| Jubaeopsis (joo-beh-OHP-sis) |
South Africa. Photo by Dr. M.D. Ferrero/Palmweb.
Habitat and DistributionCape Provinces, and KwaZulu-Natal. Exposed coastal hillsides of Pondoland,
Palm to 5 (–8) m tall. Bark grey, rough, adhering. Stems round, unarmed. Leaves alternate, pinnate, 3–4 m long; petioles 400–600 mm long, hairless. Leaflet blade 250–500 mm long, 8–26 mm wide, linear; apices narrowly pointed; surface glossy; veins hairless; margin without teeth. Inflorescence an axillary, erect panicle. Pedicels 0. Perianth consisting of a calyx and corolla. Flower radially symmetrical. Petals and sepals unequal in size. Calyx of 3 free, triangular, creamy sepals. Corolla of 3 free, ovate, white or creamy to green petals, without markings. Plants with separate male and female flowers, arranged with two males flanking each female. Stamens (7–) 8–16. Ovary superior, 3-locular. Styles 3. Fruit a round, hairless berry 20–40 mm long, 20–42 mm in diameter; rind smooth, leathery, orange. Seeds dark brown. Editing by edric.
Likes a sunny, well drained position, with ground water. Very slow growing. Seeds are difficult to germinate, although more success is being gained by just covering the seeds with moist sphagnum moss.
In view of the limited natural population, which is already threatened by over-exploitation for horticulture, the single most important piece of advice for would-be growers of this palm is DON'T! The tree is protected and there is no legal source of seed. Seedlings are almost certainly raised illegally too, and one should not buy them without written guarantees of permission to possess them.
That said, the tree in the grounds of the KwaZulu-Natal Herbarium makes a very attractive feature of our garden. It evidently likes our warm, moist climate and sandy soil. With the possible exception of the resident weaver birds (see the section on ecology above) and occasional scientists from the University, we have seen no parasites on the tree, and smaller pests and diseases are unknown. It is, however, known that for some reason seeds do not germinate easily, and in experimental plantings in this country germination rates have always been low.
Comments and Curiosities
This is a monotypic genus.
Conservation: IUCN Redlist - Endangered 2009. A multi-stemmed palm confined to the north banks of the Msikaba and Mtentu Rivers on the Transkei coast. Records from the Mzintlava River near Manteku have not been confirmed and it is possible that this sub-population was destroyed by deforestation. The species grows from just above the water level to the tops of steep forested sandstone cliffs, even in the salt spray zone. Reproduction from seed is poor, but plants sucker vigorously. Both localities are declared national monuments and although they are in a designated protected area, there is no management and enforcement to ensure effective protection. This species is traded internationally on a small scale as an ornamental and over exploitation is a potential threat. The miniature coconut fruits are favoured by the local people and baboons. Raimondo et al. (2009) list this palm as Endangered, due to limited distribution and small population size. It is threatened by over-exploitation of the fruits as a food source, and harvesting for the horticultural trade. However it seems that vegetative reproduction is at present maintaining the natural population of adult individuals.
Several young Jubaeopsis caffra in Southern California have experienced an apparent rotting of the crown where the leaf spears arise. As the palms pushed pass the black rotting material it became apparent that whatever trauma was inflicted caused the palms to flower at an extremely young age. In both cases the palms were growing in dry inland areas with high populations of earwigs, which attempt to nest in the open crown. Some have speculated that the waste material of the earwigs caused a bacterial build-up that sat in the crown and promoted the rotting. Both cases occured in summer. (Geoff Stein)
This much talked about but rare South African palm will thrive in warm temperate as well as tropical climates. Related to Jubaea and Butia, it is a suckering coconut look-alike, grows to about 20 feet tall and is suitable for sun and also partial shade. Seeds take their time to sprout but eventually produce a long 'sinker' and should be planted in deep pots in a very well drained mix as soon as they have germinated. Jubaeopsis seeds are rarely collected as the palm is very rare in cultivation and, in the wild, grows on only two very remote sites. (RPS.com)
"Your limiting factor is going to be your short growing season and your Winter lows. Jubaeopsis caffra is hardy to 22-25F only in a dry desert climate where temperatures are below freezing only during the night. Same with dypsis decipiens. I wouldn't get too over-confident because the Pacific Northwest had a mild Winter this year. An average Pacific Northwest cold spell will take these out in a heartbeat.
Three months of high 70's to low 80's isn't going to cut it. Both species are slow as snails in California and need a good long growing season to even be viable. They need a lot of light, 47 N latitude with predominant overcast weather is not going to give you the light needed to get much growth on these plants. They're even borderline palms in parts of the Bay area due to lack of heat.
But nothing is impossible given enough effort, like a year-round greenhouse that's heated at least during your freezes and that gets into the 90's during your sunny days when the sun has a high enough angle." (Dr. Axel Kratel)
"I have both species and they are big palms now with a lot of trunk. Dypsis decipians can probably grow for you, they are quite hardy. Jubaeopsis Caffra is very sensitive, it does not like temperatures below 30F. It will take temperatures lower than that, but the palm will look like crap. It also likes a lot of heat for a long growing season. From what you described I would not bother with Jubaeaopsis Caffra." (Gary T. Le Vine)
"Both these grow well for me at an annual average temperature of 15 c-16 c but are slow. I would be staggered if they could cope with average temperatures of only 10 c and periods of proper cold, that's a massive climate difference. But I have plants doing well which I was advised not to try." (Richard/Richnorm - New Zealand)
"This is one of the sought after palms in Southern California... partly since it is such a difficult plant to germinate (5-10% germination is a good rate), and the plant is so darn slow (trunks take some 15-20 years to form). It is a great palm for So Cal, though, in that it takes a good deal of frost, is fairly wind tolerant, and is very colorful for a palm. It is also one of the few genera that seem to do better here than in Florida. Jubaeopsis is one of the few native palms of South Africa, and is endangered there. It is also one of the few truly branching palms- it suckers from the base, and with age, can form branches above ground." (Geoff Stein)
Derivation of name and historical aspects: It appears that this palm was first noted scientifically in 1898, but the first published account of its unusual characters was by Sim (1907), almost 10 years later. Only in 1913 did someone send specimens to the then leading world expert on palms, Odoardo Beccari, in Florence (Italy). He described it as a new genus, and placed it near Cocos, the genus to which the coconut belongs. The most recent revision (Glassman 1987) accepts this placement essentially unchanged, though it has been confirmed that the nearest living relative of our palm is Jubaea chilensis (Molina) Baill., the Chilean wine palm. These two genera include only one species each.
The name Jubaea commemorates King Juba (d. 46 BC) of Numidia, North Africa. The reason for selecting such a name for a South American palm is obscure. The name of our genus commemorates its resemblance to Jubaea chilensis by adding the Greek suffix -opsis (meaning ‘looks like') to the South American genus name. As late as the early 19th century, the specific epithet meant no more than ‘from south-eastern Africa'. It is mildly surprising to find it used for a new species as late as 1913, by which time it had already begun to acquire the pejorative overtones which have now completely displaced the original and intended meaning.
Ecology: The two palms most heavily used for nesting material by the local weaver birds in the area of Durban around the KwaZulu-Natal herbarium are our Pondo coconut and the wild date (Phoenix reclinata ). For this reason our cultivated tree seldom looks its best.
Williams (1991) notes that the male flowers in each group release their pollen before the female in that group is receptive. In most plants this is an adaptation to ensure outbreeding (so that the plant will usually not fertilise itself). There is no record of how the pollen is transferred to a female flower, though in many palms the flowers emit a scent which attracts a wide variety of insects. Similarly, the animal which carries the seeds from one site to another is unknown, though, as Boon (2010) reports that baboons as well as people eat the seeds, they must be regarded as possible vectors. In nature a significant part of each seed crop falls into the salty water in river estuaries, and it is known that they do not survive such immersion for more than a few minutes.
This palm is one of the trees which provides a perch for the rare epiphyte Dermatobotrys saundersii.
Uses and cultural aspects: As mentioned above under Conservation, the only known uses of this rare palm are as a very local food source and for horticulture. Because of the threat to the continued existence of the species that both of these pose, neither should be encouraged. However, Boon (2010) notes that in California this species has been propagated from a relatively small number of ‘founder' seeds with such success that they can use it as a street tree.
- 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).
Many Special Thanks to Ed Vaile for his long hours of tireless editing and numerous contributions.