| Phoenicophorium |
Habitat and DistributionEndemic to the Seychelles, being is fairly widespread on the larger islands of the group,
Phoenicophorium borsigianum is endemic and fairly widespread to the Seychelles in the Indian Ocean, and occurs on the eight islands Mahé, Praslin Silhouette, La Digue, Frégate, Curieuse, Félicité and St. Anne. These islands have a total area of 235 km2 (National Statistics Bureau 2005). The extent of occurrence is less than 5,000 km2 and the area of occupancy is smaller than 500 km2. This spectacular palm is found in the undergrowth of moist forests at low and intermediate altitudes, either on deep shade and in more open rocky outcrop areas, but can even establish in heavy degraded and invaded forest, dominated by alien invasive species.
The species is able to establish itself in different habitat types and even colonizes bare eroded ground where drought is severe and able to establish on rocky outcrops. It forms large stands on the islands and is frequently associates with Lodoicea maldivica. In areas with closed canopy it is also able to compete with Cinnamomum verum. The leaves have been extensively used in the past for thatching of roofs. For tourist infrastructure this practice has a renaissance. While it is not thought that this is currently causing a decline in the population, future trends need to be monitored. There is no continuing decline observable, as the species reproduces extremely well in most areas.
Ecology: This palm has prominent spines on their stems and leaf bases, a feature generally thought to be a defense against the giant tortoises that used to roam free in the islands. The large leaves provide shelter for geckos and invertebrates as the pleated surface acts as an effective litter trap thus providing cover for small animals. (llifle.com)
This palm is a fairly tall, solitary tree, with long leaves extending from the trunk. The stems are heavily ringed with leaf scars, formed by the loss of leaves, and bear black spines on younger plants. The leaves can reach up to two metres in length; they have a crinkled appearance due to the prominent veins, and are split at the ends with orange-edged serrations. The leaf stalks themselves may be up to half a metre long and are also armed with black spines. Both male and female flowers are borne on the same tree on an inflorescence that emerges below the crown. Small, oval fruits develop, which are orange in colour and may be up to 1.5 cm long. Editing by edric.
The thief palm, Phoenicophorium borsigianum, is the the only species in its genus, and represents a unique evolutionary lineage for the Seychelles. It is a fairly tall, solitary, slender spiny palm to about 15m high with enormous undividied but indented leaves and was for some time called Stevensonia borsigiana but it has subsequently been renamed Phoenicophorium borsigianum. It is a monoecious palm, both male and female flowers are borne on the same tree on an inflorescence that emerges below the crown.
Stems: Heavily ringed with leaf scars, formed by the loss of leaves, bearing black spines on younger plants, ± unarmed at maturity.
Leaves: Up to two metres in length. Lamina entire (except what wind damage does- which is actually the norm), deep emerald green, though the new leaves are a deep maroon, crinkled in appearance due to the prominent veins, and (bifid) split at the ends with orange-edged serrations. Petiole orange up to half a metre long and armed with black spines.
Inflorescences: Interfoliar, branching to 1-2 orders, protandrous; prophyll inserted above base, persistent, peduncular bract included within prophyll; rachillae flexuous, bearing spiral triads, except distally staminate.
Male flowers: Asymmetrical, closed in bud; stamens 15-18, anthers elongate, medifixed, latrorse; pistillode absent. Staminodes 6.
Fruit: Small, oval range in colour and may be up to 1.5 cm long. Endocarp thin, operculum round, basal.
Seed: Basally attached, hilum rounded; endosperm ruminate; embryo basal. Seedling: Eophyll (seedling leaves) entire. (llifle.com)
"Warm, sunny, moist, but well drained position. Altho a plant of the deep rainforest, it can stand almost full sun from quite an early age. Tropics and warm sub-tropics only." (Mike Gray)
Comments and Curiosities
This is a monotypic genus.
Etymology: Genus Name Meaning: Comes from the genus name, Phoenix (referring to a pinnate leaf palm in this context), and the Greek word for 'stolen', referring to the fact that an early specimen was stolen from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
The specific epithet; Honors the 19th century German tropical plant collector, Albert Borsig, whose plant collection was renown throughout Europe.
Uses: The leaves of the thief palm provide shelter for geckos and invertebrates as the pleated surface acts as an effective litter trap thus providing cover for small animals. Locals use the large, dried leaves for thatching.
Conservation: This palm is adaptable and is able to colonize disturbed habitat; however, some populations may be threatened by fire (on Praslin), development, or invasive species. The harvesting of leaves is generally carried out in a semi-sustainable manner although local over-exploitation may occur. Significant populations are protected in the Morne Seychellois National Park, and the Praslin National Park. The Silhouette Conservation Project of the Nature Protection Trust of Seychelles manages the substantial population on Silhouette where this species is used in active habitat restoration programmes.
"Seychelles palm with enormous undividied leaves (except what wind damage does- which is actually the norm). Leaves up to 8' long and deep emerald green, though the new leaves are a deep maroon. It is a monoecious palm that is very cold sensitive. It is similar in appearance to a Pelagodoxa, only with more color (more oranges and yellows in petioles and stems). Grows up to 50' in large stands on the islands. Best as a single specimen in the landscape rather than a group, though." (Geoff Stein)
A breathtaking and most desirable palm for the tropics, native to the beautiful Seychelles Islands in the Indian Ocean. Its large, undivided leaves, at least 2 m (7 ft.) long by 1 m (3 ft.) wide are a show in any garden. While young plants are quite spiny, older plants lose this protection. Seeds are rarely available, so make sure to secure some while stocks last. (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.