Pigafetta elata

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Pigafetta (pig-ah-FEHT-tah)
elata (eh-LAH-tah)
Andy Green's place, Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia. Photo by Steve.
Scientific Classification
Genus: Pigafetta (pig-ah-FEHT-tah)
elata (eh-LAH-tah)
None set.
Native Continent
Habit: Solitary
Leaf type: Pinnate
Survivability index
Common names
Black Wanga Palm.

Habitat and Distribution

Endemic to Sulawesi, And The Moluccas. Along the edges of Mountainous
Taken near Arenal Volcanic Observatory, Costa Rica. Photo by marc_schuyler
Rain Forest and Riverbanks.


Pigafetta elata is a very fast and tall growing, solitary palm, that can reach a height of 50 metres. The plant is exploited extensively in its native range for its timber. It is attracting interest as a potential commercial timber crop in areas with similar climates. Editing by edric.


"They certainly are rocket ships. You have to keep them permanently wet, and fertilize every couple of weeks when in a pot for best growth.. They grow much better when planted, and need full sun, right from a seedling." (Daryl O'Connor)

Plants succeed in moist tropical climates where temperatures never fall below 10°c, the average annual rainfall is 1,500 mm or more and the driest month has 25 mm or more rain. Requires a sunny position and a deep rich soil. Plants grow well in full sun, even when small. One of the fastest growing Palm species, it can grow 2 metres per year. A dioecious species, both male and female forms need to be grown if fruit and seed are required.

Propagation: Seed - pre-soak for 24 hours in warm water and sow in containers. The seed must be fresh - germination is usually rapid, sometimes taking less than a month.

Comments and Curiosities

This is a dioecious genus. Uses: Fruit - occasionally eaten. The ovoid fruit is about 12 mm in diameter. A fibre obtained from the young leaves is used for making thread. The leaves are made into small rugs. Wood - very hard. Used extensively for construction.

This palm is generally perceived to be the world's fastest growing palm. Native to northern Sulawesi (Celebes) in Indonesia, it is found in rainforests at altitudes between 450 and 900 m (1500 and 3000 ft.). It sports a large, very straight, columnar, glossy green trunk that holds a spherical crown of elegantly recurving pinnate leaves, V-shaped in cross section. Apparently an opportunistic plant, it establishes itself not in the closed forest but in gaps in the canopy. In cultivation, plants thus need good light early on. Though tropical in its requirements, P. elata is said to be a little hardier than its cousin P. filaris as P. elata is from a higher altitude, enabling it to grow in marginal areas such as Southern Florida. Even though seeds are rarely available, P. elata is far more commonly cultivated than P. filaris. The two species are easily told apart by their leafbases: as opposed to the sparsely spiny, waxy leafbases of P. filaris, the leafbases of P. elata are densely covered with masses of blackish spines. (RPS.com)

"This species was only recognised as distinct from Pigafetta filaris in the 1990's. It is assumed here that most, if not all, of the recorded uses for Pigafetta filaris also refer to this species" (Plants for a Future - Ken Fern)

External Links


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.

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