Nīkau Palm

Rhopalostylis sapida

Nīkau Palm


Nīkau Palm, also known as Rhopalostylis sapida, is a palm tree species native to New Zealand. It is the only palm species naturally occurring in the country. Nīkau palms can reach heights of 10-15 meters, with a slender trunk covered in fibrous, persistent leaf bases. The leaves are large, pinnate, and have a glossy, dark green colour.


Nīkau Palm is found in various habitats in New Zealand, including coastal forests, riverbanks, and lowland areas. It prefers well-drained soils and can tolerate mild coastal climates.

Cultural Importance

Nīkau Palm holds cultural significance to Māori. The leaves were used for thatching, weaving, and making baskets and mats. The tree also has spiritual associations and is considered a symbol of beauty and tranquillity.

Associated Birds

Tūī: The Tūī is a medium-sized honeyeater known for its iridescent plumage and beautiful vocalisations. They are attracted to the nectar-rich flowers of Pōhutukawa trees and play a crucial role in pollination.

Kererū: The Kererū also known as the New Zealand Pigeon, is a large and distinctive bird with iridescent green or blue-green feathers on its back and wings. They feed on the fruits and berries of Pōhutukawa trees, helping to disperse seeds.

Yellowhead: The Yellowhead is a small songbird endemic to New Zealand. While not exclusively associated with Pōhutukawa trees, they may forage for insects, spiders, and honeydew on the bark and foliage.

Fantail: The Fantail is a small insectivorous bird known for its distinctive fan-shaped tail and acrobatic flight. They can often be seen foraging for insects around Pōhutukawa trees.

Bellbird: Bellbirds are medium-sized songbirds with vibrant olive-green plumage. They may visit Nīkau Palm trees for nectar and insects.

Ecological Role

Nīkau Palm provides habitat and food for native birds, such as the kererū (New Zealand pigeon), which feeds on the palm fruits. The tree also contributes to the structural diversity and aesthetics of native forests.

Conservation Status

Nīkau Palm is not currently listed as a threatened species. However, local populations can be impacted by habitat loss, particularly in coastal areas.

Interesting Facts

  • Nīkau Palm is the southernmost palm species in the world and is found in cooler climates than most other palm species.
  • The tree produces clusters of small, red fruits that turn black when ripe.

Conservation Tips

To support the conservation of Nīkau Palm and other native plants, you can plant native trees in your area, avoid removing mature specimens unless necessary, and participate in local habitat restoration efforts.