Also known as the Canary Islands date palm, the phoenix palm (Phoenix canariensis) is a close relative of the true date palm. The fruit is edible, but has so little flesh as to make this not worthwhile.
Slow growing trees, which are exclusively propagated by seed, phoenix palms are widely planted as ornamental plants throughout New Zealand. Though they are very slow growing, they can eventually grow up to 40 metres in height.
The specimen in the Williams House Garden is approximately 60 years old and has epiphytic plant growth on the trunk near the crown. Epiphytes derive moisture and nutrients from the air and rain and mostly grow on other plants, although some of these plants are growing in soil formed from composting plant material and wind-borne dust.
Due to the fruit produced and the shelter offered by the dense crown, a lot of native and introduced birds use this tree for roosting and nesting. Unfortunately this brings a problem, whereby the seeds are being transferred to the native forests and becoming established there.