Balaka streptostachys

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Balaka (bah-LAHK-ah)
104492 web Fiji-Balaka-streptostachysz.jpg
Scientific Classification
Genus: Balaka (bah-LAHK-ah)
None set.
Native Continent
Habit: Solitary
Leaf type: Pinnate
Survivability index
Common names

Habitat and Distribution

Balaka streptostachys is found in Fiji. Vanua Levu,
"300 meters altitude, where rainfall is more than 3 meters annually." Balaka streptostachys is endemic to Vanua Levu Island, Fiji. Photo by Jim Valentine.
known from a single location South of Labasa, on the logging road toward Mt. Sorolevu, at 300 m elevation.
"300 meters altitude, where rainfall is more than 3 meters annually." Balaka streptostachys is endemic to Vanua Levu Island, Fiji. Photo by Jim Valentine.

Grows as an understory palm in lower montane rainforest in a boggy area. Balaka streptostachys ocurs as an understory palm species in mixed evergreen lower montane rainforest. The single known population is growing on very wet, spongy ground in a flat section of the Mt. Sorolevu foothills. This area receives well over 3000 mm of rain per year. The associated vegetation includes the palms Heterospathe longipes H.E. Moore (new island record McClatchey and Fuller 1101/191, 13 May 1995, and FTG, SUVA]), Balaka macrocarpa Burret and Physokentia thurstonii (Becc.) Becc. Higher up the slopes starting at about 500 m, large numbers of Hydriastele microcarpa Essig (new island record McClatchey and Fuller 1117/210, l7 May 1995, FTG, SUVA]) can be found, and Clinostigma exorrhizum (H. Wendl.) Becc. occurs above 900 m on the slopes and the top of Mt Sorolevu. (D. Fuller. 1999)/Palmweb.


Solitary palm, trunk erect, 4-7 m tall, 7-10 cm in diameter breast high, base not expanded, internodes congested, dark green to grey with age, nodes conspicuous, light green-brown. Leaves eight to ten in the crown, held erect, slightly arcuate, regularly pinnate, to 3 m long including petiole and leaf sheath, adaxially mid green, abaxially olive green; petiole 35-45 x 2.5-3.5 cm wide, adaxially concave, abaxially rounded, densely tomentose with scattered long dark scales; leafsheath tubular, split longitudinally opposite the petiole in the upper quarter, 30-50 cm long, abaxially green-light brown, densely tomentose with scattered dark scales, adaxially white, glabrous, margins at the apex lacerate-fibrous, fibers coarse and thick; rachis densely tomentose with scattered dark scales, proximally channelled, becoming ridged distally adaxially, abaxially rounded proximally, flattened distally, diamond-shaped in cross-section at mid rachis. Pinnae in one plane, regularly arranged,


This palm prefers filtered light. It prefers warm and protected areas with plenty of water, and is very suitable for cultivation in the humid tropics. Cold Hardiness Zone: 11

Comments and Curiosities

Etymology: From the Greek strepto (twisted) and stachys (spike) in reference to intermittent 40˚-60˚ twists in the rachilla, with the sections between the twists otherwise straight. This character has not been observed in other species of Balaka. (D. Fuller. 1999)/Palmweb.

Conservation: Proposed for IUCN Red List threatened category - Critically Endangered. There are 50-60 adult trees in the single known population of this unusual palm. This area has been selectively logged, and future logging is imminent. Dick Phillips (personal communication) has two seedlings of this taxon in cultivation in Fiji. (D. Fuller. 1999)/Palmweb.

"Regarded as critically endangered and exists in one known colony of 50 to 60 palms in and around the rainforest. This is the stoutest of the Balaka with a trunk of up to 100mm or 4 inches thickness that is double the others." (Jim Valentine), edric.

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).

Fuller, D.1999. A New Species of Balaka from Fiji. Palms 43(1) 10-14.

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

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