Calamus caryotoides

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Calamus (KAL-ah-muhs)
Calamus caryotoides Schwarz.jpg
So. California.
Scientific Classification
Genus: Calamus (KAL-ah-muhs)
Palmijuncus caryotoides
Native Continent
Habit: Clustering
Leaf type: Pinnate
Survivability index
Common names
Fishtail Lawyer Cane

Habitat and Distribution

Calamus caryotoides is found in Queensland, occurs in CYP and NEQ near Mt Elliott.
Altitudinal range from near sea level to 1500 m. Usually grows in the drier more seasonal rain forests and monsoon forest.


Trunk type: Very thin, cane like, habit: clustering, spines, diameter, Up to 12 mm. (0.5"). Hight: Up to 15m. (48ft.). Spread: Up to 5 m. (16ft). detail: Pinnate, Up to 12 mm. (0.5") dark green, glossy, petiole armed. Flower: Near pure white, very petite. Fruit dark orange. Special note: all of the Calamus species have, long whip-like flagella to 3 m. long, also bears numerous hooks. Stem: Slender vine-like; not exceeding a stem diameter of 2 cm. Stem smooth and glassy. Leaves: Pinnate. Leaflets 6-12 in each compound leaf, each leaflet with 3 prominent longitudinal veins. Leaflet blades sessile. Lateral leaflet blades about 12-16 x 2.3-3 cm. Terminal leaflet blade about 13 x 9 cm. Leaflet tips praemorse, leaflet blade margins minutely spiny. Terminal leaflet bilobed. Strong recurved hooks present on the underside of the compound leaf axis. Stems (or more correctly the compound leaf sheaths) densely clothed in long dark irritant spiny hairs. The apex of the sheathing base of the petiole extends above the point of attachment of the narrowed portion of the compound leaf petiole. Tendrils simple (unbranched(?)) +/- leaf-opposed, attached to the sheathing base of the compound leaf petiole. Flowers: Male flowers: Inflorescence a slender, pendulous, much-branched panicle. Flowers borne in two-ranked spikes, the individual flowers arranged in a single plane. Outer tepals about 2-2.5 x 1 mm. Inner tepals about 4 x 1 mm. Stamens 6. Female flowers: Inflorescence borne on the sheathing base opposite the compound leaf petiole. Flowers about 2 mm diam. Outer tepals fused to form a tube about 1.2 mm. long, lobes about 0.9 mm. long. Inner tepals free from one another, about 2.3 mm. long. Staminodes about 1.5 mm. long, anther bases sagittate. Base of the ovary clothed in small scales, while larger nectary glands are usually visible higher on the ovary. Stigmatic arms curved, about 1.5 mm. long. Ovules usually one per locule. Fruit: Fruits globular, about 9-10 mm. in diam., borne near the end of a spiny tendril about 1 m. long. Fruits clothed in numerous slightly overlapping shield-like or diamond-shaped scales arranged in a neat regular pattern. Seed surrounded by an acidic slightly astringent pulp. Seeds one per fruit, each seed globular, about 8 mm. in diam., flat on one side with a central cavity. Testa smooth. Embryo lateral, borne towards the edge of the endosperm, slightly above the equator. Embryo about 1.5 mm. long, shaped like a bullet (i.e. 0.22 projectile). Editing by edric.

Seedlings: One or two large sheathing cataphylls produced before the first true leaf. First true leaf pinnate with four to six narrowly elliptic leaflets or with four lateral leaflets plus a deeply divided terminal leaflet. Petioles and leaflets armed with spines about 2 mm. long. At the tenth leaf stage: leaf compound with about four or five leaflets crowded on a short compound leaf axis. Compound leaf petiole arising from a spiny sheath around the stem of the seedling, spines about 3-5 mm. long. Terminal leaflet deeply bilobed or an alternative explanation is that the compound leaf ends in two sessile leaflets. Leaflets longitudinally veined, margins spiny, apices praemorse.


Southern California Experience: This is easily the most hardy and easy to grow of the Calamus species in southern California, showing surprising hardiness for a rattan (some rattans, such as Plectocomia himalayana are even more cold hardy, but most are not). It can tolerate temps down into the high 20Fs without too much leaf damage, and seems fairly non-picky about soil types as well. However, it does resent full sun, or even partial afternoon/midday sun, particularly inland, and tends to brown-tip badly if exposed to winds. This rattan can be grown as a smaller, self-supporting palm without the need for draping it or having it climb all over the yard, by constantly trimming it to a managable height. Further growth stops, but new suckers are constantly being produced. If allowed to grow unpruned, it will not develop into a massive palm, at least here in So Cal, but usually grows only to 8' or more high... however it produces long, hooked cirrhi that can be very dangerous for passersby. The plant itself is moderately armed with spines, but it's the whips and cirrhi that are the most troublesome. If grown in a moderate climate with wind and sun protection, it can be a very ornamental palm.

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Comments and Curiosities

Natural History: The slender canes of this species have been used in basket making. This plant used medicinally by Aborigines, young shoots eaten to cure headaches.

Distinguishing features: leaf not terminating in a cirrus (whip-like extension armed with spines); apex of pinnae truncate; leaf sheath armed with spines arranged randomly; leaflets without spines on upper surface veins.

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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