Discover 10 Types of Palm Trees in Hawai’i

It is nearly hard to imagine the Hawaiian islands without include even one palm tree in your mind. After all, just like sand and beaches, palm trees are synonymous with the tropics. However, did you know that most palm trees in Hawaii aren’t native to the state? The majority of the palm species that currently inhabit the island chain are relatively new arrivals from other parts of the globe.

Certain ubiquitous and widely distributed palms are generally gentle landscape plants, but others have escaped domestication and are rapidly reverting to their wild state. Numerous other species are threatened from several directions since they are unique to the islands and cannot be found anywhere else in the world. This post will give a quick overview of ten different species of palms that can be found on the Hawaiian islands, both in the wild and under cultivation.

1. Loulu Palms (Pritchardia sp.)

Even though Hawaii is home to a large diversity of palm species, only those in the genus Pritchardia are indigenous to the islands. There are 28 different species in the genus, most of which are exclusive to one island each. Of all the loulu palm species, just six are found on multiple islands, and only four are found outside of the Hawaiian Islands.

Because loulu palms grow in a variety of environments, they can take on a wide range of sizes and shapes. While some, like P. minor, have wide crowns and are somewhat short, P. schattaueri, who is lanky, can grow to about 130 feet in height! There are certain characteristics that all species have, even though their personalities can differ greatly. Loulu palms are known for their striking blossoms and enormous, deeply pleated, fan-like fronds. An inflorescence can be as long as ten feet and include hundreds of flowers, depending on the species. The blooms eventually fade and are replaced by spherical, lustrous black fruits.

Many of these palms are critically threatened today as a result of the introduction of exotic herbivores and the growth of towns and cities on the islands. The loulu palms are being displaced by a number of alien palm species in their native settings, and livestock animals swiftly destroy immature seedlings. Because they consume the fruits in vast quantities, the introduction of Polynesian rats and wild pigs, in particular, significantly reduces the ability of the loulu palms to reseed. To save the palms’ vital habitats and prevent the loss of other rare plants and animals, conservation measures are always being made.

2. Coconut Palm (Cocos nucifera)

Although the coconut palm, or Cocos nucifera, is a common sight along Hawaii’s shorelines, did you know that it wasn’t native to the state? For thousands of years, people have exploited the coconut palm extensively as a source of food, fiber, and timber. Many hundreds of years ago, the species was brought to the island chain and the people of Hawaii by migrants from Polynesia. Ever since, the species has adapted admirably to the rich soil, perfect climate, and of course, deliberate cultivation.

With a lifespan of 60–100 years and the ability to reach heights of over 100 feet, coconut palms are truly remarkable plants! The trees are easily recognized by their pinnate crowns, extraordinarily tall and frequently arching trunks, and, of course, their coconuts. After reaching their prime production age, which is typically between the ages of 3 and 10, coconut trees begin to give fruit in their first decade of life and can yield up to 100 coconuts annually.

3. Pigafetta Palm (Pigafetta elata)

The pigafetta palm is well-known for growing at an exceptionally rapid pace. It belongs to a genus that contains only two species, both of which are among the world’s fastest-growing palms.P. filaris, the relative of P. elata, can grow up to 6 feet in a single year! Although the species is native to Indonesia and New Guinea, it occasionally appears in the Hawaiian Islands as a landscape cultivar.

Pigafetta palms are solitary trees that grow up to 100 feet tall with their hemispherical leaf crowns supported by their verdant trunks. The plant produces pinnate fronds with exquisite textures and spiky tips that can reach lengths of about 20 feet. The species is an early colonizer of disturbed areas, riverbanks, forest edges, and lava flows in its natural region. Owing to their capacity for rapid growth in disturbed habitats, the species is currently being domesticated for use as a crop for lumber.

4. Chinese Fan Palm (Livistona chinensis)

A prominent tree for landscaping, the Chinese fan palm is often seen in parks and on roadways. When fully grown, the majority of Chinese fan palms can grow up to 30 feet tall and have crowns that can span up to 12 feet in diameter. A frequent name for them is fountain palms, which alludes to the long, drooping leaf tips and the flowing appearance they create. Chinese fan palms are regarded as invasive in Hawaii, even though they make a spectacular landscape feature, as they replace native plant species.

Due to its sluggish growth, Chinese fan palms frequently take many years to start developing trunks. Many homeowners and landscapers plant them in close clusters for visual interest and privacy screening, mistaking them for low-growing plants. For a few years, this might work, but ultimately the plants outgrow their space and need to be thinned or removed entirely.

5. Cuban Royal Palm (Roystonea regia)

The Cuban royal palm is a native of Florida, Mexico, the Caribbean, and some regions of Central America. It is currently found across the Hawaiian Islands. In recent decades, humans have dispersed the species far and wide, mostly for use as landscape ornaments. People in the tropics employ the solid trunks and robust crowns of these towering palms’ thick, sturdy fronds as building materials.

In Hawaii, Cuban royal palms are regarded as invasive, much like Chinese fan palms. The trees yield an abundance of fruits, which provide food for birds, who then disperse the seeds throughout the landscape. Because the seeds themselves contain protective, irritating calcium oxalate crystals, they are undesirable to animals that may eat them. Despite their sluggish growth rates, palms are highly adaptable and have robust root systems that facilitate their naturalization in a variety of settings.

6. Bismarck Palm (Bismarckia nobilis)

In Hawaii, the Bismarck palm—named for Otto von Bismarck—is starting to become more popular as a landscaping palm tree. This unusual species of palm, native to Madagascar, has a beautiful crown of silver-blue, palmate fronds and an exceptionally thick stem. Each can reach a diameter of up to 4 feet and is produced from the crown on a long, robust petiole. The length of a single frond, including its petioles, can reach up to 10 feet! The Bismarck palm, with its striking size and distinctive colors, is frequently utilized as a landscape focal point.

7. Silver Date Palm (Phoenix sylvestris)

The silver date palm, which originated in the Indian Subcontinent, is becoming more and more well-liked as a landscape and culinary plant in all of the world’s tropical and subtropical regions. When fully grown, the species’ long, beautiful, pinnate fronds can reach a length of 10 feet, producing crows that can reach a width of 30 feet. The stub ends that the dying fronds leave behind give the trunk a distinctive texture.

The silver date palm is used by people in its natural habitat for its copious fruits and delicious sap. Fresh or fermented, either one is a great beverage, and the abundant fruits are used to make delectable jams and jellies.

8. Ālula (Brighamia insignis)

Despite not being a true palm, the vulcan palm—also referred to as Ālula or ʻŌlulu in Hawaiian—has growth tendencies similar to those of a palm, leading to frequent confusion. This species is a perennial shrub is actually quite long-lived; it is a member of the bellflower family, Campanulaceae. Its little rosette of leaves can reach a height of 16 feet thanks to its succulent, bulbous stem. It bears strange trumpet-shaped yellow flowers in bunches that smell like honeysuckle.

Due to the likely extinction of its pollinating specialist insect, the species is now essentially extinct in the wild. Ālula used to grow on Ni’ihau, the Ha’upu Ridge in Kaua’i, and the Napali Coast, but it has since significantly declined. B. insignis cannot procreate by itself without the assistance of its hawk-moth companion. Due to its ease of human pollination and seed propagation, this species is commonly found in the house plant trade even though it probably no longer reproduces in the wild.

9. Areca palm (Dypsis lutescens)

The areca palm, one of the more popular landscape palms in Hawaii, is almost extinct in its native Madagascar. The plant, also called the golden cane palm, grows a series of short, arching stems that yield brilliant, yellow-green leaves and golden petioles. Each palm resembles a clumping bamboo because it generates multiple jointed, cane-like branches from a single base.

Usually, they are cultivated in groves. They bear long yellow flower clusters in the summer, which finally give way to an abundance of little fruits. The fruits are initially bright golden-yellow, but as they develop, they gradually turn deep purple or black. When conditions are right, the plant can grow up to 30′′ each year and can tolerate some shade. Despite growing best outdoors, it is a popular indoor plant in the more temperate parts of the world.

10. The Bottle Palm (Hyophorbe lagenicaulis)

Bottle Palm (Hyophorbe lagenicaulis) m tree that is native to Round Island to the east of Madagascar. In many regions of Hawaii, where the tropical temperature and volcanic soil are similar to those of their original habitat, these palms tend to thrive. Even though they might grow to be 15 feet tall when fully grown, it frequently takes them many decades to accomplish so. These palms get their common name from their distinctive, bottle-shaped trunks when they are young. They typically lose this trait as they get older.

Regretfully, bottle palms in the wild are almost extinct. On Round Island, they have lost almost all of their natural habitat as a result of human encroachment and climate change. Wild bottle palms are doomed to extinction, despite their widespread usage as houseplants and in gardens around the globe.