Dypsis pusilla

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Dypsis (DIP-sis)
pusilla (poo-SIHL-lah)
Madagascar. Photo by Dr. John Dransfield, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew/Palmweb.
Scientific Classification
Genus: Dypsis (DIP-sis)
pusilla (poo-SIHL-lah)
None set.
Native Continent
Habit: Solitary & clustering.
Leaf type: Pinnate
Survivability index
Common names
Vonitra (Betsimisaraka).

Habitat and Distribution

Endemic to Madagascar. Masoala Peninsula and Mananara Biosphere Reserve. Littoral forest
Tampolo - Masoala - Madagascar (2016) - East Coast of Madagascar. Dypsis pusilla left, D. faneva right. Photo by "Olivier Reilhes".
on deep humus near the beach, riverine in moist forest, or on humus banks in moist forest on steep hillside; 1-220 m.


Solitary or clustered palm. STEM 0.8-2 m high, usually unbranched, sometimes dichotomous; bare stem 4-5 cm in diam., but usually covered with very thick layer of persistent fibrous leafbases and then about 12 cm in diam.; fibres coarse, short, not pendulous. Trunk with basal surface roots and occasionally with aerial roots at 40-50 cm from ground; bark brown, internodes 3-10 mm long. LEAVES 15-16 in the crown, up to 2 m long, porrect with arching rachis; sheath 22-26 x 6-7.5 cm, with rather dense red or blackish laciniate scales, auricles (up to 5 cm long) and margins disintegrating quickly; petiole 75-100 cm long, about 1 x 0.6 cm (proximal), x 0.6 x 0.4-0.5 cm (distal), flattened or slightly convex adaxially, convex to keeled abaxially, green to purplish with dense red laciniate scales; rachis 78-94 cm, in mid-leaf 3-4 mm wide, angular, with scattered scales; leaflets 25-28 on each side of the rachis, stiff, proximally at an angle of 140° - 160° with the leaflets on the opposite side of the rachis, more distal in one plane, regular, glossy dark green, proximal ones 19-41 x 0.3-2.5 cm (most proximal ones short and narrow), median 38-51 x 1.8-3.2 (interval 2.5-3 cm), distal 13-31 x 0.8-2.5 cm, the apical pair hardly connate, apices attenuate and bifid, main veins 3, with the midrib prominent adaxially, leaflets glabrous or with a few scattered scales near the base. INFLORESCENCE interfoliar, erect, branching to one order (in Beentje 4651 with the most proximal rachilla bifurcate); peduncle 47-132 cm, proximally 5-6 x 4 mm, distally 3- 5 x 2-4 mm, with dense reddish laciniate scales but soon glabrescent; prophyll 10-34 cm long, 2-keeled, with a few scattered reddish scales, cylindrical, split at apex only, soon disintegrating at the apex; peduncular bract inserted at 7-14 cm from base, 30-48 cm long, pale brown with patches of dense reddish scales, circumscissile but carried up and covering the rachillae until expansion, beaked for 9-10 cm; rachis 7- 15 cm, with 17-22 branches; rachillae green, occasionally with a bulbous base, 12-32 cm long, 2-2.5 mm diam., covered in minute stellate scales; triads spirally arranged, quite close, in pits. STAMINATE FLOWERS globose in bud; sepals 0.6-1 x 1-1.3 mm; petals 1.7-1.8 x 1.2-1.5 mm, ovate, acute; stamens 6, in 2 series, didymous, filaments 0.4-0.8 mm long, anthers 0.4-0.5 x 0.5-0.6 mm, rounded; pistillode 0.2-0.9 x 0.4-1 mm, hexagonal with central trifid apex. PISTILLATE FLOWERS with sepals about 0.5 mm high, 1 mm wide, petals 1.4 -1.8 x 1.2-1.3 mm; ovary 1-1.4 mm high, 1.1-1.2 mm in diam., slightly asymmetrical; staminodes 0.3 mm high. FRUIT purple to black, obovoid, rounded, 13-19 x 9-15 mm; mesocarp 1.2 mm thick, rather fleshy; endocarp fibrous. SEED 15-16 x 9-12 mm, with endosperm ruminations 3-4 mm deep. (J. Dransfield and H. Beentje. 1995)/Palmweb. Editing by edric.

Distinct by its small stature, its trunk which rarely branches and its short inflorescence branched to only one order; only very few inflorescences are present at the same time, which is unusual in the Vonitra group. (J. Dransfield and H. Beentje. 1995)/Palmweb.


Cold Hardiness Zone: 10a

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Comments and Curiosities

This is the smallest species of the "Vonitra" group. It is an attractive palm of the undergrowth in valley bottoms. The stems are almost always unbranched, and often solitary, and densely clothed with very short piassava. It can be distinguished from other species in the group by the short usually unbranched stems, the short piassava, the delicate curving leaflets and the inflorescence that is branched to one order only. Its rather dainty appearance is reflected in the species name. As far as we know, this species is not in cultivation, but it would clearly be an attractive subject for a small garden. (J. Dransfield and H. Beentje. 1995)/Palmweb.

Conservation: Vulnerable. With a fairly small distribution area and low numbers of individuals per population, this species might move into the Endangered category in the near future, if shifting cultivation continues apace in its native habitat. (J. Dransfield and H. Beentje. 1995)/Palmweb.

D. pusilla is one of the shorter-growing representatives of the genus. Native to shady valley bottoms in northeastern Madagascar, it can be both solitary and clustering in habit, its stems covered in dense, short piassava. New leaves of this species open red, and mature leaflets are glossy dark green and regularly-spaced along the rachis. Stems mature to 2½ to 6½ ft. in height and 1½ to 2 in. in diameter, though the leaf-sheath fibers make them appear about 5 in. across. D. pusilla produces fruit that ripens purple-black. The IUCN Red List conservation status of this species is Vulnerable, with a stable population trend. (fairchildgarden.org)

External Links


Phonetic spelling of Latin names by edric.

Special thanks to Geoff Stein, (Palmbob) for his hundreds of photos.

Special thanks to Palmweb.org, 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. & Beentje, H. 1995. The Palms of Madagascar. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and The International Palm Society.

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

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