| Pseudophoenix (soo-doh-FEH-niks) |
2006 IPS Biennial - Republica Dominicana, Jaragua National Park. Jeff Searle giving scale. Photo Courtesy - Searle Brothers Nursery Florida. Photo:bRyan D. Gallivan.
Habitat and DistributionPseudophoenix ekmanii occurs at low elevations in the Parque Nacional Jaragua and
Dry lowland scrub on the Barahona Peninsula, Dominican Republic.
An extremely distinctive, medium sized, solitary pinnate palm to about 5m tall with dark green, semi-glossy leaves to 2.5m long. They have a swollen stem, thickest towards the top, greyish-green in colour, with distinctive rings. The fruit are reddish with a diameter of about 2 centimetres in diameter.(S. Zona. 2002)/Palmweb.
Stem 5–6 m tall, strongly ventricose, most slender above the swelling, about 60 cm diameter breast high, with prominent brown leaf scars and waxy white internodes when young, gray when mature. Leaves about 12 in the crown, spreading (mature) or ascending (juvenile); leaf about 2–3 m long; sheath about 35 cm long, green with silvery gray scales near the apex; petiole absent; rachis about 161 cm long, often with brown scales along its margin; number of leaf segments per one side of the rachis not known; middle leaf segment 31.0–39.5 cm long, 1.7–2.3 cm wide, lanceolate with an acuminate tip, gray-green, densely glaucous on both sides, ramenta present on the abaxial surface of the midvein at the base of the leaf segment. Inflorescence erect, ascending or arching, branched to 3 orders, about 154 cm long; peduncle not extending far beyond the leaf sheaths, glabrous; prophyll not seen; inner bract not seen; rachillae 5.9–8.0 cm long and 0.8–0.9 mm in diam., divaricating. Flower pseudopedicel 7.2–7.6 mm long, 0.4–0.5 mm in diam., green to glaucous; calyx a shallow triangular cupule, 3.5–3.8 mm in diam., green to glaucous, margins hyaline; petals ovate, about 7.0 mm long and 3.7 mm wide, green, glaucous abaxially, spreading, with about 13 major veins; filaments 1.3–1.7 mm long, briefly connate, anthers ovoid, about 2.8 mm long, about 1.5 mm wide, yellow; gynoecium and pistillode not seen. Fruit 11.8–14.3 mm long, 11.7–13.2 mm in diam. (in single-seeded fruits); endocarp 11.7–13.2 mm long, 11.1–12.6 mm in diam., about 0.2 mm thick. Seed 6.8–7.1 mm long, 8.5–9.4 mm in diam. (S. Zona. 2002)/Palmweb. Editing by edric.
This poorly known species is perhaps the most beautiful of all the Pseudophoenix. As juveniles, the trunks are waxy white with brown nodes and the leaves are gray and stiff. At maturity, the stems become strongly ventricose to bottle-shaped. They are striking palms. Pseudophoenix ekmanii resembles P. vinifera, in that they both have strongly ventricose trunks. Unlike that of P. vinifera, the trunk of P. ekmanii has waxy white internodes when young. Pseudophoenix ekmanii has a divaricating inflorescence and smaller fruits (<13.2 mm in diam.), whereas the inflorescence of P. vinifera has distally directed branches and the fruits are larger (16.2–22.2 mm in diam.). At any stage, P. ekmanii is easily distinguished from any other species by its absence of a petiole, that is to say, there is no obvious petiole between the sheathing leaf base and the leafy rachis. Read (1968) reported that the stamen filaments are short (less than 1.5 mm long), but his observation was made from immature flower buds. The filament length reported here is based on the persistent filaments of the immature fruits of Zanoni et al. 36100. (S. Zona. 2002)/Palmweb.
Sunny, moist, but well drained position. Prefers a limestone based soil. Very slow growing. Cold Hardiness Zone: 9b.
They are maybe one of the slowest palms in the world for the first 15 or so years... but the next 15 years, this palm explodes! When this palm finally gets some resources to work with, it really speeds up. (Andrew Street)
Comments and Curiosities
Etymology: The specific epithet, Honors the early 20th century Swedish botanist, Erik Ekman, who worked extensively in the Caribbean area.
Conservation: Although virtually the entire population of Pseudophoenix ekmanii occurs in a national park, the palm is still harvested for its sweet sap which is fermented into alcohol. Decapitated juveniles attest to the activities of sap poachers. In addition, seed harvesting, if excessive, may threaten the reproductive health of the population. (S. Zona. 2002)/Palmweb.
Uses: The sap is used for palm wine production, which usually results in the death of the tree, and the seeds are collected for stock feed.
"As an adult plant these are one of the most ornamental of all palms. They have a thick, ringed, smooth tapering trunk (narrow at the base and getting wider on up, to just about the crownshaft, where they suddenly narrow) all topped with a leather sprig of arching blue-green leaves. However, to get to this form, from a seedling, even in their native habitat, takes many decades. It is a not a palm often grown and appreciated as an adult by the same individual. No mature forms of this species exist in the US that I am aware of... in fact, outside the Dominican Republic, this palm is extremely rare. Here in California it is pretty marginal, and the seedlings easily damp off and rot... needs a very warm climate to be happy. (Geoff Stein)
Pseudophoenix are odd looking but undeniably attractive palms of the Caribbean with swollen stems of a moody green gray color. Though slow growing, they reach a good size in a number of years and even small plants fetch very high prices in the trade. P. ekmanii is one of the rarest in the genus. It is native only to the Barahona Peninsula in the southwesternmost Dominican Republic where it grows by the thousands under quite dry conditions on shallow, open hillsides of heavily eroded limestone rock. Its trunk can get to 6 m (20 ft.) tall and is distinctly swollen a few feet above the ground. It is smooth and covered in a thick, white, waxy layer, interrupted by the dark leaf scars, which gives the trunk a zebra-striped appearance. The leaves are stiffly spreading, quite dense and slightly plumose, with very leathery leaflets. P. ekmanii does best in the dry tropics and will look great even under rough conditions, including full coastal exposure, poor soil and drought. (RPS.com)
Adult individual of Pseudophoenix ekmanii growing at Trudille (Jaragua National Park, Dominican Republic). This palm is endemic in this national park and is facing major conservation threats because of unsustainable harvesting of its sap to produce a local drink. In addition, this species is a favorite nesting place for the Hispaniolan parrot. Plants are destroyed by poachers hunting this threatened endemic bird. Photo by Dr. Alberto Veloz
- Glossary of Palm Terms
- MODERN BOTANICAL LATIN
- "Just To Be Clear"
- A Revision Of Pseudophoenix By Dr. Scott Zona
- Video by Kris Achar
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).
Zona, S.2002. A Revision of Pseudophoenix. Palms 46(1) 19-38.
Many Special Thanks to Ed Vaile for his long hours of tireless editing and numerous contributions.