Bismarck or Bismark Palm Tree

Bismarckia nobilis
(meaning stately)

The bismark palm tree (bismarck palm tree), with its huge blue/grey fans (there is a green Bismarckia nobilis variety also, and one with silver leaves) is one of the worlds most striking palms.

Under ideal growing conditions, it can reach the towering height of 40 feet.

Bismarck Palm - Small Palm Tree
from: Real Palm Trees

Bismarck Palm - Medium Palm Tree
from: Real Palm Trees

Bismarck Palm - Large Palm Tree
from: Real Palm Trees

Bismark palm in Nassau, Bahamas.

This palm is slow growing outside the tropics and can be planted in large containers. Hot, humid weather will speed the bismark's growth considerably.

The bismark palm is hardy as far north as zone 9b. Some references say 9a but I'm skeptical of this. I live in zone 9a in an inland location and I don't see any bismark palms around here.

They are so beautiful that I have to believe the only reason they're not used in this area is because they are too tender to survive our winters.

I have, however, seen beautiful specimens growing near the coast.

Bismarck palms in a Daytona Beach landscape.

Bismark palm trees highlight this front yard landscape design in Daytona Beach, Florida.

This home is about 3 blocks from the beach.

The trees in the foreground are queen palms.

Transplanting a Bismark Palm

Here, white bismarck palms beautify an Ormond Beach front yard.

Fun Fact:

Bismarckia nobilis was named after Prince Otto Von Bismarck, the first German Chancellor.

The bismark (bismarck) is one palm that does not like to be moved.  You can transfer it from a nursery pot into the ground successfully. Cut the pot if you need to in order to avoid disturbing the sensitive roots. Be prepared to help the palm through a period of transplant shock by keeping it moist.

If however, you attempt to move an established bismark palm tree from one in-ground location to another, you will probably kill it.

The deceptive thing is that the tree will often fool you into thinking you've succeeded in moving it.

For a time...

A transplanted palm will often look well for weeks before showing symptoms of shock (dying fronds). Transplant shock can last for months, so don't give up on the tree too soon.

It aint over til it's over.

Unfortunately, there's no way to tell, during this time, if the bismark palm tree will make it. You just have to be patient and wait it out.

Pruning Bismarckia nobilis

This tree has been planted in a very prominent location in a commercial landscape design.

Unfortunately, the space is not quite large enough to accommodate the bismark palm's "wingspan" so it has been limbed up to make it fit the space.

This is only a temporary situation.

Once the tree grows a few feet taller and its crown is above the gazebo roof, this will no longer be a problem.

The bismarck is not a particularly messy palm tree. All you will need to do is remove any dead fronds each spring to neaten it.

If you site a bismark palm tree near a place where people congregate, you should be aware that its heavy fronds make a creaking noise when moved by the wind.

This is not a sign of impending doom but normal behavior for this species.

Wear leather gloves when pruning the thick, wax-covered petioles as they are armed with small teeth.

Do not rely on pruning to control the size of this palm.

Plant it where it will have room to spread and can be appreciated.

The bismarck's massive fronds are what make it so appealing.

Bismarck Palm Tree Fruit

Bismarckia nobilis crown with ripe fruit clusters.

The fruit of this species is as ornamental as the leaves.  The dark brown to purple, nearly black berries contrast especially beautifully with the fans of the white Bismarck.

The large fruits hang from the tree like grape clusters.  They look much like muscadines.

Bismarck Palm Fruit

Bismarck Palm Inflorescences

Even the inflorescences are striking with their silvery peduncles and black rachillae.

(Notice the waxy wool on the frond petioles in the photo above right.)  This is typical of this species.

Bismarck Palm Seeds

Bismark palms in the botanical garden on the island of St. Croix.

These bismarks are growing in the botanical garden on the island of St. Croix.

The pale yellow blooms of the bismarck palm tree appear in the spring but you will not get viable seed unless you have a mature male and female in close proximity. If you only have one tree and there is not another in the neighborhood, you will have to order bismarck palm seeds.

If you want to harvest seed from your own tree, let the fruit become very overripe before removing the seed. Clean and dry the seeds before storing them.

Plant the seeds in large pots so you don't have to risk disturbing the roots by continually potting the seedlings up. Expect seeds to sprout in 2-3 months.

Bismarck Palm - Seeds
- $29.95
Palm Seeds - Freshly Harvested by Season

The Bismark Palm's Trunk

The cinnamon brown to gray trunk is solitary, straight, and sturdy. It does not hold onto the petiole bases or boots but sheds them cleanly.

Other Stunning Palms:

California Fan Palm

Queen Palm Trees are One of the Fastest Growers

The Stately Royal Palm Trees

The Prehistoric Sago Palm

How to Identify Foxtail Palm Trees

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