Dypsis prestoniana

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Dypsis (DIP-sis)
Palm Beach County, FL. Photo by Randy Wiesner
Scientific Classification
Genus: Dypsis (DIP-sis)
None set.
Native Continent
Habit: Solitary
Leaf type: Pinnate
Survivability index
Common names
Tavilo (Betsimisaraka); Babovavy, Tavilo (Antaisaka).

Habitat and Distribution

Madagascar. Only known from the Midongy area; an old collection from Mahanoro.
Photo by Jeff Marcus, Madagascar.
Moist forest; slight slope; clay soils derived from laterite; alt. 50-550 m.


Solitary palm. TRUNK 4-12 m. high, 24-40 cm. in diam.; basal boss about 15 cm high, 40 cm. in diam.; internodes 10-15 cm, pale grey-brown, distally green and smooth; nodal scars c. 3.5 cm, pale grey. LEAVES 8-10 in the crown, spiral, porrect to spreading, arched gracefully in the distal part; sheath 90% open, green to pale brown or grey, with waxy covering, with flaking brown tomentum of peltate scales, about 114 x 28 cm, with distinct rounded shoulders, the sheath in cross-section slightly triangular with thick middle section and thin flat margins; petiole 0-17 cm, about 7 x 6 cm. in diam., deeply channelled; rachis about 4.4 m, channelled in its proximal part (channel 6 cm wide near petiole) but in mid leaf about 3.5 x 3 cm. in diam., with slightly sunken circular waxy scales; pinnae about 164 on each side of the rachis, grouped and fanned within the groups, the groups 3-9 in number, dense and irregular, about 4 cm apart, the individual pinnae 0.3-2 cm apart, the proximal 76 -123 x 1-2.5 cm, the most proximal often with long pendulous reins, median 97-112 x 2.7-4.7 cm, distal 17-50 x 1.3-2.6 cm, main veins 3, plus very thickened margins, abaxially glaucous with white wax, as well as with dense patches of large (- 8 mm) red-brown ramenta on the midrib near the base, pinnae apices unequally bifid and acute. INFLORESCENCE interfoliar, erect with spreading or recurved branches, branched to 3 orders, about 226 x 90 cm; peduncle about 118 cm long, 12 x 4 cm. in diam. proximally, 8 x 4.5 cm. in diam. distally, yellow with brown scales, turning green with redbrown scales; A prophyll about 60 x 20 cm (to 1.2 m, fide Perrier), woody, densely scaly, slightly beaked, only opening near the apex; peduncular bract deciduous (inserted at 55 cm), the distal portion seen with white wax and minute peltate scales, probably beaked; non-sheathing peduncular bract at 91 cm (4.5-5 cm high, base around peduncle), at 105 cm (3.5 cm high, 9 cm wide), at 110 cm (1 x 9 cm); rachis about 106 cm, densely puberulous, with about 26 branched and 8 unbranched first order branches; main first order branches with a rachis of up to 42 cm, proximally up to 4 x 1.5 cm. in diam., with up to 12 branched and 9 unbranched secondary branches; rachillae 9-42 cm, densely puberulous, 2.5-4 mm. in diam., whitish or pale yellow; triads dense, set in slight pits subtended by entire, rounded bracts. STAMINATE FLOWERS in bud with sepals 1.2-1.3 x 1.2-1.3 mm; petals 1.5-1.8 x 1.3-1.4 mm; stamens 6, 1-seriate, with filaments about 1 mm and narrowly cylindrical, anthers 1-1.2 x 0.4 mm with parallel locules, versatile and dorsifixed; pistillode about 0.8 x 0.3 mm. PISTILLATE FLOWERS with sepals 1.5-2.2 x 1.6-2.4 mm, concave, orbicular, rounded, minutely ciliolate; petals 2-2.6 x 2.1-2.8 mm, broadly obovate with a small apiculus; staminodes 6, 0.4-1 mm high, thin and flat; ovary about 2.5 x 1.8 mm, asymmetrical. FRUIT ellipsoid with rounded apex, 12-15 x 6-8 mm, orange; endocarp fibrous. SEED narrowly ellipsoid, 11-12 x 5-5.5 mm, acute at base, rounded at apex, with homogeneous endosperm with slight marginal undulations. (J. Dransfield and H. Beentje. 1995)/Palmweb. Editing by edric.

Quite distinct from other large solitary species with grouped pinnae by its long and interfoliar inflorescence with densely puberulous rachillae, and homogeneous endosperm. (J. Dransfield and H. Beentje. 1995)/Palmweb.


Cold Hardiness Zome: 9b, Keep high and dry, plant in 30% min. lava rock, mix red and black lava together, in pot or in ground, in ground, plant in mounded up planter with rocks, several inches high, in full sun CA. half a day sun in FL., use shade cloth the first year, must dry out in between waterings, trees with a heel will pull themselves down into the soil, hence the need to mound with rocks, for in a few short years you will be removing some rocks, to keep grade with the heel of the palm, as it pulls itself ever deeper into the ground.

PFC for PP.png

Comments and Curiosities

Etymology: The specific epithet honours Mr. Paul Preston, President of McDonald's Restaurants Limited (UK), who sponsored the four-year Palms of Madagascar fellowship.

A species which was discovered through serendipity: HB was trying to refind Chrysalidocarpus midongensis (now a synonym of D. onilahensis), unaware that that taxon came from a totally different Midongy (a small hamlet in the Itremo Mountains), failed to find it, but spotted this elegant tree on the skyline of a hill. (J. Dransfield and H. Beentje. 1995)/Palmweb.

Conservation: Vulnerable. At present only known from the Midongy area, where numbers do not exceed two hundred. None occurs in a protected area. HB has visited the Mahanoro area, which is nowadays devoid of palm trees. (J. Dransfield and H. Beentje. 1995)/Palmweb.

Uses: Palm-heart edible.

D. prestoniana is the species named for Paul Preston, who as president of McDonald’s Restaurants in the United Kingdom sponsored Dr. John Dransfield’s four-year Madagascar palm project beginning in 1990. The palm was discovered quite by accident by Dr. Henk Beentje in 1992, and even then numbered no more than a couple of hundred plants. In its moist forest habitat, this single-trunked palm reaches 13 to 39 ft. in height and up to 16 in. in diameter. It sports a crown of 8 to 10 graceful leaves with irregularly-spaced leaflets. Its upright infructescence produces a prodigious number of orange fruits. D. prestoniana is best grown in southern Florida in a container. Its IUCN Red List conservation status is Vulnerable, with a decreasing population trend. (fairchildgarden.org)

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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