Dypsis madagascariensis

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Dypsis (DIP-sis)
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Donald Sanders's Garden, Hawaii. Photo by Jason Dewees.
Scientific Classification
Genus: Dypsis (DIP-sis)
None set.
Native Continent
Habit: Some variations may cluster.
Leaf type: Pinnate
Survivability index
Common names
Lucuba palm.

Habitat and Distribution

Native to the forest of Lucuba (or Lokobe) on the island of Nossi-Bé, off the northwestern
Dypsis madagascariensis var. 'Mahajanga' Pomano Beach, FL. Photo by John Doughten.
coast of Madagascar. Not known in habitat on mainland Madagascar.


A solitary, or frequently clustering palm with a light green to grey stem, the pinnate leaves are arranged in vertical rows. The pinnae are arranged in two rows thus giving a fluffy appearance to the leaf. The fruit is 1.5 cm long, black at maturity.

"Solitary or clustering; trunk to 30 feet tall, gray. Fronds ±plumose, in loose, 3-sided spiral, without complete crownshaft; leaflets clustered, attached at different angles on rachis. Fruit 0.75 inches long, purplish, glaucous; endosperm plain" (Staples & Herbst, 2005; p. 622).

"Elegant solitary or clustering palm in tufts of 2-4. Trunk 2-18 m tall, 7-20 cm in diameter; internodes (0.5-) 5-12 cm long, green weathering to grey, nodal scars (0.2-) 1,5-2.5 cm; wood very hard because of an outer layer of tough fibres; crownshaft green, white-waxy, 8-20 cm in diameter. Leaves 7-12 in the crown, tristichous, correct and arching distally; sheath 75% to completely open in the outermost leaves, (27-) 40-63 cm (to 70 cm in young trees), adaxially orange, abaxially green with white waxy overlay, proximally glabrous, distally with scattered reddish scales, with irregular ligules varying from rounded shoulders to small but distinct triangular processes to 3.5 mm high, and sometimes ciliate with brown hairs; petiole 12-40 cm long (to 50 cm in young trees), 1.3-5 x 1.8-3.5 cm in diameter, channelled with sharp edges, abaxially with red-brown omentum but glabrescent, waxy; rachis 1.6-3.1 m long, proximally channeled, waxy and with vestiges of reddish pubescence, in mid-leaf keeled, 0.7-2 x 0.4-1.5 cm and glabrous or nearly so; leaflets (30-) 88-126 (-177) on each side of the rachis, in groups of 2-6, fanned within the groups, the groups 0.5-45 cm distant, the leaflets with their distal part drooping, the proximal 59-118 x 0.5-1.5 cm, the median 47-95 x 1.2-2.2 (-32) cm (interval within the groups 0.3-0.5 cm), the distal 5.5-39 x 0.5-1.8 (-2.6) cm, mid-green, abaxially waxy-pale green, main veins 1, the others very faint, proximally on the abaxial midrib with a few tufts of laciniate red-brown ramenta to 14 mm long, caducous in old leaves, otherwise glabrous or with scattered red glands on the minor veins, apices acute, unequally bifid. Inflorescence interfoliar, branched to 3 orders (rarely to 4 orders), 1-1.5 m long, c. 1 m wide, arching with spreading rachillae; peduncle 52-60 cm long, proximally 5-7 x 3-3.5 cm, distally 1.5-5 x 1-3 cm in diameter, reddish-tomentose to tomentellous but glabrescent and then green; prophyll 35-61 cm, borne at 3-6 cm above the base of the peduncle, 4-8 cm wide, coriaceous, densely pubescent to glabrous; peduncular bract inserted at 14-23 cm from the base of the peduncle, 53-81 cm long, closed for 3-9 cm distally, beaked for 3-.5 cm, white-waxy, with large laciniate reddish scales but glabrescent, abscising and carried upwards by the lengthening inflorescence; open peduncular bract about 1 cm high, 3.5 cm wide; rachis 62-96 cm long, with flaking reddish pubescence, with 5-22 branched and 8-9 unbranched first order branches, the proximal of these proximally 0.9-3 x 0.4-1.2 cm in diameter, subtended by a bract 0.5-1.8 (6.2) cm high; rachillae 10-40 cm, 2-4 mm in diameter, green with some traces of reddish scales, with distant to quite densely set triads in shallow pits. Saminate flowers yellow-greeen with sepals 1.5-1.6 x 1.3-1.8 mm, keeled, basally gibbous, membranous apart from the keel, hooded distally; petals connate to the receptacle for 0.6-1.2 mm, the free lobes 1.8-2.3 x 2-2.4 mm, ovate, acute, proximally on the adaxial side with a swelling on each side of the filament insertion; stamens 6, in 1 series, though the antepetalous slightly wideer at the base, filaments connate at the base for 0.3-0.4 mm, 2.2-2.7 mm long, anthers 1.5-1.7 x 0.6-0.7 mm, dorsifixed, versatile; pistillode columnar, 1.3-2.3 x 0.9-1 mm. Pistillat flowers with sepals 1.9-2.3 x 1.8-2.4 mm, orbicular, concave, apiculate, not membranous; petals connate with the receptacle for 0.4 mm, 2.3-2.5 x 1.8-2.8 mm, orbicular, concave, apiculate; staminodes 0.3-0.4 mm, flat dentiform; ovary 2.3-2.8 mm high, asymmetrical, 1.9-2.2 mm in diameter. Fruit green turning purplish with waxy bloom, slightly obovoid or ellipsoid, 10-16 x 5-10 mm, pointed at the base or rounded at both base and apex. Seed narrowly ellipsoid, pointed at base, rounded at apex, 9-12 x 5-6 mm, endosperm homogeneous. Eophyll bifid" (Staples & Herbst, 2005; p. 622) Editing by edric.


Habitat/ecology: "Tolerant of dry conditions but appreciates deep, rich soil, plenty of water, and full to filtered sun. It can tolerate some salt exposure" (Staples & Herbst, 2005; p. 622). Cold Hardiness Zone: 10a

Propagation: Seed. "The small fleshy fruits (about 1 cm in diameter) might be dispersed over long distances by frugivorous birds" (Meyer, Lavergne & Hodel, 2008; p. 75).

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Comments and Curiosities

D. madagascariensis is, for at least a couple of reasons, an excellent palm for southern Florida. First, because part of its extensive range in the northwestern quadrant of Madagascar brings it next to the seashore, it is unfazed by salt air. Second, it reaches into drier forest than most other species in the genus, enabling it to thrive in our region without supplemental irrigation. It has both solitary and clumping forms; the specific or varietal name lucubensis that once was applied to the solitary form is no longer considered valid. Stem height ranges from 6½ to just under 60 ft., and diameter from 2¾ to about 8 in. The hard outer wood of D. madagascariensis is commonly used for floorboards in housing. Because its vast native range takes it into both dry and moist climates, its IUCN Red List conservation status is Least Concern, with a stable population trend. (fairchildgarden.org)

A superb, medium-sized, solitary or clustering Madagascan palm that produces a prominently ringed trunk and plumose leaves. It is a tropical beauty that appreciates a sunny or partly shady place in the tropical, subtropical, or warm temperate garden and does well even in drier areas or near the coast. It is also useful as an attractive palm for indoor use. (RPS.com)

Dypsis madagascariensis var. 'Mahajanga' A superb, medium sized, solitary or clustering palm that produces a prominently ringed trunk and plumose leaves. It is a tropical beauty which appreciates a sunny or partly shady place in the tropical or subtropical/warm temperate garden and does well even in drier areas or near the coast. It is also useful as an attractive palm for indoor use. The form from Mahajanga area on Madagascar has a particularly neat and compact habit. (RPS.com)

There are a couple of well known horticultural varieties of this species.

The solitary form was previously known as Dypsis lucubensis (Figure 2) although it could occasionally have 2 trunks.

And there is the variety 'Diego' (Figure 3) (which refers to the area it was collected from) which is typically smaller than the standard form. It has a whitish colouring on the main stems and up into the crownshaft, and it holds it's leaflets erect where all the other forms always have the ends of the leaflet drooping.

External Links


Phonetic spelling of Latin names by edric.

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

Special thanks to Palmweb.org, 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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