Dypsis crinita

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Dypsis (DIP-sis)
crinita (krih-NEET-ah)
Ambatovaky, Madagascar. Photo by Dr. William J. Baker, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew/Palmweb.
Scientific Classification
Genus: Dypsis (DIP-sis)
crinita (krih-NEET-ah)
None set.
Native Continent
Habit: Clustering
Leaf type: Pinnate
Survivability index
Common names
Vonitra (general).

Habitat and Distribution

Endemic to Northwest and Northeast Madagascar: Manongarivo, Masoala Peninsula and Mananara
Antalavia, Masoala, Madagascar. Photo by Dr. John Dransfield, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew/Palmweb.
Biosphere Reserve. Streamsides; alt. 200-250 m; may grow as a rheophyte.


Clustering palm in tufts of 2-4. TRUNK 4-15 m high, usually branched 2-3 times, rarely unbranched, grey, conspicuously ringed, 12-20 cm (Perrier: to 35 cm) in diam., slightly inflated at the base, about 10 cm in diam. near the crown, distally covered in sheath fibers; internodes 2-3 cm, nodal scars 0.5 cm; wood pink, rather soft. LEAVES 12-15 in each crown, arching, held on edge in the distal half; sheath 54-56 cm long, proximally c. 5 cm wide, with very fibrous margins, red-brown tomentose, the tongue opposite the petiole said by Perrier to be very long; petiole 90-100 cm long, proximally about 2 x 1.3 cm in diam., distally 1.2-2 x 0.6-1 cm, channelled with sharp edges, abaxially with patches of red hairs; rachis 2-3 m long, in mid-leaf 0.6-0.9 x 0.5 cm in diam., strongly keeled; leaflets regular, 51- 60 on each side of the rachis, bright green, stiff, slightly sigmoid, the proximal 53-78 x 0.7-1.8 cm, the median 54-75 x 2.3-3 cm, distal 11-32 x 1.2-2.7 cm, the terminal pair joined for c. 4 cm and toothed at the apex, main veins 5-7, prominent adaxially, few large red-brown ramenta on abaxial midrib, apices attenuate. INFLORESCENCE interfoliar, among the fibrous mass, many per tree, erect, branched to 2 orders; peduncle 126-180 cm long, proximally about 2.5 cm in diam., distally 2.2 cm in diam., with reddish laciniate scales, glabrescent; prophyll 52- 59 cm long, 3.7 cm wide; peduncular bract inserted at c. 15 cm from the base of the peduncle, c. 200 cm long, beaked for 7-11 cm, abscising and carried upwards by the lengthening inflorescence; rachis about 40 cm long, with about 10 branched and 10 unbranched first order branches, these with bulbous bases and more distally 6 x 2.5 mm in diam.; rachillae pendulous, very many, 45-64 cm long, 2-3 mm in diam., with many small stellate scales; triads spaced, more distally replaced by pairs. STAMINATE FLOWERS with sepals very unequal, the outermost smallest, keeled, hooded, proximally gibbous, 2-2.3 x 2.5-3.5 mm, with minute fringe of hairs on margins; petals purplish at anthesis, equal, ovate, acute, about 2.5 x 1.8 mm; stamens biseriate, filaments 1.3-1.5 mm, anthers 0.3-0.5 mm, basifixed; pistillode about 1.5 mm, bottleshaped. PISTILLATE FLOWERS with sepals unequal, hooded, keeled, 1.8-2.8 x 4-6 mm, imbricate; petals imbricate, orbicular, rounded, 3.5- 3.8 x 4-6 mm, the innermost enveloping the gynoecium for 270°; ovary about 3.5 x 3.3 mm, asymmetrical; staminodes 6, flat, tooth-shaped, 0.5-1 mm high. FRUIT slightly ovoid, green turning purple-black, 20-24 x 17-18 mm; endocarp fibrous. SEED 15-17 x 11-13 mm; endosperm with dense deep ruminations reaching the centre of the seed. (J. Dransfield and H. Beentje. 1995)/Palmweb. Editing by edric.

No specimens were mentioned in the protologue; the species was said to grow at 200 m in the Manongarivo. Beccari studied a sheet of the species given to him by Jumelle, and says (Beccari 1910) that it came from Ananalave in Manongarivo. Jumelle and Perrier (1913) suddenly state the altitude as 1,200 m, and this altitude is repeated in Jumelle (1927a), which also cites Perrier 10052 as the sole specimen; Jumelle and Perrier (1945) repeats the altitude, and the specimen is again cited, but is now said to have come from the Ampasimena Peninsula at the W base of Manongarivo. This conforms to a sheet in Paris, Perrier 12052, which agrees with the description. To the west of Manongarivo there is the Ampasindava Peninsula, with a small headland called Ampasimena; in the peninsula the altitude does not rise above 800 meters. (J. Dransfield and H. Beentje. 1995)/Palmweb.


Cold Hardiness Zone: 10a

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Comments and Curiosities

A This is one of the commonest palms of valley bottoms of rain forests in the lowlands of north and north-east Madagascar. It is particularly abundant as a riverside tree along the fast-flowing rocky rivers that flow out into the Bay of Antongil. It is a robust palm, immediately distinguishable by its tall, dichotomously branched trunks, abundant piassava (leaf sheath fibre), liver-coloured young leaves and long inflorescences, branched to two orders, usually with many inflorescences in each crown. Seedlings of this species must frequently be submerged by flood water, and in this respect behave as rheophytes, although when the trees are mature, the crowns tower well above the water level. In deep humid valleys, this palm can often be found in large numbers, adding a very special beauty to the riverside scenery. An epiphytic orchid (Eulophiella) can often be found growing in the piassava of big old plants of D. crinita. It seems likely that this palm is in cultivation, as it is easily accessible to seed collectors and produces large quantities of fruit, but we know of no critically identified plants in collections. The name means 'with tufts of long hairs', presumably a reference to the leaf sheath fibre. (J. Dransfield and H. Beentje. 1995)/Palmweb.

D. crinita possesses a growth habit rare in palms: It is simultaneously clustering and branching. Moreover, it is quite ornamental. Because its upper stems are covered with fibers, known as piassava, which emanate from leaf sheaths, it can be thought of as Madagascar’s Old Man Palm – if you somehow overlook the fact that it’s pinnate. Natively, it grows close enough to fast-moving streams to qualify, at least at the juvenile stage, as a rheophyte. Consequently, when raised in cultivation, its moisture requirements should not be ignored. D. crinita can be grown in the ground in southern Florida, but its branched bearded trunks can also be shown off to great effect in a decorative container. In the wild, mature stem height is 13 to 49 ft., with a diameter of 5 to 8 in. Newly-opened leaves are reddish-brown – some say liver-colored – but variations in hue may be influenced by soil types. Numerous branched inflorescences produce purple-black fruit. Its IUCN Red List conservation status is Near Threatened, with an unknown population trend. (fairchildgarden.org)

Conservation: Somewhat rare, and fairly restricted in distribution, though numbers are in the thousands rather than hundreds.

Uses: Heartwood used against children's cough (Manongarivo), piassava used as an oil filter (Manongarivo)(J. Dransfield and H. Beentje. 1995)/Palmweb.

A fast growing, midsized palm to 15 m (50 ft.) tall that inhabits the sides of small rocky streams and rivers in rainforests in the north of Madagascar. Its slender, branching trunks, thickly clothed in abundant piassava leaf sheath fibers, and the beautiful reddish emergent new leaves give it a unique charm. It is best suited to humid locations in the tropical or warm subtropical garden. (RPS.com)

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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