Cyphophoenix alba

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Cyphophoenix (sigh-foh-FEH-niks)
alba (ALL-bah)
Oz bird eye.jpg
Queensland, Australia. Photo by Daryl O'Connor
Scientific Classification
Genus: Cyphophoenix (sigh-foh-FEH-niks)
alba (ALL-bah)
Veillonia alba
Native Continent
Habit: Solitary
Leaf type: Pinnate
Survivability index
Common names
White Crownshaft Palm

Habitat and Distribution

Cyphophoenix alba is endemic to New Caledonia, where it grows in wet forests of the NE.,
Mt Panie, New Caledonia. Photo by Dr. William J. Baker, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew/Palmweb.
from sea level to an altitude of 600 m. (2000 ft).


Hight: 7-10 m., with a trunk 12 cm. in diam., slightly flared at the base. Cyphophoenix alba has a solitary smooth trunk, beautifully ringed, with a whitish waxy covering in the upper section. Upright crown of dark green, leathery, pinnate leaves with bright reddish leaf bases. The crownshaft is very attractive, as it has a shiny white wax merging into reddish brown felt-like tomentum. Inflorescence entirely covered with a white wax when young, considerably arched, hanging, and a little flexuous. Brown fruit, ellipsoid, with a thick endocarp and carved.

Single-stemmed, unarmed, monoeeious palms; trunk to 7 m high or more, 12 cm diameter beast high; green or gray-brown below, white waxy above, somewhat expanded at base, nodal scars prominent, more or less indented, internodes about 10 cm long, base sometimes expanded and with a mass of exposed roots. Leaves about 10, spreading; sheaths tubular, forming a prominent erownshaft, 0.67-1.2 m long, white waxy with a dense cover of red-brown or brown floccose scales, occasionally pink within when young, often decurrent on the petiole; petiole green, brown-puncticulate, 30-60 em long, rounded beneath, channeled above; rachis green, about 2.8 m long, rounded and brown-lepidote or puncticulate beneath, angled above; pinnae 44-46 on each side, regularly arranged in one plane, acute, acuminate, or the upper very briefly bifid, upper surface green, with more or less prominent midrib and 2 lateral veins, these with scattered small scales, lower surface lepidote with minute, pale-margined, dark-centered scales and with scattered medifixed or basifixed, twisted, brown, membranous ramenta to 8 mm long on the midrib and veins, lower pinnae narrow, 52-80 cm long, 1.2-1.5 cm wide, often continued in a rein, median pinnae 1.05-1.2 m long, 4-6.2 cm wide, apical pinnae 24-38 cm long, 0.5-2 cm wide. Inflorescences, infrafoliar, one or several, protandrous, densely and minutel) white-papillate-puberulent throughout, becoming green in fruit, stiffly spreading at anthesis; major bracts 2, white-waxy, caducous, the prophyll incompletel} encircling the peduncle at insertion, about 18-25 cm long, often split into two halves, the peduncular bract plump in bud, briefly rostrate, inserted 0.5-2 cm above the prophyll and exceeding it, 15-39 cm long; peduncle short, 5-10 cm long, dorsiventrally compressed; rachis about 20 cm long bearing about 10 branches the lower ones once-branched into more or less arcuate-pendulous, slightly flexuous rachillae 15-40 cm long or more, 5-7 mm wide basally, upper ones undivided, each: branch and rachilla subtended by a rounded or often acute, sometimes conspicuous (to 2.5 cm long) bract. Flowers sessile, in horizontal triads of two staminate and a pistillate in the lower half of the rachilla or more, paired or solitary staminate distally, each cluster subtended by a prominent, spreading, rounded bract, bracteoles 3, brown the outer low, rounded, the two inner prominent, sepal-like, to about 3 mm high: staminate flowers smaller than the pistillate, about 3.5 mm long, sepals 3, glabrous broadly imbricate, slightly keeled dorsally, about 2.5 mm high; petals 3, valvate symmetrical, about 3 mm high and wide, stamens 6, filaments strongly inflexed at the apex in bud, anthers oblong, dorsifixed, bifid at base and apex, dehiscent by lateral slits, the locules lacking a sterile central portion; pistillode longer than the stamens in bud, fluted-columnar, expanded into a rounded apex: pistillate flowers in bud 5-6 mm high; sepals 3, broadly imbricate, rounded, about 4 mm high; petals 3, imbricate with briefly valvate apices, about 5 mm high; staminodes 3 dentiform, at one side of the gynoecium; gynoecium pseudomonomerous, ovoid with prominent stigmas recurved at anthesis, unilocular, uniovulate, the ovule pendulous, probably hemianatropous. Fruit excentrically ovoid, with stigmatic residue subapical, brown, drying with a pebbled surface, about 16 mm long, 12-13 mm in diam.; epicarp minutely papil late, hard, about 0.5 mm thick; mesocarp soft, with numerous shining, red, ellipsoid tannin cells and a few pale flat fibers; endocarp fragile, about 14 mm long, highly sculptured with an adaxial ridge and basal operculum framed by lateral flattish areas and with 2 lateral and 2 abaxial irregular crests and a dorsal groove; seed brown, sculptured as the endocarp, about 12 mm long, 7 mm in diam.; endosperm homogeneous; embryo basal. (

Cyphophoenix alba is unusual among New Caledonian palms because of the minutely papillate epidermis of the fruit It is most closely related to Burretiokentia, from which it differs in having essentially symmetrical staminate flowers with a columnar pistillode longer than the stamens in bud and expanded into a capitate apex, anther sacs lacking the characteristic sterile connective like center of Burretiokentia, and the leaf sheath, upper part of trunk, prophyll, and peduncular bract usually white-waxy. The specific epithet is taken from the last characteristic. The previous generic name honors M. Jean-Marie Veillon of O.R.S.T.O.M. at Noumea, a co-collector of the type, whose company in the field has been much enjoyed and whose assistance with palm matters over a period of years is much appreciated. The genus is apparently restricted to the Panie Massif, where it occurs on gneissic or schistose soils.( Editing by edric.


It is best suited to humid, tropical and subtropical climates, but some specimens survived dry climates, and light frosts in Southern California, and it could be tried in warmer Mediterranean climates. Hardiness: USDA zone: 10a. Uncommon in cultivation, Seeds are seldom available, germination is slow and seedling growth needs patience.

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Comments and Curiosities

Cyphophoenix alba was formerly known as Veillonia alba.

External Links


All information translated from the French.

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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