Dypsis onilahensis

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Dypsis (DIP-sis)
At Daryl O'Connors, Gold Coast, Hinterland, Queensland Australia. Photo by Paul Latzias.
Scientific Classification
Genus: Dypsis (DIP-sis)
None set.
Native Continent
Habit: Clustering
Leaf type: Pinnate
Survivability index
Common names
Kindro (Antankarana); Sihara (Bara). Onilahy Palm.

Habitat and Distribution

Endemic to Madagascar. North West and West Madagascar as well as South-Central Madagascar.
Isalo, Madagascar. Photo by Dr. John Dransfield, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew/Palmweb.
Riverine forest, alt. 50-300 m (in the North) or riverine to evergreen forest (remnants) at 750-2400 m (Mountains of the Centre-North; Centre-South). Humbert states the palm is abundant on the rocky banks at flood level of the Analabe River in the north.


D. onilahensis are pinnate, clustering palms, with stems to approximately 30 feet (10 m.) in height, and about 2 - 3 inches (5 - 7.5 cm.) in diameter. Leaves on mature trees are bright green, to 6 feet (2 m.) or more long, with approximately 70 pinnae (leaflets) to 12 inches (30 cm. long).

A clustering palm in tufts of 3-10 (occasionally appearing as solitary, fide Humbert). STEMS 2-20 m high, 2.5-15 cm. in diam. (-30 cm, fide Perrier), distally stepped and ringed; internodes 0.3-20 cm, proximally grey, distally dark green, nodal scars 0.2-0.5 cm, white. LEAVES 5-7 in the crown, gracefully arching to half-pendulous; sheath 18-60 cm, 4.5-6 cm. in diam., open for about one third, abaxially dark grey-green, pale green to pale brown but nearly always with a white waxy bloom, distally reddish-pubescent but glabrescent, adaxially rich red-brown, without or with only slight ligules to 1.5 x 4 mm; petiole absent or up to 40 cm long, proximally 1.2-2.3 x 1-1.5 cm with an adaxial triangular swelling as a sheath lining extension, distally 1.3-1.7 x 0.6-1.6 cm, slightly channelled with sharp edges, glabrous or with reddish scales on both surfaces, dark green with flecks of dark brown; rachis 1-1.8 m long, proximally channelled, in mid-leaf keeled and 0.7-1.7 cm wide, with reddish scales or glabrous; leaflets 42-64 on each side of the rachis, regular, in one plane, opposite leaflets also in one plane (in Isalo) or at an angle of 90° (elsewhere), slightly pendulous, curving or stiff with only the distal part arching, dark green and hardly shiny adaxially, mat and glaucous abaxially, the proximal (22-) 38-106 x 0.2-2 cm (interval up to 19 cm), median 35-75 x 0.8-2.5 cm (interval 0.8-4 cm), distal 8-44 x 0.2-1.9 cm (the distal pair joined for up to 2 cm), main veins 1-5, rather faint with only the midrib adaxially prominent, adaxially with proximal or scattered red-brown rather large (6-30 mm) ramenta on the midrib, otherwise glabrous, apices long- atten-uate, bifid. INFLORESCENCE interfoliar or infrafoliar at anthesis, infrafoliar at the fruiting stage, curved with spreading rachillae, branched to 2 orders (once to 3 orders in Humbert 7025); peduncle 15-78 cm long, usually curving through 180°, proximally 0.6-4 x 0.4- 1.2 cm. in diam., distally 0.9-4 x 0.6-1.5 cm, with scattered scales or glabrous; prophyll 11-87 cm, borne at 3.5-45 cm above the base of the peduncle, 2-6 cm wide with narrow wings to 3 mm wide, split only at the apex for some 3 cm or open for up to 50%, yellow turning pale brown with scattered reddish scales distally; peduncular bract often quickly deciduous (in trees with long peduncles), inserted at 6-42 cm from the base of the peduncle, 18-55 cm long, beaked for 0.5-4 cm, splitting completely (except for the beak), adaxially glabrous and redbrown, abaxially pale green with scattered red-brown laciniate scales; non-tubular peduncular bracts usually two near the peduncle apex, 0.2-2.5 x 0.5 cm; rachis 16-40 cm long, waxy pale green, with 5-15 branched and 8-12 unbranched first order branches, the most proximal with a rachis of up to 7.5 (-26.5 in Humbert 18432) cm and 0.8-1.7 x 0.3-0.5 cm proximally, with 4-12 rachillae; rachis bracts up to 1 cm; rachillae 6-30 cm long, sinuous distally, 1.5-4.5 mm diam., glabrous, with distant triads in slight pits with an acute triangular rachilla bract 1-1.5 mm. STAMINATE FLOWERS creamy green or yellowish, with a sweet or unpleasant smell, with sepals 1.4-2.9 x 1.5-2.8 mm, concave, acute, keeled and gibbous; petals free or connate up to 1 mm, 2.2-4.2 x 1.5-3.4 mm, ovate and concave, acute; stamens 6, uniseriate or very vaguely biseriate (then with 0.1 mm difference in insertion and a callus between the filaments), filaments 1.2-3 mm long and thinly cylindrical, anthers 1.3-2.8 x 0.6-1.3 mm, dorsifixed, versatile, the locules parallel or proximally slightly divergent; pistillode 1-2.3 x 0.4-1.3 mm. PISTILLATE FLOWERS with sepals 2.2-3.1 x 2.2-3.2 mm, rounded; petals 2.5-3.5 x 2.5-4 mm; staminodes 0.3-1 mm; gynoecium 2.8-3.5 x 1.5-2.9 mm. FRUIT yellow, waxy?, ovoid to subglobose, 10-18 x 7-15 mm, the apex rounded; endocarp very fibrous with almost free fibres. SEED black, 9-17 x 6.5- 12 mm, ellipsoid with pointed base and rounded apex, and a small subbasal depression; endosperm homogeneous. EOPHYLL bifid. (J. Dransfield and H. Beentje. 1995)/Palmweb. Editing by edric.


This is a highly adaptable species, and fine specimens can be found growing -- and seeding -- all over the world, from Southern California, to Hawaii, to Florida, to South Africa, to Australia. Cold Hardiness Zone: 10a

A very adaptable species, D. onilahensis will grow in a wide range of climates and soils. Even young plants seem to do best in full sun, though they will also take considerable shade. Though native to dry areas, they appreciate regular irrigation.

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Comments and Curiosities

A handsome, medium-sized clustering palm which would do well in cultivation in the drier tropics. The species name comes from the Onilahy River, south of Toliara. (J. Dransfield and H. Beentje. 1995)/Palmweb.

Conservation: Vulnerable. Though the distribution area is fairly large, the habitat is prone to destruction by fire. Numbers are estimated at less than a thousand. The population in the Isalo National Park is well-protected, but numbers less than a few hundred individuals. (J. Dransfield and H. Beentje. 1995)/Palmweb.

This is a tillering palm, it exhibits saxophone style root growth (it has a heel), keep top third of heel above soil elevation!

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).

Dransfield, J. & Beentje, H. 1995. The Palms of Madagascar. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and The International Palm Society.
Many Special Thanks to Ed Vaile for his long hours of tireless editing and numerous contributions.

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