Acanthophoenix crinita

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White Barbel Palm

crinita (krih-NEET-ah)
GBPIX photo 595699.jpg
On an old lava flow of the volcano La fournaise, La Réunion Island. "Photo by Olivier Reilhes"
Scientific Classification
Genus: Acanthophoenix
crinita (krih-NEET-ah)
None set.
Native Continent
Habit: Solitary
Leaf type: Pinnate
Sun exposure: Full to half day
Survivability index
Common names
White Barbel Palm

Habitat and Distribution

Acanthophoenix crinita Is endemic to La Réunion Island of the Mascarene archipelago.
On an old lava flow of the volcano La fournaise, La Réunion Island. "Photo by Olivier Reilhes"
It can be found as high as 1500/1700 meters altitude. It grows in humid and often foggy areas. The islands of La Réunion, Mauritius and Rodriguez constitute the Mascarene archipelago. The island of La Réunion, (Reunion Island), is the largest and the youngest of the group, at only three million years old, with an active shield volcano named Piton de la Fournaise. It is home to two known species of Acanthophoenix and a third species, A. rousselii, now described.


Solitary pleonanthic monoecious palm with erect trunk to 15–25 m tall and 20–30 cm in diam., surface light gray, rather smooth, only slightly marked with leaf scars; trunk base swollen in a characteristic “elephant foot.” Leaves pinnate, 15–20 in crown; crownshaft conspicuous, , sheaths 90–120 cm long, 45 cm wide at the base, up to 6 mm thick, abaxially dark brown, covered with dense furlike black hair 6–8 mm long, except on half length median axis where glabrous; petiole and rachis 2.50–3 m long, glabrous or with a fine indument abaxially in the distal part; leaflets 70–80 pairs, pendulous and regularly attached on both edges of the rachis, leaflet tip acute, olive green color on both surface, leaflet midrib adaxially armed with thin reddishbrown bristles 2–4 cm long, thin flexuous dotlike scales on abaxial side of midrib. Inflorescences infrafoliar, first enclosed in a tough unarmed brown prophyll; inflorescences ivory-colored, pendulous, 100–110 cm long, branching to 2 orders with 50–70 rachillae; peduncle base enlarged in a crescent shape where attached to the trunk; peduncle and rachis armed with strong sinuous black spines 2–3 cm long; rachillae bearing densely arranged triads of flowers, two staminate flowers flanking one pistillate flower, all sessile and glabrous. Staminate flowers 12 × 12 mm, ivory white turning to light yellow except pistillode and basal part of filaments pinkcolored; sepals 3, narrow triangular with acute tip, 1.5 mm long; petals 3, elliptic, valvate, 7 × 3 mm; stamens 9 (sometimes 8) with white sagittate anthers 3–4 mm long and coiled filaments 8 mm long; pistillode 2–3 mm with trifid tip. Pistillate flowers ivory-white, globose to subspherical, slightly asymetrical, smaller than staminate flowers 4.5 × 3–4 mm; sepals and petals similar, membranous, imbricate. Mature fruit black with persistent beige or light brown perianth, ellipsoidal and slightly curved, 15–20 × 8 mm; mesocarp thin, dark purple; endosperm homogenous, embryo basal. This species has a limited distribution within the town limits of Le Tampon. It grows in Trois Mares at an altitude of 600–850 m, in remnants of a transitional lowland forest ecosystem specific to the leeward side of the island.


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Anyway, this one grows pretty well in So. California, but is much easier once it attains some size. My first palm was a 5 gal and it grew straight through our coldest winters (probably got down to 28F/-2.22C, though everywhere else in the yard it got as cold as 25F/-3.88C without even a hint of leaf burn. However, starting out with a 1 gal palm was a lot more problematic- much slower, and seemingly more sensitive to cold. So grow this one up in the greenhouse to 5 gal size, and THEN plant it out. It is not a fast palm, and doesn't like too much sun, but it is surprisingly hardy for it's source (tropical island). It isn't as nicely colored as A rubra, but is fiercely spiny, at least as a young palm. Not easy to prune (careful!). Not seen any mature ones yet. Likes a lot of water. From a southern California point of view, this is a fairly easy palm to grow with overhead protection and well draining moist soil.

It can support the sun, even when young. He need moderate water, without excess. It can support low temperatures, like 0 degrees C or minus like -2°C but for really short periods. Even there, it is sadly known to be hard to germinate.

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, 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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