Physokentia tete

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Physokentia (fy-soh-kehn-TEE-ah)
tete (TEH-teh)
Physokentia tete specimen.jpg
Photo by Paul Craft
Scientific Classification
Genus: Physokentia (fy-soh-kehn-TEE-ah)
tete (TEH-teh)
None set.
Native Continent
Habit: Solitary
Leaf type: Pinnate
Survivability index
Common names

Habitat and Distribution


Photo by Paul Craft


Trunk 6-7 cm. in diam. Leaves probably regularly pinnate; central pinnae lanceolate-sigmoid, obliquely truncate and praemorse-toothed at the apex(?), about 60 cm. long, 5.5-6 cm. wide, with a prominent elevated mid-nerve and a prominent secondary nerve on each side, dull green above, the lower surface somewhat paler with minutely puncticulate nerves, the midnerve and 2 prominent lateral nerves also with rather prominent, brown, basifixed, membranous scales. Inflorescence short-pedunculate, broader than long, the axes with rather dense, substellate, brownish or white scales in bud, glabrous in fruit; upper bract brown, very thin; rachis angled, sinuous, with more than 7 branches; lower branches again branched into flexuous rachillae of the second order to 15 cm. long, upper branches furcate or simple; bracts subtending the triads prominent, acute; bracteoles surrounding the pistillate flowers very narrow, not conspicuously white-barbate on the upper margins. Staminate flowers ovoid, somewhat asymmetric and angled by mutual pressure, 5.5-6 mm. long, 3 mm. wide; sepals with strongly ciliolate margins; petals 2-3 times as long as the sepals; pistillode columnar, very slightly enlarged at the apex, nearly as long as the stamens in bud: pistillate flowers ovoid-conic in bud. Fruit globose, 2.5-2.6 cm. high, 2.3 cm. in diam., with excentrically apical stigmatic residue, smooth when dry; mesocarp fleshy, with few fibers; endocarp thick, slightly woody, 2.4 cm. high, 2.1 cm. wide and across, with prominent adaxial (ventral) keel, prominent abaxial (dorsal) keel, and 2 prominent ridges on each side, the surface rough and becoming rugose on each side of the adaxial keel, operculum rounded-angled; seed shaped as the endocarp, 1.7 cm. high, 1.4-1.5 cm. wide and across; endosperm homogeneous. (H. Moore. 1969)/Palmweb. Editing by edric.

The type of Physokentia Tete consists of a fruiting panicle, an inflorescence in bud, and two unattached pinnae. The pinnae appear to be praemorse at the apex, as described by Beccari and noted by myself when I examined the type. With further experience, I now wonder whether the pinnae are truly praemorse or merely appear so because of fraying, a not infrequent occurrence but not de-terminable from the photographs. New collections are required before a complete description can be provided, yet the species is abundantly distinct in the characteristics of the endocarp alone. (H. Moore. 1969)/Palmweb.


Cold Hardiness Zone: 10b

Comments and Curiosities

Even though described already in 1910 by famous Italian Botanist Odoardo Beccari (as Cyphosperma tete) this stunning, slender, pinnate palm from montane rainforests between 500 and 1000 m on the islands of Vanua Lava, Pentecote and Erromango in Vanuatu has remained poorly known and is apparently not present in cultivation. While this may largely be due to a lack of seeds available for propagation, the palm is also fairly specific about its climatic growing conditions. It does not seem to like steamy lowland tropical conditions particularly, but will thrive at some altitude in the tropics or in a warm temperate climate that does not experience excessive heat, cold or drought. (

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).

H. Moore, A synopsis of the Genus Physokentia. 1969. 1969. A synopsis of the Genus Physokentia. Principes 13(4) 120-136.

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

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