34 / Nīkau Palm

Rhopalostylis sapida

The nīkau, New Zealand’s only palm, is the southernmost palm in the world. It is found throughout the North Island, and as far south as Greymouth and Banks Peninsula in the South Island. On account of its many parallel leaves growing from the same stalk it proved a practical thatching material for Māori, but in 1843 such use was outlawed in Wellington because of the fire hazard. The flesh of the nīkau shoots – known as the nīkau heart – is edible, and was described by early European travellers as tasting variously like ‘sweet turnip’ or, when roasted or boiled, hazelnut.

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