Lord Howe Island boasts four unique palm species, two of which prefer the moist humid conditions around the mountain summits, while the other two thrive along the lowlands, often in luxuriant, pure stands. One of these lowland palms, Howea forsteriana, has found extraordinary favour with nurserymen worldwide. Not only is it an attractive palm, but it survives indoors in the temperate climate of Europe better than other tropical palms.
Commencing around 1870, the Howea palm quickly became the doyen of indoor palms, gracing parlours, drawing rooms, ballrooms and hotel lobbies around the world. Nurserymen from Australia, America, England and various European countries eagerly sought its seed. They called it the Kentia Palm.
Two major significant developments in the palm seed industry were pioneered during the 1970s. The first of these was the export of live palms from the Island. Island resident, Alan Williams, was the first to germinate seed and export live seed sprouts to Belgium. Following his success, the LHI Board established its own nursery on the Island. By 1981, palm seed exports had ceased entirely, and only live 20 cm high seedlings were being shipped from the Island. This activity provides the second industry on the Island today.