Acanthophoenix rousselii

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Palmiste roussel

rousselii (rohs-SELL-ee)
Acanthophoenix rousselii (3).jpg
Photo by Hery, La Reunion.
Scientific Classification
Genus: Acanthophoenix
rousselii (rohs-SELL-ee)
None set.
Native Continent
Habit: Solitary
Leaf type: Pinnate
Survivability index
Common names
Palmiste roussel

Habitat and Distribution

Acanthophoenix rousselii is endemic to La Réunion Island, of the Mascarene
Photo by Hery, La Réunion Island.
Islands, which are part of the Mascarene archipelago. These palms are only found a small area at around 650 m altitude on La Réunion Island, on the outskirts of the town of Tampon (not far from Hyophorbe indica). It has only been found on land owned by a Mr Roussel, hence the name.


A tall, solitary, palm to between 15 and 20 metres (50 - 65 feet) tall. It has pinnate leaves to about 3 metres (9 feet) long, with the rhachis covered in strong black spines, to 2-3 cm, (1 inch) long, and a conspicuious crownshaft. The stem base splays out like an elephants foot, more obvious on the older plants. It basically resembles A rubra except for some subtle differences, such as seed size, leaf style etc, and of course altitude. A rubra is typically lowland, A. roussellii is transitional lowland/highland, A crinita is highland to 2000 m altitude and is white in the crown not red or brown. This species of about fifty palms are greatly threatened, they survive in an agricultural area between 600 and 900 meters in the south of La Réunion Island. About fifteen years ago, some palm accustomed eyes were first puzzled by the seeds size - around four times bigger than the two other i>Acanthophoenix - and then by the abundance of the crown shaft. A. rousselii seeds they have the same look as A. crinita or A. rubra but four times bigger, i.e same shape and this characteristic bump in front of the seed. Seedlings of A. rousselii look like A. rubra without this reddish color on the leaves and no tomentum under, with leaflets that is not the case of A. crinita which has large undivided leaves for the first sprouts.


Likes a sunny, moist, but well drained position in the tropics/sub tropics. Seed needs to be very fresh to germinate, and the plants are very slow growing.

Comments and Curiosities

LITERATURE CITED BORY DE ST-VINCENT, J.B.G.M. 1804. Voyage dans les Quatre Principales Iles des Mers d’Afrique. Paris. CADET, TH. 1980. La Végétation de l’Ile de La Réunion. Saint-Denis de La Réunion.

External Links


Phonetic spelling of Latin names by edric.

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

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

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).

Many Special Thanks to Ed Vaile for his long hours of tireless editing and numerous contributions.

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