Look closely at the base of the plant and you will see long black spines that protect the plant from predation. These spines are a distinctive feature of the palm and are reflected in this plant’s scientific name, Rhapidophyllum hystrix. Hystrix is the scientific name for a genus of porcupines.
Needle palms are widely planted outside their native range of the southeastern U.S. because they can survive temperatures below freezing. Although these plants are solidly established in this courtyard garden, their foliage may suffer damage from winter winds.
This “porcupine palm” is a great way to add a tropical feel to a northern garden.