Caryota zebrina

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Caryota (kahr-ee-OH-tah)
zebrina (zeh-BREE-nah)
GBPIX photo 511552.jpg
New Caledonia, photo by Ben
Scientific Classification
Genus: Caryota (kahr-ee-OH-tah)
zebrina (zeh-BREE-nah)
Caryota sp. Nova "Mitibe".
Native Continent
Habit: Solitary
Leaf type: Pinnate
Survivability index
Common names
Local names: Palem belang (striped palm) or Palem tokek (Tokek is the large house gecko). Zebra Fishtail Palm, Palem Tokek.

Habitat and Distribution

Caryota zebrina is found in Torricelli Mountains, West Sepik Provence, Papua New Guinea.
Thailand. Photo by Philippe Alvarez
In mountain forest at 850-1500 m.


Trunk type: Solitary. Hight: To 50 feet. Leaf detail: Pinnately compound, bipinnate, to 5 meters, (16 feet), Zebra striped petiole,thick, leathery, blackish/green leaflets are at differing angles, and in irregular clusters along the frond, giving the leaf a generally disorganised appearance. Also unusual in this palm caries only 3 to 4 fronds, at a time.

Solitary monoecious hapaxanthic palm; stems 6-16 m tall, about 20-40 cm in diam., bare near the base, distally covered with sheaths; internodes 30-40 cm long, nodal scars about 2 cm wide, internode surface cracking longitudinally and covered with a thick layer of dirty brown tomentum. Leaves 5-7 m long, about 1.5 m wide, young leaves pale green, older leaves dirty blackish green; sheath 1-2 m long, about 15 cm wide, markedly fibrous along margins, in mature leaves covered in dull brown tomentum, in juveniles strikingly tiger-striped with bands of pale and dark tomentum; ligule to about 25-60 cm long, covered in a dense layer of dirty brown tomentum, the ligule and sheath margins disintegrating into thin long black fibres; petiole about 1-2 m long, 2-6 x 2-3 cm in cross section, in young leaves tiger-striped with bands of pale and dark indumentum as the sheath, in older leaves dark olive green; rachis to 5 m long, to 20 x 28 mm in section in mid-leaf, adaxially with a strong flange about 8 x 5 mm, abaxially convex, covered in dense caduceus dark brown tomentum; primary pinnae about 20 on each side if the rachis, up to ca. 20 cm apafi, the basal primary pinnae about 80 cm long, the mid-leaf primary pinnae ca. 150 cm long, the distal to 100 cm long; secondary pinnae drying pale coloured, about 7-11 on each side of the secondary rachis, up to about 26 x 7 cm, irregularly wedge-shaped, leathery, veins radiating from the base, adaxially glabrous, abaxially with broad bands of caducous brown scales; transverse veinlets obscure. Inflorescences 1-2.5 m long, branching to 3 orders (always?); peduncle to 30 x 40 mm in diam., the surface densely covered in dull brown tomentum; distal bracts tubular, circumscissile and leaving a low collar, splitting distally to form a triangular limb to 22 x 12 cm, edged with dark brown fibers and covered in caducous brown tomentum; basal first order branches with a conspicuous pulvinus to about 5 cm wide; rachillae of various lengths, the longest to at least 1 m, 3-4 mm in diam., covered in dark brown indumentum; triads about 8-10 mm distant; rachilla bracts low, crescentic. Staminate flower at anthesis about L4 x 7 mm; sepals 3, dark green, strongly imbricate, irregularly gibbous, broad, rounded, entire or emarginate, the outermost 5 x 8 mm, the middle 5 x 7 mm, the innermost 5 x 7 mm, the three slightly connate basally; petals 3, free to the base, 12.0 x 4.5 mm, glabrous, smooth, almost spathulate with rounded triangular tips; stamens about 28, filaments 3.0 x 0.3 mm, anthers orange 5-7 x 0.6 mm, connective dark tanniniferoris, projecting beyond the anthers as a short bifid tip to 0.5 mm; pollen monosulcate, exine semitectate with anastomosed clavae forming irregular islets of tectum (Harley, pers. comm.); pistillode absent. Pistillate flower in bud (van Royen & Sleumer 6129) superficially similar to staminate flower but narrower, about 10.0 x 3.5 mm except at base where 6 mm wide; sepals 3, rounded, broadly imbricate, irregularly gibbous, the outer 4 x 7 mm, the middle 4 x 7 mm, the innermost 3.5 x 6.0 mm; petals 3, free in bud, 9.0 x 2.8 mm; staminodes 3 , antesepalous, filaments to 4 x 0.3 mm; gynoecium conical, 2 x 3 mm with 2 stigmas to 1.2 x 0.5 mm, ovules 2. Pistillate flower (Maturbongs MM586) post anthesin with petals basally connate for 2 mm with narrow triangular lobes to 7 x 5 mm; ovary 6 x 6 mm with 2 ovules. Fruit ripening white and then red, globose to depressed globose, to 15 x 25 mm, with apical stigmatic remains; epicarp minutely papillate. Seeds 2, hemispherical, about 72 x 15 x 8 mm, surface smooth, with scattered veins, with basal corky mass; endosperm homogenous; embryo lateral. (J. Dransfield, G.G. Hambali, R.A. Maturbongs and C.D.Heatubun. 2000)/Palmweb. Editing by edric.


Requirements: Near full shade, when young, partial shade when mature, consistently moist soil, well drained position. Special note: This species is monocarpic. This palm is very slow, and very difficult in cultivation, and to be considered a strictly tropical species. Sheltered, shady position in moist, but well drained soil. Although it comes from Papua New Guinea, it is found quite high in the mountains, so it is probably quite cold tolerant. It is however, a very slow grower.


Special note: This is the only Caryota, that is not bipinnate.

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).

Dransfield, J. , Hambali, G.G. , Maturbongs, R.A.C.D.Heatubun. 2000. Caryota zebrina.

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

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