| Livistona (liv-iss-TOH-nah) |
Near Kuranda, Queensland, Australia. Photo by Dr. John Dransfield, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew/Palmweb.
Habitat and DistributionAustralia, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea.
This colony is probably the most southerly stand of these small palms. The leaves are palmate, up to 1 m in diameter, borne on a petiole of about 1.3 m in length. The height of each palm is up to 6 m, but generally most of them are around 3m. The trunk is relatively thin, to 30cm, the lower leaves are persistent and hang in a dead skirt just where the upper part of the trunk meets the leaf foliage. The crown of Livistona muelleri is generally symetrical, having rather stiff, bright green and dense fans, and the flower panicle of about 1m in length has cream to pale yellow flowers approximately 25mm across. The seed is globular and bluishblack in colour.
Functionally dioecious palm. Trunk to 12 m tall, 15-25 cm in diameter; breast high, leaf scars narrow, raised, roughened and with remnant tissue, internodes narrow, grey, petiole stubs persistent, or deciduous with extreme age or fire. Leaves 25- 35 in a globose crown, held erect; petiole 70-100 cm long, 14-20 mm wide, adaxially concave, margins with single curved black spines 2-12 mm long throughout, larger and closer spaced in the proximal portion; both adaxial and abaxial surfaces with rows of corky scales, persistent, at first redbrown aging to grey; leaf-base fibres not prominent, fine, disintegrating; lamina costapalmate, regularly segmented, circular, 60-90 cm long, rigid, flat, chartaceous, adaxially olive green to grey green, abaxially dull bluish green, glabrous except for a few scales on ribs; lamina divided for 50-65% of its length, with 48-60 segments, depth of apical cleft 5-14% of the segment length; apical lobes acute, rigid; parallel veins ca 8 each side of midrib; transverse veins thinner than parallel veins. Inflorescences unbranched at the base, not sexually dimorphic, 80-160 cm long, not extending beyond the limit of the crown, branched to 4 orders; partial inflorescences 5-10; peduncular bract(s) lacking; rachis bracts loosely tubular, with silver scales, splitting and disintegrating with age, but margins not lacerate; rachillae 2-13 cm long, papillose, maroon to red. Flowers solitary or in clusters of 2-3, 1.3-1.6 mm long; sepals broadly triangular, 0.8-1 mm long, maroon, fleshy, cuspidate; petals ovate, 1.3-1.6 mm long, bright yellow, subacute; stamens about 1.4 mm long, yellow; carpels pink to maroon. Fruit ellipsoid, 10-12 mm long, 8.5-10 mm in diam., powdery blue, reddish black or bluish black; epicarp smooth, pruinose; suture line extends for full length of the fruit, marked with lip-like structures; mesocarp thin, dry; endocarp very thin, brittle; pedicel 0.5-1 mm long. Seed globose, 8-9 mm wide. Eophyll 3-ribbed. (Dowe, J.L.)/Palmweb. Editing by edric.
Livistona muelleri was first recognised as distinct and described as 'L. humilis R.Br. 'var' by Bailey (1898), and then as L. muelleri in 1902 based on the collection Cowley s.n. from Cairns, Queensland. It was named for Ferdinand von Mueller (1825-1896), Victorian Government botanist, 1853-1896. Previously, Solander (1768-1771) had included it as another manuscript name in his hand-written Plantae novae hollandiae, based on plants he saw near the Endeavour R., Queensland, but this name was never published. Previous to Bailey's account, Wendland, in a contribution to Kerchove (1878), used the name Livistona mülleri in a list of Australian palms, but this was merely a name in a list without a description or reference to specimens and therefore a nomem nudum. Bailey (1898) made Bailey's choice of the name, as in reference to L. benthamii noted that he named both of these species to honour the authors of Flora Australiensis. Beccari (1921) described two varieties of L. humilis that are attributable to L. muelleri: L. humilis var. sclerophylla, based on Bauer 3 from the Bloomfield R., Queensland, and L. humilis var. novoguineensis, based on Jaheri s.n., from Merauke, Papua, Indonesia. Burret (1935, 1939) described L. brassii and L. crustacea from Western Prov., Papua New Guinea, based on the collections Brass 5950 and Brass 7668 respectively. Both taxa were synonymised under L. muelleri by Rodd (1998). Although the relationships of L. muelleri are obscure, it most closely resembles L. eastonii from the Kimberleys, Western Australia. However, this may be an example of ecological convergence, and its true relationships may possibly be with moist forest species such as L. benthamii, with which it shares at least a close association in distribution. Livistona muelleri also bears morphological resemblance to L. fulva of central Queensland, with similarity in both leaf and inflorescence. Livistona muelleri is a moderate sub-canopy palm to 12 m tall; leaves are moderate and regularly segmented; segment apices are rigid, and with a bifurcate cleft to 14% of the segment length; the inflorescence is unbranched, not extending beyond the limit of the crown, and with up to 10 partial inflorescences; bracts are loosely sheathing; flowers have maroon sepals, yellow petals and mauve carpels, on maroon to red rachillae; fruit are ellipsoid, pyriform, to obovoid, to 12 mm long to 10 mm wide, and powdery blue, reddish black to bluish black at maturity. (Dowe, J.L.)/Palmweb.
In cultivation this palm is still not widely used, possibly because the plants grown from seed are notoriously slow. It should suit most well drained soils in the subtropical and tropical climates. Used as a potted plant, it has great potential and is extremely handsome at the juvenile stage. Seed can take as long as 6 months to germinate, but can be accelerated by soaking them in warm water and then putting them down in a small hessian bag with a quantity of peat moss that has been soaked in a nutrient solution. Cold Hardiness, Zone: 9b
Comments and Curiosities
Phenology: Flowers Sep-Apr; fruits Nov-May.
Conservation: Least concern. (Dowe, J.L.)/Palmweb.
With its numerous small, stiff leaves arranged in a very orderly and ornamental fashion, this mid-sized palm from northeastern Australia grows to about 10 m (30 ft.) tall and looks a lot like a small Copernicia. Most impressive are its large, spreading, red inflorescences. In cultivation it has proven to be surprisingly adaptable; it is easily grown in any warm temperate to tropical climate, and will resist moderate freezes. (RPS.com)
Livistona muelleri, named for Baron Ferdinand yon Mueller, is a beautiful species occurring from coastal Tully to Cape York and the west side of Cape York Peninsula. There is no recognized common name for this species except that like most other Livistonas it was probably called 'cabbage tree' by aboriginals who used the leaves as thatch and ate the centre growing cabbage.
In 1968, while holidaying at Bilyana between Cardwell and Tully, I examined a small colony of this palm growing near Bilyana Creek. The lower petioles of each fan were armed with quite formidable curved thorns on the margins. Combined with the bristly golden thorns of Calamus moti which grew around the palm, I became firmly entangled and had to be extricated by the Post-Mistress of the local Bilyana Post Office. This was much to my relief as we had all heard crocodiles bark in the creek at night.
- Glossary of Palm Terms
- MODERN BOTANICAL LATIN
- "Just To Be Clear"
- Click on Arecaceae, for list of photos
- Revision of Livistona (Arecaceae) in Australia, By Dr. A.N. Rodd
- Australian Palms, By John Leslie Dowe
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).
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.