The Devil's Palm

Forks, WA

I'm on kind of a thorny plant kick. I came across this palmbob article that sparked my interest, and reminded me of the time I slid down a log in a Thai rain forest and took a rattan palm frond to the inner thigh...

So two questions: what species is the thorniest, nastiest, deadliest palm out there? Not talking just thorny leaves, but spiked trunks too.

And second, of all the really thorny palms, which ones will grow in San Diego?

noonamah, Australia

Don't know the San Diego climate, but "thorniest, nastiest, deadliest" would aptly describe a number of them. You've already made acquaintances with the Rattan (Calamus species), some of them are real blood thirsty monsters. Sometimes called "Wait-a-while", if you get caught up in them you'll be waiting quite a while trying to untangle yourself and minimise blood loss.

Salacca zalacca is pretty horrendous. The petioles are densely covered in spikes.

One of the worst of the Livistonas is L. benthamii. The petioles are armed with thorns so when they're still small you can't get into them. Some of the larger ones keep the petioles so still look formidable. Other Livistonas have more or less thorns along the petioles.

Licualas are another that can have pretty horrendous thorns along the petioles. L. spinosa has been named for that. I have one unidentified Licuala which has even worse thorns. Originally thought it might have been spinosa but now know it isn't.

Aiphanes species are very spikey as well. Phoenix species can give you a hard time as well with their spines.

Verschaffeltia splendida and Phoenicophorium borsigianum have a lot of spines but they're relatively soft.

There's more, but that's all that comes to mind for the moment. Have fun with them.

Orlando, FL(Zone 9b)

I'd like to add the macaw palm to this great list.

palmbob wrote an article on deadly thorned palms as well, there's one palm with a zigzag thorn pattern

Forks, WA

Somehow I got busy and forgot I had posted this question. Geez. Thanks for the responses. Time to do some googling.

Hidden Meadows, CA

Trithrinax acanthocomas do well in San Diego

Acton, CA(Zone 8b)

A few Aiphanes species grow in San Diego, as well as Astrocaryum mexicanum, Acanthophoenix sp., many rattan Palms (almost all very spiny- about 5 genera of these, and many species), Trithinax species as mentioned above, Gauihia, Rhapidophyllum, etc.

Keaau, HI

Calamus merrillii is quite threatening!

There are thorns all over the plant, and they send out modified pinnae that are covered with recurved spines. In the garden they hang out over the plant and may easily latch onto you as you walk by. You can't just pull away from this spiny growth as it digs in deeper.

I have a number of spiny palms, but this one in particular seems to follow you around. It grows very quickly, and the spiny growths hang down far from the main plant.

I wouldn't recommend it for any common garden!

Acton, CA(Zone 8b)

Here's an article I wrote for Davesgarden on Dangerous Palms in which I discussed a few of these spiny plants.

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