|Neoveitchia (neh-oh-vih-KEE-ah) storckii (stork'-ee)|
Habitat and DistributionThis interesting palm is endemic to the island of Viti Levu in the Fiji Islands.
Vilaito is a solitary, moderately stout palm with a light coloured trunk on an expanded base. The trunk normally grows up to 12 m in height and is stout, at about 25 cm in diameter. However, it may grow up to 20 m in height when growing under a high canopy of plantation mahogany. This palm has a full, leafy canopy of 12-15 fronds per crown; the fronds up to 5 m in length with heavy leaflets and a characteristic lateral twist to 90o. The crown shaft is distinctive being incompletely formed and is a glossy dark green to black. A bulky inflorescence arises below the crown shaft, initially white before turning olive green. The fruit mature only on the basal third of the inflorescence, the remainder forming conspicuous white tassels. The fruit are large, up to 5 cm long and 2.5 cm in diameter, and are dull red when mature. Editing by edric.
Distinctly tropical in its requirements. Likes a lot of water.
Comments and Curiosities
Etymology: The specific epithet; Honors Jacob Storck, the 19th century German assistant to botanist Berthold Seemann.
From the low mountain rainforests of the Fijian Island of Viti Levu, the Naitasiri Province is the last small home to Neoveitchia storckii a species endangered by habitat loss. As well as the trunks being used locally for construction, much of it's natural environment has been cleared for commercial crops, such as bananas. This species is now part of a government protection program, but remains under threat, due to it's very small and localised population. Related to the Veitchia genus, it is distinct due to it's fatter trunk and, despite appearances, doesn't form a true crownshaft. In habitat the trunks grow to a height of 15 m/50' with a pronounced basal flare. The leaf bases form what looks like an almost black crownshaft, but it not regarded as a true crownshaft as it has a more open structure. The leaves, up to 5.4 m/18' long, are dark green with long pendant leaflets, giving a very tropical appearance. As it's habitat would suggest, this is not a cold hardy species and will struggle to survive even minor frosts. Neoveitchia storckii has become fairly popular in cultivation, due to it's attractive, tropical appearance and, in frost free areas, it will grow well in full sun with plenty of moisture in a variety of well draining soils. Smaller plants require some shade, being allowed to grow up through the canopy.
Threats: In 1971, Suliana Siwatibau and her co-workers found this palm only as a single population in an area of less than 2 ha. At the time it was being attacked by the rhinoceros beetle which had largely decimated coconut plantations on Vitilevu. The beetle was subsequently controlled, but not eliminated, by the release of a biological control agent in the mid-1970s and this may have allowed Neoveitchia to recover to its present, safer conservation status. However, recent observations in Suva reveal that this species is very vulnerable to the rhinoceros beetle and when it is severely attacked it invariably dies. Indiscriminate land clearing is otherwise the most serious threat to this palm in it is limited range and more intensive agriculture, clearing for pasture or continued conversion of forest to mahogany plantation are serious threats to this palm in the wild.
Conservation Status: The late Dick Phillips ensured that this palm is conserved in botanical gardens around the world. However, in Fiji, there is no protected area containing these palms and in the wild, its conservation status is very insecure as it is found in lowland forest areas in the lower Rewa river catchment and most of these forests have already been cleared for alternative use and the remaining area is being steadily cleared for agriculture or pasture. The identification of a population which can be protected is a high priority.
Remarks and Cultural Significance: The late Dick Phillips ensured that this palm is conserved in botanical gardens around the world. However, in Fiji, there is no protected area containing these palms and in the wild, its conservation status is very insecure as it is found in lowland forest areas in the lower Rewa river catchment and most of these forests have already been cleared for alternative use and the remaining area is being steadily cleared for agriculture or pasture. The identification of a population which can be protected is a high priority.
In habitat, it is in great danger as it is a primary palm used for house construction in the low mountainous rain forest. It is limited to what Rifle and Craft describe as Zone 11 and marginal in Zone 10b. In habitat, the palm attains a heighth of 50 feet.
I have viewed this palm at Fairchild Gardens in Miami,Florida and at Ann Norton Sculpture Gardens in West Palm Beach,Florida. It is truly unique and has an interesting nearly black crownshaft. The palm has interesting leaves that are up to 18 feet long with 30 inch long leaflets. It's trunk is ringed.
Palm literature identifies this palm as a humidity lover but indicates that it also survives in the warmest areas of Southern California. It would be great to see pictures of the California specimens.
A handsome and large feather palm with short, very broad leaflets. It is endangered in its home of Fiji but is now becoming more common in cultivation. Thrives in tropical conditions where water is plentiful; also looks superb as a potted specimen in the conservatory or glasshouse. (RPS.com)
- 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.