Satranala decussilvae

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Satranala (sah-trah-NAH-lah) decussilvae (deh-koos-SIHL-veh)
Sd10766330894 2e1f8fc464 k.jpg
Ambodiriana reserve - Manompana, Madagascar. "Photo by Olivier Reilhes".
Scientific Classification
Genus: Satranala (sah-trah-NAH-lah)
Species: decussilvae (deh-koos-SIHL-veh)
None set.
Native Continent
Habit: Solitary
Leaf type: Palmate
Survivability index
Common names
Satranabe (Betsimisaraka). Forest Bismarckia.

Habitat and Distribution

Satranala decussilvae is Endemic to Madagascar. Mananara Biosphere Reserve,
Tampolo - Masoala - Madagascar (2016) - East Coast of Madagascar. Photo by "Olivier Reilhes"
known from a single site. Wet forest on shallow soils overlying ultramafic rock, in steep-sided valley rich in pandans and palms, at 250 - 285 m above sea level.


Solitary tree palm. TRUNK 8-15 m tall, 15-18 cm in diam., hard, smooth, ± straight, obscurely ringed with scars, sometimes with aerial roots above the base of the trunk; internodes 8-10 cm, nodal scars 1.5 cm wide. LEAVES (9 in young plants) 20-24 in the crown, porrect, rather stiff, with up to 6 marcescent old leaves; sheath 46-60 cm long, 35 cm in diam., at the very base 70 cm wide, split from 14-44 cm, abaxially chestnut-brown near the base, more distally pale brown with scattered scales, adaxially chestnut-brown, glabrous; petiole 1.4-1.5 m (to 2.7 m in young plants), proximally 7-10 x 5-6 cm, distally 5 x 1.5 cm, abaxially with thin white tomentum and wax, adaxially brown near the base, distally green with elongate scales, shallowly channelled, the margins proximally with spines to 3 mm, distally with minute spines; adaxial hastula forming a flange 3-8 mm high, with a central lobe to 15 mm long; blade costapalmate, 110-180 cm from hastula to apex, 240-260 cm wide, with 54-57 segments, costa to 33 cm, abaxially c. 2 cm wide at the base; segments almost flat, apically bifid for 1-10 cm, with three main veins and numerous close sinuous transverse veinlets, abaxially with conspicuous white wax, both surfaces with many large laciniate scales near the base, distally with few small brown scales, outer folds 88-102 x 1.3-3.2 cm, unsplit in the basal 8-9 (outermost) -20 cm, intermediate folds 104-130 x 4.4-5.5 cm, unsplit in basal 50-52 cm, central folds 114-181 x 4-6 cm, unsplit in basal 80-100 (-137 in young plants). STAMINATE INFLORESCENCE interfoliar, arching, spreading, 230 cm long; peduncle to about 45 cm long, 3-3.5 x 2-2.8 ; cm in section distally; prophyll and peduncular bracts not seen; rachis bracts rusty-brown tomentose, the proximal 42-50 cm long, about 6 cm in diam., the distal 31 cm long, about 1.5 cm in diam.; first order branches 13, the proximal 46-50 cm long, 3-3.5 x 0.6-0.8 cm in diam., with 6-9 rachillae, the distal 40-45 cm long, 0.6-0.7 x 0.4-0.6 cm in diam., with 1-3 rachillae; basal rachillae 29-31 cm long, 1.1-1.4 cm in diam., distal rachillae to 22 cm long, 1.1 cm in diam. PISTILLATE INFLORESCENCE similar to the staminate, rachillae 28-30 cm long, about 1-1.2 cm in diam. FRUIT globose to ovoid, to 5.6 x 5 cm, epicarp smooth, purple-black, shiny, mesocarp about 1 cm thick, rather dry-fleshy, endocarp ± globose, 34-48 x 33-45 mm, the wall about 1-2 mm thick, outer surface with conspicuous, mostly vertical flanges, radiating from the base, one forming a crest along one entire vertical circumference, thus forming two faces, the flanges on the two faces about 6 on each face, branching and anastomosing, tending to end blindly and not joined to the main crest, the flanges 3-6 mm high, the whole splitting along the main crest to allow the cotyledonary stalk to emerge; inner surface of endocarp smooth. SEED closely adherent to endocarp, to 30 x 32 mm, apparently considerably smaller in some individuals; endosperm solid, deeply ruminate; embryo apical, about 6 x 2 mm. EOPHYLL palmate; germination remote-tubular. (J. Dransfield and H. Beentje. 1995)/Palmweb. Editing by edric.

As the seed germinates the cotyledonary stalk pushes its way out of the endocarp which gapes slightly along the major crest, the endocarp thus appearing somewhat like a walnut with two valves; no other palm known to us germinates in this way. (J. Dransfield and H. Beentje. 1995)/Palmweb.


"Not difficult to grow from seeds and spouts in 2- 3 months. Requires deep pot with good drainage. Initial growth is quite rapid at least for palms." (kiloa)

Cold Hardiness Zone: 10a

Comments and Curiosities

One of the most exciting discoveries made during this project. The first fan palm from the rain forests of the East Coast, looking quite like a Bismarckia, but with totally different fruit. The endocarp is flanged on the outside, with straight and sinuous wings. It is tempting to speculate on the adaptive significance of this extraordinary structure. We suggest the endocarp may be adapted to being swallowed by large birds (such as the now extinct Aepyornis) - a theory which, of course, cannot be tested. However, it is worth noting that very heavily sclerified and sculptured endocarps are found in Ptychococcus and Brassiophoenix (Uhl & Dransfield 1987) and in two species of Licuala (M. Forrero, pers. comm.) in New Guinea, where they appear to be adapted to dispersal by cassowaries, extant relatives of the extinct Madagascar elephant bird. (J. Dransfield and H. Beentje. 1995)/Palmweb.

Conservation: Endangered. Known from a single site, where we have seen 30 trunked trees, 40 young ones, and many seedlings. (J. Dransfield and H. Beentje. 1995)/Palmweb.

Endemic palm of northeast Madagascar. The extent of occurrence is 3,248 km² and the area of occupancy is 86 m² and the species is known from five locations. The population comprises about 200 mature individuals and is severely fragmented. There is continuing decline in the extent and quality of the habitat, especially in the Soanierana Ivongo and Rantabe areas. Leaves continue to be harvested for thatching at Tampolo, Masoala, despite the locality being within the National Park. Seed is also harvested for the internal horticultural trade. This species therefore meets the requirements for listing as Endangered.

"Extremely rare and sought after large fan palm from Madagascar- leaves deep in the forests (what forests are left). Very slow growing palm, even in the tropics. Looks a bit like a green Bismarckia palm. Only seen one in my life and it was a seedling. Will probably never see an adult." (Geoff Stein)

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).

J. Dransfield & H. Beentje, The Palms of Madagascar. 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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