), this is a cold hardy palm that can survive north of this range. In Florida, this palm is included on the state's list of Commercially Exploited Species, which controls harvesting of wild-collected plants.

Scientific name

Rhapidophyllum hystrix (Pursh) Wendl. & Drude




Chamaerops hystrix Pursh

Rhapis caroliniana Kunth

Sabal hystrix (Pursh) Nuttall

Last Updated May 2014