Rhopaloblaste ceramica

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ceramica (seh-rah-MEE-kah)
PNG National Botanic Garden, Morobe, Papua New Guinea. Photo by Dr. William J. Baker, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew/Palmweb.
Scientific Classification
Genus: Rhopaloblaste
ceramica (seh-rah-MEE-kah)
None set.
Native Continent
Habit: Solitary
Leaf type: Pinnate
Survivability index
Common names
Ahad (Buru dialect), Henahena (Ternate dialect), Ogulubenge (Tobaro dialect, Akelamo Oba, Maluku), Ceram Palm.

Habitat and Distribution

Rhopaloblaste ceramica Is found on; Maluku, and New Guinea. Widespread
Lae International Hotel, Morobe, Papua New Guinea. Photo by Dr. William J. Baker, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew/Palmweb.
from Halmahera and Buru in the Moluccas through to Ceram, then to mainland New Guinea. In Papua New Guinea, known only with certainty from Sandaun and East Sepik Provinces in the north-western part of the country. However, the lost type of the dubious synonym R. dyscrita originates from Morobe Province in the east. Well drained lowland to lower montane primary rain forests. In secondary rain forests it is found in old garden areas, on broken coral to deep, loose, porous, black volcanic soil. Also on alluvial flats in deep clay soil. From 35 to 900 m above sea level. (R. Banka and W.J. Baker. 2004)/Palmweb.


Robust, canopy, solitary palm bearing up to 15 - 17 leaves in the crown. Stem to 35 m tall, 15 - 29 (- 35) cm in diam.; surface slightly rough, brownish grey leaf scars prominent; internodes 12 - 14 cm basally, decreasing to 1 cm distally. Leaf sheath 1.2 - 1.5 m long, pale brownish white, moderately to densely lepidote- tomentose; crownshaft 1.3 - 1.5 m long, about 25 - 40 cm wide, dull-green; petiole 3.5 - 4.5 cm long, shallowly concave on adaxial surface; rachis 3 - 4 m long, with abundant matted dark brown scales on adaxial surface, densely lepidote-tomentose on the abaxial surface, becoming brownish with age; leaflets 111 - 120 each side of rachis, 2.5 - 3 cm apart, in one plane, pendulous, middle leaflet 100 - 112 x 2.3 - 2.5 cm, linear, tapering acutely and bifid at the apex, adaxial surface dark green with dark brown twisted scales near the base of the pinnae and along adaxial surface of midrib, abaxial surface dull green and with some lepidote tomentum. Inflorescence massive, 55 - 130 cm long, with a spread of 1 - 1.5 m, divaricate, branched to 3 orders, primary branches 16, 45 - 75 cm long, with basal pair of primary branches strongly recurved; prophyll 65 - 70 x 10 - 18 cm, dark green, with dense greyish brown indumentum; peduncle 8 - 10 cm long, 7- 10 cm in diam., greyish with some tomentum; robust rachillae 45 - 75 cm long, 4.9 - 7.3 mm in diameter, greyish green; flowers sunken in shallow pits formed by rachilla bracts. Staminate flower symmetric, greenish, 6.5 - 7 mm long, 6.5 - 6.8 mm in diam. at anthesis; sepals 3 - 3.1 x 3.1 - 3.3 mm, broadly elliptic; petals 6 -6.5 x 6.5 - 6.7 mm, broadly elliptic, glabrous; stamens 3.3- 4 mm long, filaments 2- 2.5 mm long, connate at the base, yellowish, anthers 2.1 - 2.3 mm long, 0.9 - 1 mm in diam., elliptic; pistillode conical, 2.3 - 2.5 mm long, 1.2 - 1.3 mm in diam. Pistillate flower slightly asymmetric, 4.3 - 4.7 mm long, 7.6 - 7.9 mm in diam., borne throughout the rachillae; sepals 3.9 - 4 x 3.7 - 3.8 mm, rounded; petals 4.3 - 4.4 x 2.2 - 2.4 mm, elliptic; staminodes usually 4, lobes 0.8 - 0.9 x 0.7 - 0.8 mm; gynoecium 4.3 - 4.9 mm long, 4.2 - 4.5 mm in diam., ovoid. Fruit 30 - 35 mm long, 16 - 18 mm in diam., asymmetric ellipsoid-ovoid, yellow when immature, becoming red at maturity; cupule of persistent perianth 11 - 12 mm long. Seed 21 - 31 mm long, 14 - 16 mm in diam., ellipsoid-ovoid, brown; conspicuous impression over the hilum, testa brown. (R. Banka and W.J. Baker. 2004)/Palmweb. Editing by edric.

Rhopaloblaste ceramica is the largest of all the species in the genus and is easily distinguished by its large asymmetrical fruits, with a substantial cupule of persistent perianth, and the inflorescence branched to three orders with very robust rachillae. Rhopaloblaste ceramica was the first of the species of Rhopaloblaste to be described, based on material collected in 1860 by Teijsmann and de Vriese from Ceram in the Moluccas. Miquel originally placed it in the genus Bentinckia as B. ceramica Miq. Ten years later it was moved to Cyrtostachys (C. ceramica (Miq.) H. Wendl.). In describing the genus Rhopaloblaste in 1876,

Comments and Curiosities

Uses: The shoot apex is edible. The wood is used for arrowheads and floorboards for houses. Occasionally cultivated as an ornamental.

"Attractive sillouhette palm from the Mollucas islands, where it grows to 60' tall.. has 10' leaves with 3' long pendant leaflets. Crownshaft supposedly silver, but who can tell, the palms are so tall." (Geoff Stein)

Rhopaloblaste ceramica; Tropical rainforests on the island of Ceram in eastern Indonesia are home to this elegant, slender palm that sports a smooth, trunk to about 15 m (50 ft.) tall, a long crownshaft and stiffly spreading leaves with long, pendulous leaflets. It is an easy and fast growing palm for the tropics and quite popular in cultivation in southern Asia. (RPS.com)

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.

Banka, R. & Baker, W.J. 2004. A Monograph of the Genus Rhopaloblaste (Arecaceae). Kew Bulletin, Vol. 59, No. 1, pp. 47-60.

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

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