Livistona humilis

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Livistona (liv-iss-TOH-nah)
humilis (hoo-MIHL-iss)
Near Arnhem Hwy, Kakadu National Park, Northern Territory, Australia (1979-09-03). Photo by Paul Meir
Scientific Classification
Genus: Livistona (liv-iss-TOH-nah)
humilis (hoo-MIHL-iss)
None set.
Native Continent
Habit: Solitary
Leaf type: Costapalmate
Survivability index
Common names
Sand Palm.

Habitat and Distribution

Australia. Northern Territory. From near Fitzmaurice R. across the Top End to Cape Arnhem and islands in north-western Gulf of Carpentaria, and as far inland as Katherine.
Northern Territory, Australia. Photo by Sam Sweet
Most common in open forest and woodland growing in deep sandy soils, mostly at low elevation, 0-240 m alt.; occasionally on rocky ironstone or granite ridges. Usually occurs in extensive populations.


Dioecious palm. Trunk to 7 m tall, 5-8 cm in diameter; breast high, leaf scars raised, roughened and with remnant tissue, internodes narrow, grey, petiole stubs persistent or deciduous with extreme age or fire. Leaves 8-15 in a globose crown; petiole 40-70 cm long, 6-14 mm wide, margins with small, single, curved dark red spines; leaf-base fibres not prominent, coarse, persistent; lamina costapalmate, regularly segmented, circular, 30-50 cm long, chartaceous, adaxially dark green, abaxially lighter green, glossy; lamina divided for 60-87% of its length, with 30-44 segments, depth of apical cleft 35-89% of the segment length, apical lobes acuminate, rigid; parallel veins 6 each side of midrib; transverse veins thinner than parallel veins. Inflorescences unbranched at the base, sexually dimorphic, vertically erect in both sexes, extending well beyond the limit of the crown; those on fruiting plants (functionally female) straight, to 230 cm long, branched to 3 orders, with a single terminal partial inflorescence; peduncular bracts 5-8, scurfy pubescent; inflorescences on nonfruiting plants (functionally male) arcuate, to 180 cm long, branched to 3 orders; peduncular bract(s) lacking; partial inflorescences 4-7; rachis bracts are tightly tubular, scurfy pubescent; rachillae 3-12 cm long, pubescent. Flowers, male and female similar in gross morphology, in clusters of 2-4, globose, 1.5-1.8 mm long, yellow; sepals broadly ovate, 1-1.3 mm long, membranous, cuspidate; petals broadly ovate, 1.5-1.8 mm long, fleshy, acute; stamens ca 1.3 mm long. Fruit ellipsoidal or pyriform to obovoid, 11-19 mm long, 8-10 mm in diam., shiny purple-black; epicarp with scattered lenticellular pores; suture line extends for full length of the fruit, marked with lip-like structures; mesocarp fleshy; endocarp thin; pedicel 0.5-1 mm long. Seed ellipsoid, 7-9 mm long. Eophyll 3-ribbed. (Dowe, J.L.)/Palmweb. Editing by edric.

Livistona humilis was one of two species described by Brown (1810) when establishing Livistona. Moore (1963a) chose it as the lectotype for the genus. Although Brown only provided a meagre description, Martius (1838) clearly established its identity, albeit the illustrations accompanying his description appear to be based on L. inermis or a combination of the two taxa. Bentham (1878) cited a specimen of L. rigida (Mueller s.n., Albert R.) as the one on which he based his description of L. humilis, but his description is certainly of L. humilis. Beccari (1931) provided a very thorough appraisal of the species, but however included two varieties, L. humilis var. sclerophylla from north-east Queensland and L. humilis var. novoguineensis from Merauke, Indonesia, that are attributable to L. muelleri (see Notes under that species). Mueller (1874b) described L. leichhardtii based on a collection made from MacAdam Ra., Mueller s.n., Northern Territory. Kuntze (1891) provided the combination Saribus humilis. Livistona humilis is a small sub-canopy dioecious palm to 7 m tall; leaves are small and regularly segmented; segment apices are rigid, and with a bifurcate cleft to 89% of the segment length; the inflorescence is unbranched in both male and female plants, extending vertically to sub-vertically well beyond the limit of the crown; male plants have up to 8 partial inflorescences, and female plants a single distal partial inflorescence; bracts are tightly tubular; flowers are yellow; fruit are ellipsoid, pyriform, to obovoid to 19 mm long, and shiny purple black at maturity. (Dowe, J.L.)/Palmweb.


"The black oval fruit should be cleaned and planted in trays. Germination is slow, taking up to 18 months. Limited experience suggests post-harvest ripening may be necessary. Seedlings resent disturbance and are very susceptible to fungal attack. Weekly applications of fungicide seem essential, plus excellent air circulation. Fairly slow growing, they are probably best planted out when palmate leaves develop. Planting the seed directly into their permanent position is a successful alternative. Extreme care is needed when transplanting large specimens, like most Coryphoid palms they dislike shifting." (Alan White)

"Sort of a touchy palm for us here in Southern California, but does well in relatively cool climates in Florida (takes frost but can't handle prolonged 'cool'). Smaller Livistona with stiff rather than floppy leaves. Flowers at only 2-3' of trunk height. Flower stalks shoot far above crown of palm. Has a bit thicker trunk and more robust than Livistona inermis, but is probably the second smallest Livistona species." (Geoff Stein)

Comments and Curiosities

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).

Dowe, J.L., A taxonomic account of Livistona R.Br. (Arecaceae). A taxonomic account of Livistona R.Br. (Arecaceae).

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

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