Licuala pitta

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Licuala (lik-oo-AH-lah)
pitta (PEET-tah)
Nong Nooch Botanic Garden, Thailand. Photo by Paul Craft
Scientific Classification
Genus: Licuala (lik-oo-AH-lah)
pitta (PEET-tah)
None set.
Native Continent
Habit: Solitary & clustering.
Leaf type: Costapalmate
Survivability index
Common names

Habitat and Distribution

Chantaburi Province in SE Thailand. Cambodia. This palm is distributed in hill
Nong Nooch Botanic Garden, Thailand. Photo by Paul Craft
dipterocarp forest, and lowland rain forest ranging up to 450 m asl.


Caespitose palm (growing in tufts or clumps), 4–8 stemmed, individual stems up to 2.5 m tall, 2.8–3 cm in diam. below the crown and with 0.5–1 cm long internodes. Leaves 10–12 in crown, sheath margins disintegrating into fibrous mesh, eventually dropping off; petiole 120–150 cm long, 8–10 mm wide at the base to 4–6 mm across towards the apex, adaxially flattened to channelled towards the base, abaxially rounded to ridged, armed on lower 30–50 cm, with more or less evenly distributed, irregularly sized, up to 3 mm long, straight spines; leaf blade 60–70 cm across, divided in 11–15 segments, with slightly curved to straight lateral margins, converging basally in funnel-like manner, apical segment sessile, undivided, 35–45 cm long, with 9–11 adaxial ribs, midsegments of more or less equal length, with 3 or 4 adaxial ribs, somewhat obliquely truncate, basal segments 30–35 cm long, with 2–4 adaxial ribs, obliquely truncate; indentations leading to adaxial ribs 5–10 mm long, U-shaped, those leading to abaxial splits 2–5 mm long, V-shaped. Inflorescences 1 or 2 per ramet, 80–90 cm long, carrying 4 or 5 partial inflorescences; peduncle as measured to insertion of basal rachis bract 60 cm long; prophyll 30 cm long; basal rachis bract bicarinate tubular, 23–27 cm by 12–15 mm, covered with patches of ferruginous ramenta particularly basally and towards the margins, loosely fitting, irregularly splitting, 5–12 mm long; remaining rachis bracts gradually shorter towards the apex with a single, up to 7 cm long split; basal partial inflorescence inserted 25–30 cm above its subtending rachis bract, branching near point of insertion, with 1–3, 8–12 cm by 2–3 mm rachillae, each bearing 70–90 flowers. Flowers hermaphroditic, protandrous, solitary, bullet-shaped, somewhat triquetrous, 7–7.5 mm long; flowers borne in pairs almost throughout the rachilla, each pair subtended by an inconspicuous up to 0.5 mm long bract, pedicel very short, calyx 4.8–5 mm long, unevenly tomentose, with three shallow, rounded to truncate lobes; corolla 5–5.5 mm long, splitting to about 2 mm; androecium fused to corolla for 2.2–2.3 mm, staminal ring about 1 mm high; free part of filaments about 0.5 mm long; anthers 0.9–1.1 mm long; ovary 1.5–2 mm long, rounded to attenuate apically; style 3–3.5 mm long; locules situated near the middle of the ovary, 0.5–0.6 mm long. Fruits unknown. (A.S. Barfod & R. Pongsattayapipat 2008) Editing by edric.

Note — Licuala pitta is similar to the widespread L. spinosa in its caespitose habit and its overall leaf morphology. It differs from that species, however, by the inflorescences being presented among the leaves, the leaf segments converging basally in a funnel-like manner, the fewer and shorter flowering rachillae and the flowers being almost twice as long. Licuala pitta is reminiscent of L. taynguyensis Barfod & Borchs. (Barfod & Borchsenius 2000) from Vietnam but that species is solitary, and has much larger inflorescences, with zigzag rachillae that bear fewer, rather large and densely long-haired flowers. (A.S. Barfod & R. Pongsattayapipat 2008)


Cold Hardiness Zone: 10b

Comments and Curiosities

Etymology — Named after Mr. Pitta Bunnak, who has contributed extensively to palm horticulture in Thailand.

Conservation status — As long as this species has only been recorded in a restricted area it is of possible concern due to urban development and habitat destruction in one of Thailand’s fastest developing provinces. (A.S. Barfod & R. Pongsattayapipat 2008)

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).

BLUMEA 53: 617–620 Published on 31 December 2008.

Barfod, A.S. & F. Borchsenius. 2000. A new species of Licuala (Arecaceae; Coryphoideae) from the Central Highlands of Vietnam. Brittonia 52: 354–357.

Vatcharakorn, P. 2005. Palms and cycads of Thailand: 126–127. Amarin Printing & Publishing Public Co. Ltd.

Many Special Thanks to Ed Vaile for his long hours of tireless editing and numerous contributions.

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