The nikau palm tree is endemic to New Zealand, and its fruit is a staple in the diet of the New Zealand pigeon. It is the only palm tree in New Zealand, and is the southernmost palm tree on Earth.
The primary locations of the nikau palm tree are on the North and South Islands, as well as on Pitt Island and Chatham Island. It thrives in lowland forest and coastal areas.
The nikau tree grows up to 50 feet tall, and has a ribbed, greenish-brown trunk with a smooth, bulbous crownshaft that sprouts long, dark-green palm fronds and leaflets. Pale pink or purple flowers bloom from November to April, and clusters of green fruit appear in February and slowly ripen to red by November.
The word "nikau" is from the Maori (native Polynesians of New Zealand), and relates to the tree's numerous palm fronds. Ancient Maori used the nikau's palm fronds to weave baskets, bags and the siding of dwellings. They also ingested the pith as a laxative and drank the sap to ease labor pains during childbirth.
The nikau palm makes an excellent potted tree, but is slow growing and difficult to transplant. Its roots will die from even slight damage.
The nikau palm tree is extremely long-lived and can reach an age of several hundred years.