| Heterospathe |
Hawaii. Photo by BGL.
Habitat and DistributionFiji. The Navua palm is known only from three small, highly restricted populations
Heterospathe phillipsii occurs as a semi-emergent element in dense evergreen lowland rainforest, on steep well-drained slopes usually above water courses at elevations of 80-300 m. Soils are deeply weathered clays with a low natural fertility. Known from one locality on Viti Levu, 8 km north of Navua in forest that has been selectively logged. This same palm species was originally reported (in 1976) from a separate disjunct area near Naimasimasi Village, Province of Tailevu, some 60 km NE of the extant population. A tree from this disjunct population is presently growing in the garden of Mr R.H. Phillips (Zona 642). The palms in this area could have been destroyed when the area was clear-felled for planting Mahogany (Swietenia macrophylla). A search in 1994 found no trace of the Heterospathe palms (R.H. Phillips, personal communication). (D.Fuller & Dowe. Principes 41: 66 1997)
This is a solitary and generally slender palm that grows up to 15 m in height. The trunk may become quite stout, to 20 cm in diameter but is usually less than 15 cm, and develops a pronounced bulbous base. The fronds are light, feathery and graceful with numerous leaflets; they reach 5 m in length and arch in a curve to below the horizontal and lack a crown shaft. Dead fronds, or frond bases, may persist on the trunk giving it a tattered appearance. When emergent the crown becomes much more compact with 10-12 fronds. The inflorescence is large and wispy, branched to two orders, with small dispersed fruit (a little over 10 mm long) which are bright crimson when mature. (naturefiji.org), Editing by edric.
|Detailed Scientific Description|
Solitary palm to 12 m tall. Trunk erect, to l8 cm diameter breast high, green to brown in upper portion, becoming grey with age in the lower portion, base expanded; leaf scars closely spaced, raised, Leaves 10-12 in a compact crown, to 5 m long, arching to curved below the horizontal, 48-52 pinnae per side, leaf bases not forming a crownshaft; new leaf usually reddish/bronze; petiole 30-50 cm long, green, concave adaxially, convex abaxially, glabrous; rachis ridged adaxially, convex abaxially in lower portion becoming flat in distal portion, glabrous; pinnae lax to semi-pendulous, in one plane, glossy dark green on adaxial surface, paler green on abaxial surface, widely and evenly spaced along rachis, lanceolate, apex acute, midleaf pinnae to 75 cm long, 3.5-4.5 cm wide; midrib prominent adaxially and raised only slightly abaxially; secondaryl ateral ribs 2-3 on either side of midrib, most prominent on adaxial surface, positioned unequally between midrib and marginal rib; ramenta on abaxial midrib sparse, absent from distal one-fourth of pinnae, basifixed. Inflorescence interfoliar, to 1.8 m long, branched to four orders, axes white-cream, all branches straight, major branches angular in cross section, minor branches terete in cross section, bases of branches with prominent pulvini; peduncle to 30 cm long, elliptic in cross section, 2.5 cm wide by 1 cm thick at the base, to 1.5 cm wide by 0.8 cm thick below attachment of first branch; prophyll 50-60 cm long, fully encircling peduncle at attachment, dorsiventrally compressed, marginally winged, persistent, outer surface with numerous punctiform scales, inner surface glabrous, disintegrating to fibrous strands; peduncular bract 1, greatly exserted from apex of prophyll, attached about 5 cm above attachment of prophyll, to 1.8 m long, tubular, fully enclosing inflorescence in bud, apex dorsiventrally spathulate, splitting longitudinally along adaxial surface prior to dehiscence, caducous, outer surface with numerous punctiform scales, inner surface glabrous; rachillae 15-25 cm long, white-cream, terete in cross-section, slightly flexuous, longitudinally striate, sparse brown scales most dense near triads. Flowers in triads in proximal portion, paired or single staminate flowers in distal portion, spirally arranged, sessile, subtended by liplike bracts. Staminate flower white-cream, slightly asymmetric in bud, sepals imbricate to I mm long, petals valvate to 3 mm long, stamens 6, anthers dorsifixed, latrorse, versatile; pistillode to 3 mm long, columnar, tapered toward the apex. Pistillate flower white-cream, symmetrical, to 3 mm long, sepals imbricate, to I.5 mm long, petals imbricate to 3 mm long, stigma trifid, protruding at anthesis. Fruit ellipsoid, to 13 X 7 mm, stigmatic remains prominent, eccentrically apical; epicarp smooth (drying pebbled), red at maturity, mesocarp thin, fibrous, endocarp thin, crustaceous. Seed ellipsoid, attached laterally, to 7 X 4 mm, hilum elongate, extending the length of the seed, raphe branches anastomosing, surfacew ith shallow grooves,e ndosperm shallowly ruminate; embryo basal. Eophyll pinnate. (D.Fuller & Dowe. Principes 41: 66 1997)
Tropical in its requirements.
Comments and Curiosities
Conseraation: proposed as Threatened, the population consists of an estimated 400-500 adult trees in a single population along a 5 km section of logging road. The area has been selectively logged. The land where Heterospathe phillipsii occurs is owned by the Nabukebuke Mataqali (clan) from Nakavu village. The Fiji Department of Forestry has leased most of the palm habitat as part of the NFMPP project for 50 years effective 1 January 1991 (350 ha). Selective logging continues in adjacent rain forest tracts. (D.Fuller & Dowe. Principes 41: 66 1997)
Habitat, Ecology and Behaviour: This endemic palm occurs sparingly in and on the edge of dense lowland rainforest as an understorey, canopy or semi-emergent palm. These forests are some of the wettest in lowland Fiji. Masked Shining Parrots (Prosopeia personata) and Barking Pigeons Ducula latrans have been recorded eating the fruit. (naturefiji.org)
Conservation Status: The late Dick Phillips ensured that this palm is conserved in botanical gardens around the world. However, in Fiji, there is no protected area containing these palms and in the wild, its conservation status is very insecure as it is found in lowland forest areas in the lower Rewa river catchment and most of these forests have already been cleared for alternative use and the remaining area is being steadily cleared for agriculture or pasture. The identification of a population which can be protected is a high priority. (naturefiji.org)
Threats: An Endangered palm. One population of this palm occurs within the Natural Forest Management Project Site at Nakavu and so receives some protection there, however, this cannot be considered a secure long-term reserve. NatureFiji-MareqetiViti with the National Trust for Fiji has begun a project to establish a population of this palm in the Trustâ€™s Garrick Reserve which is located only two km from the Nakavu population but has no Navua palms at all. Currently, 200 palms are being propagated by NatureFiji-MareqetiViti and the University of the South Pacificâ€™s Botanical Gardens staff. These will then be translocated to the Garrick Reserve. The intention of this program is that the planting and maintenance work within the Garrick Reserve be undertaken by student volunteers from USP. (naturefiji.org)
Remarks and Cultural Significance: The late Dick Phillips ensured that this palm is conserved in botanical gardens around the world. However, in Fiji, there is no protected area containing these palms and in the wild, its conservation status is very insecure as it is found in lowland forest areas in the lower Rewa river catchment and most of these forests have already been cleared for alternative use and the remaining area is being steadily cleared for agriculture or pasture. The identification of a population which can be protected is a high priority. (naturefiji.org)
Etymology: Named for Richard (Dick) H. Phillips, horticulturist and amateur botanist, who had been active for many decades in collecting and growing Fiji palms.
Uses: The palm heart is edible, and the immature seeds are eaten; they are reported to taste like coconut.
A very rare, slender, mid-sized palm to about 12 m (40 ft.) tall, with a smooth, solitary trunk and a compact crown of fairly flat, beautifully arching, glossy green leaves. The new leaves are an attractive reddish bronze color. It is native to Fiji, where a single population persists in the southern part of the island of Viti Levu in selectively logged, dense lowland rainforest on steep slopes. Largely unknown in cultivation outside of Fiji, it will adapt well to any humid, tropical climate. (RPS.com), edric.
Very rare and endangered palm from Fiji... where it's nearly extinct. Has the best looking crown of the genus with perfectly shaped, drooping leaflets. Relatively fast grower but very tropical in its needs. (Geoff Stein)
- Glossary of Palm Terms
- MODERN BOTANICAL LATIN
- "Just To Be Clear"
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).
Dowe, J.L. ENl P. Cesalron. 1996. A taxonomic account of Arecaceae in Vanuatu, with descriptions of three new species. Australian Systematic Botany 9: l-60.
D.Fuller & Dowe. Principes 41: 66 1997.
Many Special Thanks to Ed Vaile for his long hours of tireless editing and numerous contributions.