Normanbya normanbyi

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Figure 1. Daintree Rainforest, North Queensland.


Common Names:

Black Palm

Distribution & Habitat:

North Queensland rainforest


This is a tall, handsome palm, growing about 20 metres (60 feet) tall, with a 4 metre (12 foot) leaf spread. The trunk is smooth, slender, and closely ringed, and becomes almost black as the palm gets older. There is a pale green crown-shaft, topped with a small head of leaves. These consist of many narrow leaflets, arranged circularly around the leaf stalk, which gives it a very bushy appearance, very similar to the Foxtail palm, Wodyetia bifurcata. In fact, the two palms are very difficult to tell apart, the main difference being that N. normanbyi has a silverish tinge to the underside of the leaves. The green inflorescence comes from below the crown-shaft, and gives rise to 5cm (2 inch) long pear-shaped, light-brown coloured fruit.


Like many palms which come from rainforests, N. normanbyi seedlings prefer shade when younger, growing into full sun as they gets taller. The leaves on seedlings are rather scrawny and unattractive, and it isn't until the palm gets to several metres high that the thick plumed leaves appear. This palm doesn't ever like to dry out, and also likes high humidity, so frequent wetting of the foliage is recommended in hot weather.

Figure 2. N. normanbyi
Figure 3. A nice plant at Mt. Cootha Botanic Gardens, Brisbane.

A Personnal Experience:

I am from Nth Qld Aussie(Tropical Climate) and I have experimented with Normanbyas for about 10 years in our area. I have approximately 15 specimens in the ground. I planted them in different light locations and in our climate. All specimens were planted in the ground from 6 inch containers. I planted 10 in full sun and they are now approximately 10 feet tall. I planted 3 in medium light conditions and they are the same height. I planted 2 in low light conditions in competition with other palms. They are about 20 feet tall, fruiting and in excellent condition. The ones in full sun have adapted well after initially struggling for about 3 years and they are also fruiting. Normanybyas are definitely more difficult to grow then say Wodyetias but in my opinion are a much more attractive palm. I have found the specimens I planted in deep mulch(kept moist) are much more robust and quicker growing(not to say I don`t keep the other ones moist). Normanbyas are extremely receptive to regular dressings of fertiliser (more so than most palms) and appear to be gross feeders, visibly responding in a matter of weeks after every application of fertiliser. A palm well worth the attempt.

Contributed by:

Jeff Nugent - Permaculture Plants (Figures 1&2)
Mike Gray (Figure 3)
Phill Glindeman (A Personal Experience)

External Links:

Kew, PalmWeb, eMonocot, JSTOR, Trebrown, ATRP

Google, Google Images, Flickr, PACSOA Forums, PalmTalk