Pinanga tenella

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Pinanga (pih-NAHN-gah)
tenella (teh-NELL-ah)
Pinanga tenella1.jpg
Kuala Belalong, Temburong, Brunei Darussalam. Pinanga tenella var. tenella. Photo by Martin Dančák
Scientific Classification
Genus: Pinanga (pih-NAHN-gah)
tenella (teh-NELL-ah)
None set.
Native Continent
Habit: Clustering
Leaf type: Pinnate
Survivability index
Common names

Habitat and Distribution

Borneo. Stream banks in tropical moist forest.
Patrick Blanc on the banks of the Temburong river, among a population of the clustering rheophytic Palm, Pinanga tenella, Brunei, Borneo, March 2012


Small clustering palm to about 2 m tall, which forms dense clumps. Has narrow, dark green leaflets. It is a rheophyte, (i.e. it grows in the flood plains of streams and rivers) thus it offers minimal resistance to flood waters. (Rudy Meyer,


Warm, sheltered and moist. Cold Hardiness Zone: 10b

Comments and Curiosities

There are two subspecies; Pinanga tenella var. tenella, Borneo, and, Pinanga tenella var. tenuissima, Borneo.

Mention has already been made of the confusion between P. salicifolia and P. tenella caused by Scheffer and Miquel; now that P. salicifolia is better understood, the plants can be seen to be totally different. Pinanga tenella is one of the extraordinary rheophyte species, confined to rocks on banks of rivers throughout Borneo. These rheophytic species all have very slender stems and leaves with very narrow but tough-textured leaflets; they grow above the average water level but in a zone liable to be flooded. It is assumed that the fine foliage is an adaptation offering relatively little resistance to water flow. Lobb's specimen, the holotype of P. tenella, is annotated 'Shrub 2 feet, by the river at Bungal, NE Borneo. Another collection from Bungal of the same taxon made by Burbidge, is annotated 'Grassy leaved caespitose palm, Tawaran River near Bungol in N Borneo. ?subaquatic'. Beccari himself collected fine-leafleted species of Pinanga from river banks in Borneo on three occasions. One, from the banks of the Tubau in Ulu Bintulu he named P. rivularis (PB 3773), a second from the banks of the Rejang he named P. calamifrons (PB 3841), and the third from the banks of the Sekrang (Batang Lupar) P. calamifrons var. tenuissima (PB 3848). Beccari distinguished P. rivularis from P. tenella on its shorter, fatter, unbranched inflorescence and by the calyx lobes of the pistillate flower being obtuse; he described the leaflets of P. rivularis as being less acuminate than those of P. tenella. The two taxa both have unicostate leaflets. P. calamifrons was separated by Beccari on the basis of its leaflets being bicostate rather than unicostate. The rheophytic Pinanga spp. do look remarkably similar, yet on close examination some specimens are separable on characters of the flowers. In some specimens the calyx of the pistillate flower consists of a low tube with 3 obtuse lobes, whereas in others the calyx comprises 3 free imbricate sepals.

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).

Dransfield, J.1980. Systematic Notes on Pinanga (Palmae) in Borneo. Kew Bulletin, Vol. 34, No. 4, pp. 769-788.

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

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