Lytocaryum weddellianum

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Lytocaryum (ligh-toh-KAR-yuhm)
Scientific Classification
Genus: Lytocaryum (ligh-toh-KAR-yuhm)
Microcoelum weddellianum, Syagrus insignis (Old names)
Native Continent
Habit: Solitary
Leaf type: Pinnate
Survivability index
Common names
toledo, palmeira-de-Petrópolis, icá. Weddell's Fan Palm, Miniature Coconut Palm

Habitat and Distribution

Brazil - São Paulo, on the Atlantic plateau. In southern Brazil, L.
Province of Chaco in Argentina. Photo by Jose A. Grassia
weddellianum is found on Brazil's southeastern coast where development has also caused it to become endangered. It grows in rain forest to 800 m in elevation; This palm originates in South America, though the exact location is unknown. It grows naturally in the rainforests of Brazil. It is a medium altitude palm, growing in altitudes of 50–800 m (160–2,600 ft). It thrives in the humid shade of the Brazilian rainforests. Originally, the palm was placed in the same species as the coconut palm, under the name Cocos weddelliana, before moving to the queen palm genus, Syagrus, and finally moving to its own genus, Lytocaryum.


Solitary, pinnate palm. Height up to 3.0m. The palm has a small stature, in rare cases, this palm can grow to 10 feet, with a trunk reaching a diameter of about 2". The leaves can eventually become about 90cm (35 inch) long and 22cm (9 inch) wide, the shiny, dark green fronds, which are divided into many pinnae (or leaflets) spread out from a very short thickened base. Each frond, carries on a petiole 20-30cm (8-12 inches) long, has a rachis covered with black scales. There are 20 to 30 slender pinnae on each side of the rachis 12 cm long, and these are evenly arranged – though not quite opposite one another – in herringbone fashion.. After flowering, it produces small edible fruits that resemble and taste like coconuts. Editing by edric.


Closely related to the coconut palm, but is much smaller and more cold tolerant, taking down to about 25 °F (−4 °C). This palm can be successfully grown in hardiness zone 9b. This palm should be grown in well draining soil that is constantly moist, but not soggy, as this can lead to lethal root rot. restricted to filtered light and humus-rich soil. Water moderately at all times, giving enough to make the mixture moist, allowing the top centimetre (0.4 inch) or so to dry out before watering again. When temperatures fall below 15°C (59°F), allow the top 2-3 cm (0.8-1 inch) of mixture to dry out between waterings.

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Comments and Curiosities

Endemic to Brazil, where a total of four species are known. Palms once classified as Microcoelum are herein included; the genus is closely related to Syagrus, from which it is differentiated only by abundant tomentum, strongly versatile anthers, and slight epicarp, mesocarp, and endocarp differences. Both species are solitary trunked, closely ringed and retain leaf sheaths at the top of the stem. The trunks reach 7.5 cm in diameter to 3.5 m in height. The spherical leaf crown consists of numerous pinnate leaves to 90 cm long on hairy, 30 cm petioles. The pinnae are 12 cm long, closely and regularly arranged along the rachis, in the same plane, green on top with gray, glaucous undersides. The inflorescence is interfoliar and once branched, covered in brown hair, monoecious, (flowers of both sexes). The female flowers are twice as big as the male's, both with three sepals and three petals. The fruit is globose to ellipsoidal, pink to red, with one seed.

L. weddellianum is a commonly potted plant throughout Europe which may save it from extinction, but L. hoehnei is essentially unknown in cultivation. The former demands shade and rich, friable, quickly draining soil with some acidity; the latter would likely require the same if cultivated.

Formerly known as Microcoelum weddellianum or Cocos weddelliana, this small palm originates from high altitudes in Brazil's Coastal Cloud Forest. Now rare in the wild due not to 'over exploitation by seed collectors' as is popularly and routinely supposed, but by forest destruction that is eating up the tiny remaining areas where it clings to life. Just one more palm that may have to survive in cultivation if it is to survive at all. It is not the easiest of palms to cultivate but certainly unsurpassed for its beautiful, finely pinnate, arching leaves. Lytocaryum is suited to a wide range of climates from cool temperate to cool tropical and will tolerate light frosts. It grows best in a humus rich, acidic soil. (

External Links


Phonetic spelling of Latin names by edric.

Special thanks to Geoff Stein, (Palmbob) for his hundreds of photos.

Special thanks to, 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.

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