Rhapidophyllum hystrix, the needle palm, is native to coastal margins of the subtropical eastern Gulf and south Atlantic states of the ,USA. It is one of the most cold hardy palms in the world , hardy to around -18C before it is damaged.
The needle palm is shrublike and clumping with several stems growing from a single base, , eventually forming a dense bush, with numerous sharp needle-like spines produced between the leaves, reaching 2–3 m in height.
The scientific name Rhapidophyllum means “needle-leaf”, while hystrix is from the scientific name of a genus of porcupines.
This is in my opinion another under rated palm for the UK ,where its reputation for slow growth puts people off. Yet ,it is capable of retaining leaves for many years , the leaves give a glossy deep green colouration that no other cold hardy palm provides , and it is capable of filling a shady space that would be considered too shady for most other palm species. It can and will become a very beautiful addition to the garden if sited and treated correctly.
Conventional wisdom is to plant it in the hottest most sunbaked spot in the garden due to its heat requirement without any consideration for the fact it grows in swamps under tree canopies in habitat.
My personal experience with this plant is that if its given a nice shady or semi-shady spot where it receives adequate irrigation, it will grow sufficiently quickly to maintain its appearance and maintain a display of deep green glossy leaves.