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ZOMBIA antillarum

Image of Zombia antillarum

Carol Cloud Bailey

Family

Arecaceae

Botanical Name

ZOMBIA antillarum

Plant Common Name

Voodoo Palm, Zombie Palm

General Description

The thatched leaf stems of zombie palm are lined with long, vicious spines that are said to be used as voodoo doll needles. This unusual, dryland palm is clump-forming and native to the Caribbean island of Hispañola, which houses the independent states of Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Wild populations are not common but typically found growing along dry, forested slopes and ridges. On occasion, specimens can be found in moister, lowland sites.

The many upright trunks of zombie palm are heavily cloaked in fibers and downward pointing, spine-like "needles" borne in spiraled rings. The leaf fronds are fan-like, glossy or dull green on top and silvery gray-green beneath. In summer, a short clustered stem of tiny white flowers will appear from the crownshaft of each trunk among the fronds. Bees and other insects visit the blossoms and attractive white, grape-sized fruits follow.

Grow zombie palm in full to partial sun and well-drained, sandy soil. It is very drought tolerant, but growth is more robust if plants are given regular moisture during the growing season. Occasionally trim off the lower fronds so the beauty of the trunks can be viewed more easily. Wild populations of this slow-growing palm are threatened in Haiti due to habitat destruction and livestock damage.

This is not an ornamental palm for areas where children frequent, but it is beautiful and ideal for Oceanside gardens and landscapes. Its spined trunks are one of its more visually appealing features, but they can puncture skin easily, so it’s best to situate zombie palm away from areas where people frequent to prevent unexpected run-ins.

Characteristics

  • AHS Heat Zone

    12 - 9

  • USDA Hardiness Zone

    10 - 15

  • Sunset Zone

    H2, 22, 23, 24

  • Plant Type

    Palm or Cycad

  • Sun Exposure

    Full Sun, Partial Sun

  • Height

    10'-12' / 3.0m - 3.7m

  • Width

    6'-10' / 1.8m - 3.0m

  • Bloom Time

    Summer

  • Native To

    Caribbean

Growing Conditions

  • Soil pH

    Neutral, Alkaline

  • Soil Drainage

    Well Drained

  • Soil type

    Loam, Sand

  • Tolerances

    Salt

  • Growth Rate

    Slow

  • Water Requirements

    Drought Tolerant, Average Water

  • Habit

    Clump-Forming

  • Seasonal Interest

    Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest

    Insignificant

  • Flower Color

    White, Ivory

  • Fruit Color

    White, Ivory

  • Foliage Color (Spring)

    Green, Gray Green

  • Foliage Color (Summer)

    Green, Gray Green

  • Foliage Color (Fall)

    Green, Gray Green

  • Foliage Color (Winter)

    Olive, Gray Green

  • Bark Color

    Tan

  • Fragrant Flowers

    No

  • Fragrant Fruit

    No

  • Fragrant Foliage

    No

  • Bark or Stem Fragrant

    No

  • Flower Petal Number

    Single

  • Repeat Bloomer

    No

  • Showy Fruit

    Yes

  • Edible Fruit

    No

  • Showy Foliage

    Yes

  • Foliage Texture

    Bold

  • Foliage Sheen

    Matte

  • Evergreen

    Yes

  • Showy Bark

    Yes

Special Characteristics

  • Usage

    Feature Plant, Foundation, Mixed Border, Tropical

  • Sharp or Has Thorns

    Yes

  • Invasive

    No

  • Attracts

    Birds

  • Self-Sowing

    Yes