Pritchardia pacifica

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HBG - Big Island, Hawaii.
pacifica (pah-sihf-EE-kah)
Pritchardia pacifica infructescense, HI.
Scientific Classification
Genus: Pritchardia
pacifica (pah-sihf-EE-kah)
None set.
Native Continent
Habit: Solitary
Leaf type: Palmate
Survivability index
Common names
Polynesian Names: Piu (Niue, Futuna, Samoa, Tokelau, Tonga, ʻUvea); Niu pui (Samoa); Niu sakiki (Fiji); Viu (Fiji). Fiji fan palm.

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Habitat and Distribution

Fiji, Marquesas, Marshall Is., Niue, Samoa, Society Is., Solomon Is., Tonga, Trinidad-Tobago, and Vanuatu. Known only from cultivation, typically around sites of human activity, sometimes escaping and groWing wild in nearby secondary growth, Marshall Islands, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Niue, Fiji, Tonga, Samoa, French Polynesia, 0-100 m elev. Native to Tonga (ʻEua and Vavaʻu) and appears to be an ancient introduction to Fiji, Samoa, the Marquesas, and Tokelau. Introduced and commonly used in the Hawaiian Islands in landscapes. Here pictured in Waipahu (Waipiʻo), Oʻahu, Hawaii.

Pritchardia pacifica is native to Tonga. It is also found on Fiji, Samoa, and the Marquesas however these populations are likely to be human introductions. (Dr. P. Goltra), edric.


Solitary palm to 15 m tall; proximal margins of petiole with only a few fibers; leaf blade undulate, divided 1/4-1/3, slightly waxy-glaucous, abaxial surface more or less devoid of lepidia, segment tips stiff; inflorescences composed of 1-4 panicles, shorter than to equaling petioles in flower and fruit, panicles branched to 2 orders, rachillae glabrous; fruits 11-12 mm in diam., globose. Editing by edric. (Hodel, D. 2007)/Palmweb. Editing by edric.

Pritchardia pacifica is distinguished by its rounded, undulate leaf blades with stiff segment tips and abaxial surface more or less devoid of lepidia, inflorescences shorter than or equaling the petioles, and small S-38 fruits. Perhaps the most widely cultivated species of the genus in tropical landscapes and gardens, it is among the most handsome of palms. Truly natural populations of Pritchardia pacifica are unknown. Dennis and McQueen (1989) reported it groWing wild on Nggela Island north of Guadaleanal in the Solomon Islands but referred to it as P. wood(ordiana, a name of no botanical standing. Pritchardia pacifica has erroneously been reported to be growing wild on Eua Island in Tonga (Lister 1893, Beccari & Rock 1921, Watling 200S), but the species there is actually P. thurstonii. Burkill (1901) reported P. pacifica on Vavau Island of Tonga, but I have not seen the specimen at K to verify its identity. (Hodel, D. 2007)/Palmweb.


Cold hardy to USDA Zone 10, however plants generally dislike temperatures below 55-60 degrees F., and may not survive when temperatures dip to near freezing. Best grown in moist, well-drained soils in full sun to light shade. Grows well as a houseplant in a sunny room. Containers may be taken outside in late spring when warm temperatures arrive. (Missouri Botanical Garden), edric.

Lethal yellowing (present in Florida) is a significant and deadly phytoplasma disease of palms (spread by a planthopper - Myndus crudus) that causes yellowed fronds, blackened flowers and premature fruit drop. (Missouri Botanical Garden), edric.

"This is one of the most beautiful Pritchardia species with large, nearly round, barely split, flat fan leaves with many leaves held in the crown. You can see these trees all over the Hawaiian public landscaping. This species is particularly tolerant of salty soils, making it an excellent choice for planting along the coasts in the tropics. You won't see any in southern California, though, as it is too tropical a species for us here. Too bad." (Geoff Stein), edric.

Comments and Curiosities

Etymology: Pritchardia name is dedicated to William Thomas Pritchard (1829-1907), British official stationed in Fiji in the 19th Century, British counsul in Fiji, adventurer, and author of Polynesian Reminiscences in 1866. The specific epithet in Latin means of the Pacific Ocean.

Uses: In Fiji the leaves of Fiji fan palm were traditionally used as fans, known as Iri masei or Ai viu, that were only used by the chiefs. A light, flexible wood was used to construct a border for the leaves that grow up to 90 cm in width. In Fijian the term Ai viu refers to both a fan and an umbrella as the leaves of Fiji fan palm were used for protection from both the sun and the rain. The leaf was held immediately above the head when it was raining in order and the rain rolled off the leaf behind the head. The trunk of this species was occasionally used for ridge-beams. This species was associated with the upper classes and only one or two trees were usually found in a village, as these plants provided enough leaves to meet the material needs of the village chiefs. (Dr. P. Goltra), edric.

"In Fiji, the leaves were fashioned into fans or umbrellas called Iri masei or Ai viu, and only chiefs were allowed to use them. They protected them from sun and rain. Though unsubstantiated reports indicate that this palm was used for thatch in Tonga, a related species in the Marquesas was used for this purpose. The trunk of this species was occasionally used for ridge-beams. In Samoa and Tonga, children would sometimes eat the fruit, or times of famine, by the general population. Sometimes the leaves are used to wrap fish for cooking in Tokelau." (Encyclopedia of Life curator Dr. David Eickhoff), edric.

Prichardia pacifica, commonly called Fiji fan palm, is a solitary palm that is native to Fiji in the southwest Pacific Ocean. It has been introduced to a large number of tropical islands in the Pacific Ocean, including Tonga and Samoa where it may also be native, and in many other tropical to sub-tropical habitats throughout the world. It is a gray-trunked tree (mature trunk diameter to 12") which grows slowly to as much as 20-30' tall in tropical areas, but smaller when grown indoors in containers as a houseplant. It features huge, many-segmented, palmate, fan-shaped, lime green leaves to 6' long and nearly as wide. Fragrant brown flowers bloom on inflorescences to 3' long. Round fruits (each to 1/2" diameter) in large clusters emerge green but mature to dark brown/black. (Missouri Botanical Garden), edric.

"A lot of confusing exist in telling this species from another common non-Hawaiian palm, P thurstonii, the latter is a bit smaller in the leaf, a tad less 'perfect' looking, and has very long inflorescences that hang down like pompoms (often cut off by gardners), while the inflorescences in this palm, though similar in shape, are on much shorter stems that stay within the leaves. There may be other differences." (Geoff Stein), edric.

"Pritchardia pacifica evokes a true sense of the tropics-it's hard not to think of Hawaii, or other South Pacific locales when gazing upon this palm. It appears to grow well in the southern half of Florida, as long as it is grown relatively close to the coast. The interior portions of South Florida are likely to be too cold. Having said this, there is a matter of serious concern when choosing this gorgeous palm for the landscape. This palm is extremely susceptible to PLY, or "Lethal Yellow" which is so prevalent in Florida. This disease is apparently on the rise again, so you would most definitely be taking a chance in planting one. In fact, according to sources with the University of FL, susceptible species from Miami Dade as well as Monroe and Broward counties should not be planted elsewhere to help prevent the spread. The aforementioned region has been ravaged by this disease. There is a wealth of information regarding this disease, as well as a few somewhat effective means of preventing it's spread. There is no "cure" for this disease, only prevention. Hopefully, the many beautiful examples of this palm in Florida won't soon be history. As with many of the beautiful exotic palms, it is wise to check on the species' susceptibility to this disease. Many palm species are affected more, than the "Panama Tall" coconuts most associate with this disastrous disease." (jungleboy_fl), edric.

External Links


Phonetic spelling of Latin names by edric.

Special thanks to Geoff Stein, (Palmbob) for his hundreds of photos, edric.

Special thanks to, Dr. John Dransfield, Dr. Bill Baker & team, for their volumes of information and photos, edric.

Glossary of Palm Terms; Based on the glossary in Dransfield, J., N.W. Uhl, C.B. Asmussen-Lange, W.J. Baker, M.M. Harley & C.E. Lewis. 2008. Genera Palmarum - Evolution and Classification of the Palms. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. All images copyright of the artists and photographers (see images for credits).

Hodel, D. 2007.

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