Actinorhytis calapparia

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Actinorhytis {ahk-tin-oh-REE-tiss)
calapparia (kah-lahp-pahr-EE-ah)
Actinorhytis callaparia palm, on the roadside near Gihinathena, on the way to Hatton, Sri Lanka. Photo by Philippe.
Scientific Classification
Genus: Actinorhytis {ahk-tin-oh-REE-tiss)
calapparia (kah-lahp-pahr-EE-ah)
None set.
Native Continent
Habit: Solitary
Leaf type: Pinnate
Survivability index
Common names
Calappa Palm.

Habitat and Distribution

Actinorhytis calapparia is found in New Guinea and the
Actinorhytis callaparia palm, on the roadside near Gihinathena, on the way to Hatton, Sri Lanka. Photo by Philippe.
Solomon Islands. Tropical rainforests from sea level to 1000 m (3000').

Actinorhytis calapparia is native to New Guinea and the Solomon Islands thriving in lowland rain forest from sea level to 1,000 m (3,300 ft). While understory subjects for much of their life, they eventually reach the top of the forest canopy. The species is also reportedly naturalised in Thailand, Sumatra, and peninsular Malaysia.


Actinorhytis calapparia originates from Papua New Guinea and The Soloman Islands, where it grows in low to mid elevation rainforests. It is a tall, solitary palm to 15m/48' and eventually grows above the canopy of the rainforest into full sun. The slender, light grey trunk only reaches 200mm/8" in diameter and is prominently ringed with the scars of old leaf bases. Above the trunk it forms a 900 mm/3' long, pale green crownshaft, similar in diameter to the trunk. The open crown is formed by a relatively small number of 3m/10' long, heavily recurved, pinnate leaves, which are dark green with several, narrow leaflets up to 450 mm/18" in length. A monoceious palm, it forms cream flowers of both sexes, which produce large, 75 mm/3" ovoid fruit that ripen to red or reddish purple. This is a reasonably fast growing species, given plenty of nutrients and moisture and, although it will take light frosts, it will not tolerate sustained periods of cold and is generally regarded as only suitable for tropical and warmer subtropical areas. Whilst it will take full sun at maturity, smaller plants require plenty of shade and will become easily damaged by exposure to direct sunlight. In cooler areas it can only really be used in large indoor atriums with plenty of available light and humidity. a slender feather palm, oval red fruits to 6 cm (2.5"). Editing by edric.

The species is solitary trunked, reaching 12–14 metres (39–46 ft) in height, and is relatively slender, usually no wider than 20 centimetres (8 in). At the base, the white to tan trunks are anchored by a large, conical mass of aerial roots and are topped by a distinct 1-metre (3 ft) crownshaft, slightly bulging at the base. The leaf crown is sparse but spherical, each arching leaf is around 3 m (10 ft) long with pinnately arranged 45-centimetre (18 in) leaflets which are dark green in colour. The leaflets are closely and regularly arranged along the rachis and the abaxially rounded petiole is usually long in youth but shorter in maturity.

The much branched monoecious inflorescence forms below the leaf bases, ringing the trunk with cream-coloured male and female flowers. Both sexes carry three sepals and three petals and in both cases the sepals are two or three times longer than the petals. The inflorescence becomes pendent as the large fruit set; the beaked, ovoid fruit are red to purple to green; each fruit contains one seed. (Riffle, Robert L. and Craft, Paul (2003) An Encyclopedia of Cultivated Palms. Portland: Timber Press.)


Cold sensitive, so it likes a sunny, well drained position in a tropical setting. Actinorhytis calapparia is widely cultivated in Southeast Asia and Malesia where villagers attribute it magical or medicinal powers, or as a substitute to betel.[4] They have little tolerance for drought, requiring generous water as well as nutrient rich soil; they do, however, exhibit some tolerance to cold. (Riffle, Robert L. and Craft, Paul (2003) An Encyclopedia of Cultivated Palms. Portland: Timber Press.)

Comments and Curiosities

This is a monotypic genus.

A Betel Nut substitute, and becoming popular in Southeast Asia due to supposed magical medicinal powers.

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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