Ravenea rivularis

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Ravenea (rah-vehn-EH-ah)
rivularis (rih-voo-LAHR-iss)
Ravenea rivularis-IMG 0468.jpg
Scientific Classification
Genus: Ravenea (rah-vehn-EH-ah)
rivularis (rih-voo-LAHR-iss)
None set.
Native Continent
Habit: Solitary
Leaf type: Pinnate
Height: 30m
Trunk diameter: 35-50 cm
Sun exposure: Full Sun
Watering: Very Moist
Soil type: Rich Soil
Survivability index
Common names
Gora (Sakalava), Bakaly, Vakaka (Bara), Malio (near Manera); majesty palm (in horticulture). Majestic Palm, or Majesty Palm.

Habitat and Distribution

Endemic to South central Madagascar, Mangoky and Onilahy river systems.
Photo: idtools.org - Courtesy of Dr. Scott Zona.
In shallow standing water on riverbanks, swampy valley bottoms, either in deciduous forest or in gallery forest; alt. 350-750 m; gregarious, often forming stands.


Majestic palm. TRUNK 5-22 (30?) m high, cylindrical or slightly inflated towards the middle, 36-50 cm in diam., near crown 15-18 cm in diam.; internodes 4-10 cm; wood with tough black fibre layer in the outer part; inner wood soft; bark pale brown-grey (not white, as Fl. Madagascar states!); diameter of base of crown about 22 cm. LEAVES 16-25 in the crown, porrect to pendulous, slightly arching, held on edge in the distal half of the leaf; sheath 30-50 x 15-16 cm, green and proximally with cottony white or grey-brown indument; margins ragged and fibrous; petiole 6-20 cm long, 4-4.5 x 1.5-1.6 cm across, adaxially flat with slightly sharp edges, white-waxy and -scaly; rachis green, white and scaly when young, 1.2-1.7 m long, 1-1.7 cm wide towards the middle, abaxially almost flat or slightly convex, densely pubescent to glabrescent, adaxially flat in the proximal half, more distally keeled with flat top and with the keel almost as wide as the rachis; leaflets regular, in one plane, stiff to pendulous, attenuate, green to slightly yellow, slightly waxy, 70-73 on each side of the rachis, the proximal 20-55 x 0.5-1.7 cm, the median 52-64 x 1.5-3.2 cm (interval about 2 cm), the distal 16-42 x 0.4-1.9 cm, especially abaxially with the veins bearing minute whitish scales, also with a few large brown or grey ramenta on midrib abaxially.



Majesty Palms will grow well outside in Southern California under certain conditions.

First, LOTS of water. And, any conditions that help same. Clay soil is much better than sand, or silt, because clay holds water. R. rivularis like to be waterlogged, since their habitat is along riverbeds.

Make sure to give space to a palm that will produce a trunk a foot and a half (18" or .5 m) across, up to 100 feet (eventually) 33. m tall. A great lawn palm. A great palm in a boggy spot where the land has been raped, and drainage is not so good.

"This is one of the most commonly sold 'house palms' nowadays, and the sad thing is it performs terribly as one. It is a great outdoor plant, though in the continental US it's a bit hard to keep from yellowing at the tips, especially if planted in full sun. It is a relatively fast palm for Southern California, and grows faster the more heat and water it gets. It eventually grows to 50' or more in the US, but in Madagascar, it's home, it can get up to nearly 100'. As the name suggests, it grows along rivers and loves to have its roots constantly moist. The only major dangers to this palm are cold (can't handle temps below the mid 20sF) and snails LOVE it, and will quickly shred the leaves to bits. Watering the crown, particulaly in the cooler months of the year, and especially the cool months to warm month period, is risky (though rain water seems to be OK... tap water is the problem). Rot/bud damage is very common in this species, at it is in many of the non-crownshafted feather-leaf palms, from tap water on the crowns ANY time of the year... but mostly in late winter/spring, as the palm starts to grow again... so if you plant this palm in your lawn, try to avoid having the sprinkler hit the crown. It is nearly impossible to overwater the roots of this plant (unless maybe planted in a very heavy clay soil)... but the crown is very sensitive to being 'overwatered'. I can't tell you how often i see this happen around southern California (and happened to several of my own palms)... live and learn." (Geoff Stein)

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Comments and Curiosities

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).

Dransfield, J. & Beentje, H. 1995. The Palms of Madagascar. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and The International Palm Society.

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

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