Dypsis serpentina

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Dypsis (DIP-sis)
serpentina (ser-pen-TEEN-ah)
Mananara Avaratra, Antanambe, Madagascar. Photo by Dr. John Dransfield, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew/Palmweb.
Scientific Classification
Genus: Dypsis (DIP-sis)
serpentina (ser-pen-TEEN-ah)
None set.
Native Continent
Habit: Clustering
Leaf type: Pinnate
Survivability index
Common names

Habitat and Distribution

Endemic to Madagascar. Only known from the Mananara Biosphere Reserve. Lowland rain
Analanjirofo, Toamasina, Madagascar. Photo by Dr. Mijoro Rakotoarinivo.
forest; may form thickets on steep mid slopes or in heath-like forest on ridgetops, with Satranala and Pandanus on very thick humus layer on ultramafic soil; Alt. 240-280 m.


Solitary or clustering, a rather floppy palm. STEMS 5-6 m. high, 3-4 cm. in diam., starting vertical, then leaning over with almost horizontal part, the apex again vertical; nearly all stems seen branched twice or more, with the branches closely parallel; internodes distally 1-8.5 cm, glabrous, proximally corky, cracked vertically with lenticels, dull grey-brown, the upper branches green; nodal scars 0.8-1.2 cm, brown. LEAVES about 6 in the crown, spirally inserted; sheath 21-26 cm long, green with a white bloom, with a few scattered scales distally; petiole 43-75 cm long, distally 2-3 mm wide, with scattered scales; rachis 50-120 cm long, in mid-leaf 0.2-0.3 cm wide; leaflets 7-17 on each side of the rachis, irregular or in groups, the group interval 4-9 cm, proximal leaflets 40-70 x 2.4-3.5 cm, median 25-46 x 1-1.6 cm, distal 13-20 x 0.7-1.7 cm, main veins 1-2 (distal 2-3), but in multifold leaflets 3-5, few ramenta, otherwise glabrous, some sinuous transverse veins, distal leaflets connate for about 2 cm, dentate over a width of about 2 mm, distal pair joined for about 0.6 cm. INFLORESCENCE infrafoliar, branched to 1 order, recurved; peduncle 8-10 cm long, distally 0.4-0.5 x 0.3-0.5 cm. in diam., stel-late-scaly; prophyll 12-18 cm long, 1.5-2 cm wide, borne at 2-3 cm above the base of the peduncle; peduncular bract inserted at 5-7 cm from the base of the peduncle, 7-12.5 cm long; rachis 2.5-3 cm long, with scattered stellate scales, with 5-7 branches; rachillae 4-8 cm long, 1-2 mm. in diam., with scattered scales; triads distally distichous. STAMINATE FLOWERS with sepals 1.9-2 x 1.5-1.8 mm, the innermost the widest; petals in young bud about 1.8 x 1.3 mm; stamens 6, uniseriate?, filaments in bud 0.3 mm, anthers 0.6-0.8 x 0.3 mm; pistillode about 0.8 x 0.2 mm. PISTILLATE FLOWERS with sepals 3-3.2 x 2.6-3.3 mm; petals 3.5-4 x 2.8-3.2 mm; staminodes 0.8-1 mm; gynoecium about 4.2 x 2 mm. FRUIT purplish-tinged, ovoid, 12-14 x 9-10 mm. SEED about 11 x 8.5 mm, endosperm ruminate, the ruminations 1-2.5 mm deep, distant, embryo lateral near the base. (J. Dransfield and H. Beentje. 1995)/Palmweb. Editing by edric.

Related to D. andrianatonga and D. baronii.


Comments and Curiosities

In its habit this is a most unusual and curious, rather than beautiful species.The stems appear to flop over under their own weight, and branch, the branches being of smaller diameter than the axes below the branching point. In this way the plant develops into a thicket of aerial stems that flop about the surrounding vegetation. Not strictly a climber, this palm is nevertheless scarcely self-supporting. The name reflects the habit of the palm: snaking through the undergrowth, and also alludes to the soil type, although it grows on ultramafic soils rather than true serpentine ones. (J. Dransfield and H. Beentje. 1995)./Palmweb.

Conservation: Vulnerable. Single-site status, but is fairly abundant in this site, which is protected. (J. Dransfield and H. Beentje. 1995)./Palmweb.

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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