| Hydriastele (high-dree-Ah-STEL-eh) |
Boca Raton, Florida. Photo by Randy.
Habitat and DistributionQueensland Australia, Northern Territory Australia. The Florence Falls Palm comes
This beautiful palm produces dense clusters of thin, cane-like, stems up to 20 metres tall. The leaves are broadly pinnate, with a large, fishtail shaped pair of leaflets at the premorse leaf tip. Showy red fruits are produced on short, string-like fruit stalks below the crown. Editing by edric.
A most attractive palm for the humid tropical garden where established plants give protection, for a conservatory or hothouse and for indoors. However, Hydriastele wendlandiana must be protected indoors from air condition, fans and breezes.
"This species has performed well here in Vero Beach, zone 10a. This particular plant is growing near the ocean, which affords it some marine influence. It is likely that this palm has taken lows to the low thirties during its stay in Vero over the last fifteen years. It is now a good source for seed for local palmies."
"This palm has the frustrating habit of fruiting heaviest when access roads are impassable in the wet season. Very fresh seed is needed, pre-soaked for a week before de-fleshing and planting in shallow trays, germinating is six to twelve months. Small bifid seedlings are slow growing and prone to attacks of fungus. They do best in a humid atmosphere, heavy shade, and lightly fertilized. After approximately three years a 1m main stem with 2 or 3 basal suckers is ready to be planted in a sheltered position. Hydriastele wendlandiana can be moved if necessary, quite large specimens transplanting well. Cultivated and irrigated specimens fruit throughout the year." (Alan White)
Comments and Curiosities
The type of Hydriastele douglasiana F. M. Bailey was collected for Bailey by Jardine, but the material marked as the type in Brisbane is labelled as F. M. Bailey 18. Further examination of the material in Brisbane is required to confirm that the two alternative citations represent the same collection. (W.J. Baker and A.H.B. Loo. 2004)/Palmweb.
"There seems to be no common name for this palm, possibly because it is not well known, and occurs only in fairly small areas in the tropics of Queensland and the Northern Territory. I have been told that it was at one stage confused with Ptychosperma macarthurii, which grows naturally in a somewhat similar geographic area. As a result, Hydriastele wendlandiana was for many years known in the United States as P. macarthurii.
The natural growth area for H. wendlandiana is in swampy or frequently inundated areas beside creeks and rivers. The genus name alludes to this, since, according to J.A. Baines, the name is derived from the Greek words meaning water and a column. The species name is in honour of the botanist, Hermann Wendland, who, with Drude, first described the plant. About 15 years ago I bought a potted Hydriastele from a nursery in the Mission Beach area and was told that it was a Black Palm. Back then, Alexandra and Fan palms were about all I could identify. For both the nurseryman and myself to class Hydriastele as a Black palm indicated the depth of ignorance of which we were both guilty.
Nevertheless, I fortunately planted it in just the right place - beside a wet season creek in my back yard, in light shade from young rainforest regrowth. It sat still for a few years, and then grew only very slowly. It eventually got going and is presently a very handsome mature palm with many brightly coloured fruit.
In the meantime, I found that it was quite plentiful in my area, though I still believed it to be a Black Palm. The penny finally dropped when I became more interested in, and thus more knowledgable about palms in general, and bought some reference books.
This experience demonstrates the perils of relying on hearsay use of common names to depict a particular plant simply because it is too difficult to learn the hard name. I suspect that some people think that I am bunging it on when I prefer to use botanical names instead of common ones, but then we all have friends or acquaintances with unusual names. We readily learn to use these; so why continue with baby names for our own Aussie plants?
The Hydriastele is a very attractive palm. There is just one species native to Australia. It is a multi-trunked feather palm. Almost always one trunk is dominant, with a second one about half its length, and the remaining two to five quite short. Trunks are tall and thin - up to 25 metres high, but on more than 10cm in diameter, usually much less. The flowers are borne in short spreading clusters high on the main trunk, and are very pretty, fluffy white to cream in colour. The fruit is a distinctive flattened-roundish shape, red to dark orange in colour.
I was told by an enthusiast that fruit picked from a tree will not germinate, since they need the action of dropping from a height to initiate germination. He said that he placed a sheet of iron beneath a chosen tree and the fall of the fruit, combined with the sharp impact, guaranteed germination would occur, always exactly 365 days - just one year - from the date of falling. Whether or not this is correct, I've never troubled to find out, since there are always plenty of seedlings beneath a mature tree.
These young seedlings transplant readily if they are dug carefully. Potted into a standard potting mix and given regular water and fertilizer, they grow slowly and irregularly. I have found that most seedlings are ready to be planted out in about a year from the tine of collection.
If larger seedlings are fug from beneath a parent tree, they do not prosper, in my experience, but sit and sulk for several years before putting on any growth. Thus, it is better to take tiny seedlings and leave established plants alone.
In my area, Hydriastele grow along the Russell River, south of Cairns, and in swampy or wet weather inundated areas adjacent to the Russell and Mulgrave Rivers and their tributary creeks. The river bank palms co-exist with many Alexandra palms and, like them, they tend to grow very tall and thin. The banks are densely crowded with vegetation; so the palm trunks grow almost horizontally out over the water. Then, when they have reached the light, they become upright and display a small crown of leaves.
The growth requirements of Hydriasteles - water, heat, shaded roots, but sunshine on the leaves - would make them difficult to grow outside the tropics, but in warmer climates they are very attractive. They' be a good nursery line, but are rarely seen. Perhaps the long lead tine from seed to commercial plant may be prohibitive to nursery profitability." (Don Lawie)
- Glossary of Palm Terms
- MODERN BOTANICAL LATIN
- "Just To Be Clear"
- Click on Arecaceae in the index
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).
Baker, W.J. & Loo, A.H.B. 2004. A synopsis of the genus Hydriastele (Arecaceae). Kew Bulletin, Vol. 59, No. 1, pp. 61-68.
Many Special Thanks to Ed Vaile for his long hours of tireless editing and numerous contributions.