Cyrtostachys elegans

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Cyrtostachys (sihr-toh-STAHK-iss)
elegans (EHL-eh-ganz)
Samarakoon's garden in Peradeniya, Sri Lanka. Photo by Philippe.
Scientific Classification
Genus: Cyrtostachys (sihr-toh-STAHK-iss)
elegans (EHL-eh-ganz)
None set.
Native Continent
Habit: Clustering
Leaf type: Pinnate
Survivability index
Common names
Nibung (Indonesian dialect in Papua, also used for other palms).

Habitat and Distribution

Cyrtostachys elegans is found in New Guinea. Cyrtostachys elegans is a Central-West
Samarakoon's garden in Peradeniya, Sri Lanka. Photo by Philippe.
New Guinean species and is known only from lowlands in Nabire and Timika in the Indonesian Province of Papua. This palm grows in swampy areas, in lowland rain forest, at an altitude 10 – 300 m. above sea level.


Robust, clustering palm to 15 (– 20) m, with up to 3 adult stems, and 4 – 6 or more suckers at the base, crown hemispherical in outline. Stem 15 – 30 cm in diam., greyish green apically, greyish brown to black near base; internodes about 25 cm long. Leaves, about 9 per crown, curved, 300 – 350 cm long (including petiole); sheath tubular, about 33 cm wide, forming a distinct crownshaft, about 250 cm long, light green to pale yellow; petiole short to 10 cm long, 3.5 – 4 cm wide and 1.5 – 2.5 cm thick at the base, channelled adaxially, rounded abaxially; leaflets pendulous, regularly arranged, leathery, 100 – 102 leaflets on each side, middle leaflets 100 – 126.5 × 3.5 – 4.5 cm, apical leaflets about 33.5 × 1 cm, briefly pointed and sometimes notched at apices, green, discolorous when dried, light brown adaxially, pale brown to whitish abaxially, fine brown ramenta discontinuous along midvein on abaxial surface. Inflorescence 75 – 100 cm long, about 160 cm wide, branched to 4 orders, creamy to yellowish green, brown when dried; prophyll about 65 × 24 cm, leathery, peduncular bract similar to prophyll; peduncle very short to 7.5 cm; rachillae 34 – 61.5 cm long; 17 – 19 pits per 1 cm rachilla length (at fruiting stage), pits 2 – 4 mm in diam. Staminate flowers 2 – 2.5 × 2 – 2.7 mm, asymmetrical; sepals 1.8 – 2.3 × 1.5 – 2 mm; petals 1.4 – 2 × 1.3 – 1.5 mm; stamens 9; filaments 0.5 – 1.5 × 0.1 – 0.3 mm; anthers 0.5 – 1 × 0.3 – 0.7 mm; pollen size long axis 31 – 42 μm, short axis 24 – 42 μm, proximal wall thickness 1 – 3 μm, distal wall thickness 1 – 2 μm, tectum surface verrucate, less frequently gemmate, trichotomosulcate grains present; pistillode 0.8 – 1.3 × 0.3 – 0.5 mm, trifid. Pistillate flowers 2 – 5.2 × 1.3 – 4.5 mm; sepals 1.6 – 4.8 × 1 – 3.5 mm; petals 1.2 – 3.8 × 0.5 – 3.9 mm; gynoecium 0.9 – 4.5 × 0.4 – 2.5 mm (including stigma); staminodes 4 – 5, membranous. Fruits 12 – 17 × 5 – 6 mm, ellipsoid to sickle-shaped, green to black (when mature); beak 1 – 2 mm long, perianth persistent, forming a narrow cylinder at the base or leaving a different coloured scar, ⅓ – ½ length of fruit. Seeds 6 – 7 × 4 – 5 × 4 mm, ellipsoid, rounded apical and flatted basally. (Ch.D. Heatubun. 2009)/Palmweb. Editing by edric.

Cyrtostachys elegans is similar to C. loriae in being a robust palm, with pendulous leaflets and a short petiole, but differs from the latter in its clustering habit, the hemispherical crown and elongate inflorescence branched to 4 orders, rather than solitary habit, spherical crown and robust inflorescence branched to 3 orders. This species also differs from the other New Guinean robust tree palm C. bakeri in the presence of curved leaves and hemispherical crown, rather than erect leaves and shuttle-cock crown; however, both species have pendulous leaflets. This species was described by Burret in 1937 based on a herbarium specimen made by C. X. Furtado from a plant cultivated in the Bogor Botanical Garden. (Ch.D. Heatubun. 2009)/Palmweb.


Tropical, Hardiness: USDA min. zone 11. Cyrtostachys palms like heat, full sun exposure & plenty of rain. On a 1-10 scale, growth rate is about a 3.5-4.0 for C. renda. None have produced flowers yet, despite being 25 ft tall or so. This is possibly due to lack of heat. Cyrtostachys renda will not survive below approximately 50° F, so the highest elevation on the Big Island where it can be grown is probably around 3000 ft. But, it also thrives in hot weather with plenty ofrain so anywhere above 1500 ft or so it will be very slow. Cold Hardiness Zone: 10b

Comments and Curiosities

Conservation: Near Threatened. The resettlement and relocation of Nabire town, after being hit by a large earthquake in the recent past, and the development in the Timika area to support PT. Freeport Indonesia (the world biggest copper and gold mining company) mining activities will affect the population of this palm. Large areas of forest in the lowlands will disappear. (Ch.D. Heatubun. 2009)/Palmweb.

A rare, moderate-sized palm from rainforests on New Guinea that forms sparsely but tightly clustering, slender, smooth, green trunks to about 6 m (20 ft.) tall. A very prominent, bright green crownshaft holds a crown of spreading leaves with somewhat drooping leaflets. A palm only for the humid tropics. (

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).

Heatubun, Ch.D.2009. A monograph of Cyrtostachys (Arecaceae). Kew Bulletin 64: 67-94./Palmweb.

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

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