Bismarckia nobilis. Figure 1. Young Bismarck Palm. Bismarck Palm. 1. Edward F. Gilman and Dennis G. Watson2. INTRODUCTION. Lending a tropical flair to. Description: Bismarckia nobilis is a stunning, large palm widely cultivated in the tropics for its beautiful silver-blue foliage although a green leaf variety exists. Scientific Name: Bismarckia nobilis Hildebr. & Synonym(s). Medemia nobilis (Hildebr. & ) Gall. Assessment Information [top]. Red List.

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Bismarckia nobilis is a stunning, large silver blue fan palm that has become increasingly more popular in the past ten to twenty years.

It is native to Madagascar where it tolerates fairly dry and hot climates. There is only one species within this genus. It is a stately single trunk palm that has a good sized trunk and, over many decades, can get tall. First introduced into the commercial nursery market about twenty years ago, it is being used both commercially and in the home garden in bismarckis frequency. It is commonly called the Bismarck Palm.

Either as a single specimen or in groups, this is a bismarckua beautiful species. It is most commonly known for its silver blue color. Remember that most gardeners and enthusiasts love blue palm trees. Although mentioned in the literature for many decades, this species has become much more understood over the past twenty years.

It is from the western and northern areas of the country of Madagascar where it enjoys sun, heat bismqrckia dry conditions. It was named after the German chancellor, Prince Otto von Bismarck, who lived during the 19th century.

– Bismarckia nobilis(Bismark Palm)

As mentioned in his book, the Palms of Madagascar, John Dransfield points out that this is one of the few palms named after a politician. Bismarckia nobilis is similar to another genus, Medemiabut the two are felt presently to be two distinct genera. It is a common palm in Madagascar, but surprisingly wasn’t really utilized in landscapes elsewhere in nobilid world until recently.

There are some isolated specimens in botanical gardens outside of Madagascar that were introduced many years ago, but it’s popularity has exploded in the past two decades. This palm is natively found only in Madagascar.

There it is seen almost entirely in the western side jobilis this large island and is often found in very harsh natural conditions. It is fairly common in habitat and is widespread over many localities. It is seen in plateaus noobilis plain areas where it experiences extremes in weather from very hot and dry to more humid conditions during the rainy season.

From a cultural point of view, this species has been found to biwmarckia in more tropical and humid environments around the world but has also had success in drier, desert areas. So, it tolerates a wide variety of conditions. Also, in habitat, is endures fires probably because the crown of leaves is well above any brush fires.

In many areas in Madagascar, it is the only palm species evident. Bismarckia nobilis is a single trunk fan palm. It’s trunk diameter is typically 18 to 24 inches. This palm in habitat is known to get up to 60 feet, but this height may take a century to reach. The trunk is straight, a tan or brown color bismzrckia basically smooth with hints of bismacrkia scars from leaf bases.


It has no crown shaft. The base of the trunk may be swollen. The crown of leaves numbers from 15 to 30 leaves, typically blue to silver in color, and slightly arched. Of note, there are both green and blue forms of this species described below.


Leaves fall off easily when old and there is essentially no petticoat of old dead leaves as seen with some other species. The leaf width is 8 to 10 feet with approximately divisions. The overall crown width is approximately 20 feet. The petiole length is 6 to 8 feet on mature specimens. On the blue variety of this species, the leaves bismadckia a silver-blue waxy coat. The leaf stems and bases may be bismarkcia or hairy.

Plants without the hairs almost have a polished metal feel to the stems. This causes such stems to be intensely blue. It is unclear why bismarkcia hairs are variable among different populations of this species.

But, if you look at a lot of Bismarckiayou will note stems from polished and smooth to very hairy and bumpy. Bismarckia is a dioecious genus. This means there are male and female individual plants. To form fertile seeds, female flowers must be pollinated by pollen from a male plant. This is usually accomplished by insects, but can be done by wind and proximity as well. Bis,arckia fruits formed are dark brown to black in color and round. They are approximately 1. Since Bismarckia Palms were bismatckia commercially, it has been known that there is a blue and a green form.

Because of the popularity of the silver blue form, few green Bismarckia are seen in landscapes.

Bismarckia nobilis

There also seems to be less cold tolerance with the green form, a fact that is surprising. And, to make things a bit more complicated, there seems to be “really blue” plants and “in-betweeners” in color.

Therefore, bismzrckia wise consumer who wants a very blue plant should look carefully at the color of the purchased plant. Select the plant with the most satisfying color. There is another issue of a red discoloration to the leaves. Sometimes this is purple or similar shades. It is usually seen on smaller or juvenile plants. It appears that this color is a result of exposure to cold weather. This purple color is typically seen with the blue variety and may disappear with age and size.

Another example of the green form in the wild, photo donated Onbilis photo shows what appears to be a green leaf. But, this is the underside of the leaf. Observe the leaves behind this one. They are extremely silver color.

Identifying Commonly Cultivated Palms

So, when talking about color, look at the dorsal side of the leaf, not the underside. Bismarckia nobilis is a good grower. It likes full sun, sandy soil, good drainage and heat. In areas where summer rain is prevalent, it seems to put on rapid growth with this ample water. In areas where most of the rainfall is during the cooler period Southern Californiathe growth of Bismarckia biismarckia slower.

Therefore, little supplemental water is needed during the winter. In California along the coast, full sun is preferable. In inland areas it can be grown in half day sun. Good drainage is also important, especially if you have a cooler rainy period. This is a species that does not want to sit in continually wet, mucky soil.


Although the Bismarck Palm can tolerate drought, it does respond to ample water during the summer and gives more rapid growth. Since introduction to the commercial market, it has been found that this species performs fabulously in tropical and subtropical climates like Hawaii and South Florida.

It also grows well bismarckiq Southern California and some Californian and Arizona desert climates. I would classify its growth rate as medium.

An average 15g palm can get up to eight feet height in about 3 years in the ground. Growth is much slower in containers. If growing in a container, as you would expect, it likes a big pot with plenty of room for root growth. The cold tolerance of Bismarckia seems to be the low 20’s F. I personally know of many specimens that have survived 22 degrees and even a bit lower.

Common things that can kill a Bismarckia include poor drainage, too much water especially during cold weathertoo low biskarckia temperatures, too dark of growth environment, and significant disturbance of the roots. This species seems to be more susceptible to nkbilis culture than to insect infestations. Root burn from fertilizers is bismacrkia one wants to avoid. To summarize on basic culture, consider this species if you have good draining soil, experience ample heat during the year and down get below about 22 degrees.

Nobiis one looks at pictures of Bismarckia nobilis in habitat in Madagascar, he begins to realize just how hardy this palm is and the extremes of conditions it tolerates. The picture to the left below shows how someone has planted young Bismarckia along a driveway in Madagascar.

To the right you see the dry jobilis where Bismarckia nobilis grows natively. Special mention should be made about the disturbance of or damage to the roots of a Bismarckia Palm. They are very sensitive and bismxrckia damage can kill a plant or put it into serious decline. What this means to you is that a good sized specimen is extremely difficult to successfully dig and transplant to another location. Also, a purchased plant in a container that has “rooted” into the ground may succumb if the roots out of the bottom holes are torn while lifting the plant.

Also, when transplanting from one pot to another, rough handling of the roots can cause nlbilis. We have seen over the years how imported Bismarckia that had their roots pruned prior to transport to California uniformly went into decline with leaves turning dry brown.

And, many died about two weeks after arrival. So, be ever so careful with the roots of this species. Bismarckia seeds fall off the tree with dark fruit. This fruit must be removed prior to attempts at germination.