Dypsis scandens

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Dypsis (DIP-sis)
scandens (SKAHN-dehnz)
Ambinanyndrano, Madagascar. Photo by Dr. John Dransfield, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew/Palmweb.
Scientific Classification
Genus: Dypsis (DIP-sis)
scandens (SKAHN-dehnz)
None set.
Native Continent
Habit: Clustering
Leaf type: Pinnate
Survivability index
Common names
Olokoloka (Tanala).

Habitat and Distribution

Endemic to Madagascar. Ifanadiana area, only known from one site. Low canopy
Ambinanyndrano, Madagascar. Photo by Dr. John Dransfield, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew/Palmweb.
forest with small crowns on poor soils on quartzite ridge; alt. 500 m.


Clustering, climbing palm. STEMS to 8–10 m long, flexible, 7–12 mm in diam., internodes 20–31 cm long, bright green, with scattered dark brown scales, nodal scars about 2 mm wide; sheathed stem about 1.5–1.8 mm in diam. Stems carrying about 15 green leaves and several dead marcescent leaves. LEAF-sheaths 15–30 cm, pale green, smooth, with thin white wax, glabrous, turning dark blackish brown on drying, auricles absent; petiole absent; rachis 1.1–1.45 m, 7 mm wide at the base, triangular in section, tapering to about 1 mm in diam. at the tip; leaflets about 15–18 on each side of the rachis, grouped, lanceolate, long acuminate, mostly strongly reflexed and with a conspicuous basal woody pulvinus, basal leaflets arranged singly, then two distant groups of two leaflets, then mostly singly to the tip, the leaflets dull green, glabrous, turning dirty brown-black on drying, basal leaflets 20 x 0.2 cm, median 24–30 x 3–3.5 cm, distal to 6 x 1.5 cm. INFLORESCENCE, only dead mummified material available, interfoliar, branched to 2 orders; peduncle mostly enclosed by the subtending leaf sheath, 16–45 cm, 7–20 mm wide at the base, 3–10 mm in diam. near the tip; prophyll borne up to 10 cm above the peduncle base, to 15–34 x 1.6–3.1 cm, membranous, somewhat striate, glabrous; peduncular bract only fragments known, about 15 x 1.5 cm, much tattered; rachis 27–40 cm long, bearing about 13–15 first order branches; lowermost branches 12–18 cm, bearing 3–6 rachillae; rachillae about 40–50 in total, 8–12 cm long, about 1.2 mm in diam., triads about 1–3 mm distant. STAMINATE FLOWER rounded; sepals ± rounded, gibbous, keeled, about 0.8 mm in diam., smooth; petals triangular, about 1.5 x 1.5 mm, striate; stamens 6, somewhat biseriate, the antepetalous longer than the antesepalous, filaments 0.3–0.5 mm, anthers elongate about 1 x 0.2 mm, joined to connective throughout their length; pistillode low, conical. PISTILLATE FLOWER with sepals rounded, about 0.8 mm in diam., smooth; petals triangular, striate, 1.8 x 2 mm, enlarging to 2 x 2 mm in fruit, ovary about 1 mm in diam. FRUIT ellipsoid, 8 x 4.5 mm; endosperm homogeneous. (J. Dransfield and H. Beentje. 1995)/Palmweb. Editing by edric.

Unfortunately the type bears only dead inflorescences; however, we found one mummified fruit and several flowers still attached to the inflorescences and this has allowed a rather complete description to be prepared. The climbing habit makes this species instantly identifiable. The leaves have distinctive distant reflexed leaflets that are grossly swollen at the base in the manner of those of D. pinnatifrons and D. nodifera. These reflexed leaflets presumably act, as in Chamaedorea elatior, as grapnels that help to support the long flexible stems. Leaf texture and inflorescence, flower and fruit structure suggest that the relationships of D. scandens are probably with D. jumelleana and related species. (J. Dransfield and H. Beentje. 1995)/Palmweb.


Cold Hardiness Zone: 10a

Comments and Curiosities

This remarkable species is the first climbing palm to be recorded for Madagascar. In habit and texture, it bears an uncanny resemblance to the central American climbing palm, Chamaedorea elatior Mart., so much so that on first finding it in November 1994, we had to examine the inflorescences closely to convince ourselves that the plant was an Arecoid palm rather than a Ceroxyloid. Its discovery, just before the manuscript of this book was completed, emphasises yet again the extraordinary richness of the Madagascar palm flora and how much there may yet be to discover and describe. The species name is Latin for ‘climbing’. (J. Dransfield and H. Beentje. 1995)/Palmweb.

Conservation:Probably endangered if not critical. The forests in this area are not protected, and are under pressure from shifting cultivation. (J. Dransfield and H. Beentje. 1995)/Palmweb.

Uses: Stems harvested for splitting to make fish traps, bird cages and hats. Said to be widespread in the area, but much harvested.

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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