Rhopalostylis sapida


Rhopalostylis: club style
sapida: savoury

Common Name(s)

Nikau palm

Current Conservation Status

2012 - Not Threatened

Conservation status of New Zealand indigenous vascular plants, 2012
The conservation status of all known New Zealand vascular plant taxa at the rank of species and below were reassessed in 2012 using the New Zealand Threat Classification System (NZTCS). This report includes a statistical summary and brief notes on changes since 2009 and replaces all previous NZTCS lists for vascular plants. Authors: Peter J. de Lange, Jeremy R. Rolfe, Paul D. Champion, Shannel P. Courtney, Peter B. Heenan, John W. Barkla, Ewen K. Cameron, David A. Norton and Rodney A. Hitchmough. File size: 792KB

Previous Conservation Status

2009 - Not Threatened
2004 - Not Threatened


Rhopalostylis sapida H.Wendl. et Drude



Brief Description

Palm to 15m tall with a ringed trunk and 3m long erect leaves inhabiting lowland forest south to Okarito and Banks Peninsula and the Chatham Islands. Leaves with multiple narrow leaflets to 1m long closely-spaced along central stem. Flowers pinkish, in multiple spikes at the top of trunk. Fruit red.

Flora Category

Vascular - Native

NVS Species Code


The National Vegetation Survey (NVS) Databank is a physical archive and electronic databank containing records of over 94,000 vegetation survey plots - including data from over 19,000 permanent plots. NVS maintains a standard set of species code abbreviations that correspond to standard scientific plant names from the Ngä Tipu o Aotearoa - New Zealand Plants database.

Structural Class

Monocotyledonous Trees and Shrubs




Endemic. North Island, South Island from Marlborough Sounds and Nelson south to Okarito in the west and Banks Peninsula in the east. Also on Chatham and Pitt Islands. However Chatham Islands plants have adistinct juveniel form, larger fruits, and thicker indumentum on the fronds.


Primarily a species of coastal to lowland forest in the warmer parts of New Zealand.


Trunk up to 15 m, stout, covered in grey-green leaf scars, otherwise green. Crownshaft 0.6(-1) m long, dark green, smooth, bulging. Fronds up to 3 m long; leaflets to 1 m, closely set (sometimes over lapping), ascending. Spathes c.300 x 150 mm., between pink and yellow, caducous. Inflorescence shortly stalked, with many branches, 200-400 mm long. Flowers sessile, unisexual, tightly packed, lilac to pink. Males in pairs, caducous, stamens 6. Females solitary, with minute staminodes, ovary 1-locular, stigmas terminal, recurved, persistent. Fruit c.10 x 7 mm, elliptic-oblong, flesh red.

Similar Taxa

Rhopalostylis baueri (Seem.) H.Wendl. et Drude, which differs mainly by its globose to oval fruits, and from most populations of R. sapida, by the broader leaflets. Both species of Rhopalostylis are very similar and research is needed.


November - April

Flower Colours

Red / Pink


February - November

Propagation Technique

Easy from seed. Fruit should be soaked for a few days in water and then lightly scrubbed to clear the flesh, then place in sealed plastic bags in half shade until seed begins to germinate. Plant germinating seed in deep, narrow pots. Avoid disturbing the roots as much as possible. An excellent pot plant, and provided the tap root is left intact it can be easily transplanted. Quite hardy. Very variable in the wild, so could benefit from critical horticultural selection.


Not Threatened

Chromosome No.

2n = 32

Endemic Taxon


Endemic Genus


Endemic Family


Where To Buy

Commonly sold by most retail plant nurseries.

Taxonomic Notes

The palm on the Chatham Islands is probably distinct from R. sapida but further research is required.

Fact Sheet Citation

Please cite as:  de Lange, P.J. (Year at time of Access): Rhopalostylis sapida Fact Sheet (content continuously updated). New Zealand Plant Conservation Network. http://www.nzpcn.org.nz/flora_details.aspx?ID=1259  (Date website was queried)


(Date website was queried)

References and further reading

Esler, A.E. 1969. Leaf fall and flowering of nikau. Wellington Botanical Society Bulletin, 36: 19-22  

Greenwood, R.M. 1969. Notes on growth of young nikau plants. Wellington Botanical Society Bulletin, 36: 22-23

This page last updated on 7 Apr 2019