Rhapis humilis

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Rhapis (RAH-pis)
humilis (hoo-MIHL-iss)
Xishuangbanna, China. Photo by Dr. John Dransfield, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew/Palmweb.
Scientific Classification
Genus: Rhapis (RAH-pis)
humilis (hoo-MIHL-iss)
None set.
Native Continent
Habit: Clustering
Leaf type: Costapalmaie
Survivability index
Common names

Habitat and Distribution

China South-Central, China Southeast, Japan, and Java. South China, Sichuan;
South Japan, South Kyushu Island. Habitat. Forest, alt. 100–1000 m. Lowland dry forests on slopes; below 1000 m. Guangxi, Guizhou.


Rhapis humilis, or Slender Lady Palm, is native to China. Rhapis palms have been cultivated for centuries and are very easy to grow. They form bamboo-like clumps and trunks are covered with a net of dark, fibrous leaf sheaths. The fan-like leaves are dark green. Even though Rhapis palms will reach 18 feet (nearly 6 meters) in nature, their size is easily controlled by pot size. Ours in the greenhouse is in a 10-gallon (44 liter) pot and is only 12 feet (nearly 4 meters) tall by 4 foot (1.2 meters) wide. They are very slow growers, which make them well suited for the home. (plantoftheweek.org) Editing by edric.

Stems to 6 m tall, with sheaths 18–40 mm in diam., without 15–28 mm in diam. Leaf sheath closely sheathing the stem, fibers narrow, outer and inner fibers of similar thickness, producing a squared mesh, ligule remaining intact at maturity; petiole to 4 mm wide, sometimes minutely scabrid; blade with semi-circular to lunulate outline, with a conspicuous palman, segments 7–20, folds 16–36, to 440 mm long, sides slightly curved, apices oblique with irregular secondary splitting, primary splits to within 19-105 mm of the blade base, with tomentum at the base, brown papillae along the ribs, mostly adaxially, ribs scabrid, thick in texture, adaxial and abaxial surfaces similar in colour. Inflorescence, male and female similar in appearance, branching to 3 orders; prophyll tubular, over lapping the base of the first rachis bract, medium thickness, pale brown with areas of greenish brown, mostly glabrous with patches of tomentum on the outer surface edges; rachis bracts 3(–4), sometimes with a distal incomplete rachis bract, similar in appearance to the prophyll, overlapping the base of the next bract; rachis overall length to 410 mm, to 10 mm in diam., rachillae 8–165 mm long, slender 0.2–1.2 mm in diam., dark brown with rusty tomentum. Flowers 1.0–3.5 mm apart, large. Male flowers sometimes paired, long, obtriangular to 6.6 × 2.8 mm; calyx to 1.8 mm, minutely papillate usually with tomentum on the apices of the lobes, lobes shallow to 0.5 mm with regular margins; corolla narrowing gradually into a receptacular-stalk to 1.9 mm; filaments, shorter row to 3.2 mm, longer to 3.8 mm, to 0.4 mm in diam. Female flowers to 4.4 × 2.5 mm; calyx to 2.3 mm, tomentose, lobes to 1 mm with regular margin and acute apices; corolla clavate, distinctly narrowed to 1.5 mm in diam., with a receptacular-stalk to 2.5 mm; staminodes present. Fruit unavailable. (L. Hastings. 2003)/Palmweb.


This species is widely planted as an ornamental and has been introduced in Indonesia (Java) and Japan. One of us (Henderson) suggests that Rhapis humilis might prove to be just a cultivar of R. excelsa. (efloras.org)

Rhapis humilis need partial shade to bright-diffused light and intermediate temperatures. We grow ours under 52% shade all year long. If grown in too much sun, the leaves tend to turn yellow and are sometimes off green. We use a soil mix consisting of 2 parts peat moss to 2 parts loam to 1 part sand or perlite. The plants are allowed to dry slightly in between waterings. Plants are fertilized only once during the growing season using a balanced fertilizer diluted to ½ the strength recommended on the label. During the winter months, the temperature are dropped to 50° F (10° C) and are grown on the dry side. Since they are slow growing, container plants should be divided every 3-5 years or they will break ceramic or clay pots with their spreading root system. (plantoftheweek.org)

PFC for PP.png

Comments and Curiosities

humilis or multifida

7-20 leaflets; if 14-23 leaflets > multifida

(1) blades not spilt to the base

(2) pointed apices of leaflets

(3) ligules persistent; if only sometimes persistent > multifida

(4) stem to 2.5 cm diameter, if to 3 cm only humilis

Notations by Research Work Editor palMeir.

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).

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

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