x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Plant library: Bismarck Palm

This majestic plant, named after the 19th-century German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck, thrives in the UAE's climate.

Bismarck fan palm. Photolibrary.com
Bismarck fan palm. Photolibrary.com

Bismarckia nobilis Along with the Traveller's Palm, Bismarckia is one of the most spectacular palms available to gardeners in the UAE. Majestic in its appearance, Bismarckia requires plenty of space if its massive crown of fan-like fronds is to be displayed to best effect.

A single-trunked palm of moderate growth in the hot and humid tropics, Bismarckia can reach up to 18 metres in its native habitat of Madagascar, but normally only reaches half that height in cultivation. Its crown can spread to six metres or more, producing a spread of attractive leaves that are typically a glaucous blue-green or silver-grey in colour. The leaves, which have a short midrib, are stiff and huge, growing to almost three metres, and are held on petioles that emerge from the growing tip in a spiral pattern.

Bismarckia prefer moist, fertile, well-drained soils and dislike being moved. Be careful not to injure its sensitive roots during transplantation since damage may result in severe leaf dieback or death. Propagate from seeds that will germinate easily between two and three months.

The genus, of which Bismarckia nobilis is the only species, is named after the 19th-century German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck.