Hydriastele wendlandiana

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Hydriastele (high-dree-Ah-STEL-eh)
HkDSC 0060.jpg
Boca Raton, Florida. Photo by Randy.
Scientific Classification
Genus: Hydriastele (high-dree-Ah-STEL-eh)
None set.
Native Continent
Habit: Clustering
Leaf type: Pinnate
Survivability index
Common names
Florence Falls palm, Latrum Palm, Cat-o'-Nine Tails, Creek Palm.

Habitat and Distribution

Distribution:—Widespread in New Guinea, parts of Queensland and Northern Territory in Australia, and in between islands. Habitat:—Primary or secondary lowland rainforest in a variety of subhabitats, and premontane primary rainforest, on limestone and shales, limestone karst and volcanic soils, 0–1000 m. Queensland Australia, Northern Territory Australia. The Florence Falls Palm comes
Northern Territory, Australia. Rare solitary form. Photo by Dr. J.L. Dowe.
from the monsoonal rainforests.


Solitary or clustering palm forming clumps of as many as 10 stems, slender to moderate, to 17 m tall, bearing 5– 12 leaves per crown. Stem 2–10 cm in diam. Leaf 1–2.5 m long including petiole; sheath 40–73 cm long; petiole (2–)10–80 cm long; leaflets 12–30 per side, usually irregularly arranged with a group of closely spaced leaflets in different planes in the middle of rachis, ± cuneate, truncately praemorse apically, with ramenta usually present on the basal portion of the abaxial side of the midrib. Inflorescence (16–)21–50 cm long including 2.5–7 cm peduncle, with (1–)2(–3) orders of branching, protogynous; primary branches 8–15, to 46 cm long, bearing up to 5 rachillae each; triads opposite and decussate. Staminate flower 8–10 × 3–5 mm in bud; stamens (5–)6(–8). Pistillate flower 1.8–3 × 1.8–2.5 mm in bud, with free sepals and free, ± rounded, low petals. Fruit 7–9(–11) × 6–8 mm when ripe, globose to ovoid, purple to reddish, with inconspicuous stigmatic apical remains lacking encircling dark sclerotic zone. Seed 5–7 × 5–6.2 mm, globose to ovoid; endosperm homogeneous to ruminate. PETER PETOE, CHARLIE D. HEATUBUN & WILLIAM J. BAKER Phytotaxa 370 (1) © 2018 Magnolia Press.

Small, moderate or tall, solitary or clustering, unarmed, pleonanthic, monoecious palms. Stem erect or leaning, slender to robust, bare, conspicuously ringed with leaf scars. Leaf entire-bifid or pinnate, neatly abscising; sheath elongate, forming a well-defined crownshaft, usually densely scaly or lanate, often with chaffy scales, a ligule-like ± fibrous prolongation sometimes present opposite or at the base of the petiole; petiole short to long or rarely lacking, adaxially channelled, flattened or keeled, abaxially rounded, usually conspicuously scaly; rachis straight, drooping or strongly arcuate, adaxially channelled or angled near the base, distally angled, abaxially rounded, usually scaly as the petiole; leaflets regularly arranged or grouped, pendulous or horizontal or ascending, straight or curved, single- or multi-fold, the terminal pair often broad and multi-fold, the rest linear or cuneate, apically acute, bifid or obliquely to truncately praemorse, adaxial and abaxial surfaces bearing scattered minute scales, abaxially sometimes with scattered ramenta along the midrib, sometimes also with bands of deciduous chaffy scales along major ribs, transverse veinlets conspicuous or obscure. Inflorescence infrafoliar, spicate or branching to 1–4 orders, usually horsetail-like, protandrous or protogynous; peduncle short or elongate, winged at the base, sometimes becoming swollen; prophyll compressed, entirely enclosing the inflorescence in bud, 2-keeled, with a conspicuous apical beak, thin, papery when dry, glabrous or scaly, soon drying on exposure, splitting longitudinally on the abaxial face and abscising together with the peduncular bract; peduncular bract 1 rarely 2 (and then the second bract vestigial), similar to and entirely enclosed by the prophyll, tubular, enclosing the inflorescence in bud; subsequent bracts inconspicuous; rachis short, bearing inconspicuous rachis bracts subtending few to many crowded, ± spirally arranged primary branches, the proximal bearing a few to several branches or all unbranched; rachillae elongate, usually ± straight or curved to sinuous, of ± equal length, tending to curve downwards, bearing throughout their length spirally arranged or opposite and decussate pairs of triads of cream-coloured or violet-, pinkish- or reddish-tinged flowers, sometimes except at the very tip where bearing solitary or paired staminate flowers; rachilla bracts normally very inconspicuous, low, ± rounded. Staminate flower fleshy, asymmetrical; calyx sessile or with a short stalk-like base, sepals 3, short, triangular, ± distinct or joined into a cup for ca. 1/2 their length; petals 3, fleshy, distinct, except at the very base, valvate or with margins not meeting in bud, 4–5 times as long as the calyx, narrow, triangular, 1 usually larger than the other 2; stamens 6–24, filaments very short, fleshy, variously epipetalous and connate, anthers elongate, erect, basifixed, dehiscence latrorse, connective sometimes prolonged into a short point; pistillode present or lacking. Pollen grains ellipsoidal, bi-symmetric; aperture a distal sulcus, ± same length as long axis or, frequently, extended; ectexine semi-tectate and coarsely (rarely finely) reticulate, muri of reticulum sometimes perforate, aperture margins similar; or pollen ellipsoidal or oblate-triangular, asymmetric; aperture a distal sulcus or trichotomosulcus; ectexine tectate, coarsely perforate, foveolate, coarsely perforate-rugulate or rarely scabrate verrucate, aperture margin similar; longest axis ranging from 33–70μm; postmeiotic tetrads tetragonal or tetrahedral. Pistillate flower globose or ± conical in bud, smaller than the staminate; sepals 3, distinct, rounded or triangular, broadly imbricate or connate in a ring with 3 low triangular lobes; petals 3, distinct or connate, not more than ca. twice as long as the sepals, rounded or triangular, basally broadly imbricate or connate in a ring, apically rounded except for very small triangular tips or with conspicuous triangular valvate tips, closely appressed in bud, the tips persisting or eroding into fibres in fruit; staminodes 3(–6), tooth-like, minute; gynoecium ± globose or ovoid, unilocular, uniovulate, stigmas 3, low, sessile or fleshy, reflexed, ovule laterally attached near apex of locule, hemianatropus (?always). Fruit globose through ovoid to ellipsoid or ± cylindrical, straight or curved, white to yellowish or bright red to purplish-black, sometimes drying ridged or furrowed, sometimes briefly beaked or with discoid region at the apex, stigmatic remains apical, perianth whorls persistent, the petal tips sometimes reflexed or appressed to the fruit; epicarp smooth or slightly pebbled, mesocarp thin, with abundant tannin cells, and longitudinal fibre bundles, endocarp thin, crustose or obsolescent. Seed ovoid or globose, laterally or basally attached with elongate or rounded hilum, raphe branches sparse, anastomosing, endosperm homogeneous or shallowly to deeply ruminate; embryo basal. Germination adjacent-ligular; eophyll bifid with entire or minutely to strongly praemorse tips. Cytology: 2n=32. (Generic description modified from Dransfield et al. [2008]). PETER PETOE, CHARLIE D. HEATUBUN & WILLIAM J. BAKER Phytotaxa 370 (1) © 2018 Magnolia Press.

This beautiful palm produces dense clusters of thin, cane-like, stems up to 20 metres tall. The leaves are broadly pinnate, with a large, fishtail shaped pair of leaflets at the premorse leaf tip. Showy red fruits are produced on short, string-like fruit stalks below the crown. Editing by edric.


A most attractive palm for the humid tropical garden where established plants give protection, for a conservatory or hothouse and for indoors. However, Hydriastele wendlandiana must be protected indoors from air condition, fans and breezes.

"This species has performed well here in Vero Beach, zone 10a. This particular plant is growing near the ocean, which affords it some marine influence. It is likely that this palm has taken lows to the low thirties during its stay in Vero over the last fifteen years. It is now a good source for seed for local palmies."

"This palm has the frustrating habit of fruiting heaviest when access roads are impassable in the wet season. Very fresh seed is needed, pre-soaked for a week before de-fleshing and planting in shallow trays, germinating is six to twelve months. Small bifid seedlings are slow growing and prone to attacks of fungus. They do best in a humid atmosphere, heavy shade, and lightly fertilized. After approximately three years a 1m main stem with 2 or 3 basal suckers is ready to be planted in a sheltered position. Hydriastele wendlandiana can be moved if necessary, quite large specimens transplanting well. Cultivated and irrigated specimens fruit throughout the year." (Alan White)

Comments and Curiosities

Notes:—Hydriastele wendlandiana is a widespread and common understorey to midstorey palm distinguished by its leaves with 12–30 irregularly arranged, truncately praemorse leaflets on each side of the rachis, leaf sheaths longer than 40 cm, inflorescences bearing 8–15 primary branches, and variable endosperm condition. Hydriastele wendlandiana is most similar to H. kasesa, but that species differs in being of a generally shorter stature, having leaves with 6–13 leaflets on each side of the rachis, leaf sheaths that do not exceed 30 cm in length, and inflorescences bearing 5–10 primary branches. Rarely, leaflets of H. wendlandiana are regularly arranged prompting comparison with H. variabilis and H. rheophytica, but H. variabilis usually has shorter inflorescences (10–25 cm long as opposed to normally 21–50 cm in H. wendlandiana), and H. rheophytica has pliable stems and flexible leaves. In addition, both H. variabilis and H. rheophytica have basal leaflets that are obliquely praemorse or pointed at their tips, rather than truncately praemorse. PETER PETOE, CHARLIE D. HEATUBUN & WILLIAM J. BAKER Phytotaxa 370 (1) © 2018 Magnolia Press.

Petoe et al. (2018) describe the taxonomy and morphology of H. wendlandiana in more detail. In addition to being a nomen nudum, the name Ptychosperma beccarianum Warb. ex K.Schum. & Lauterb. was also linked to a specimen of mixed gathering (Burret 1928) shown by Baker & Loo (2004) to contain fragments of Hydriastele wendlandiana and Rhopaloblaste ceramica Burret (1928: 288). Although not strictly a synonym due to its being invalidly published, we nonetheless justify listing Ptychosperma beccarianum as such here, in order to effectively pin down the name. PETER PETOE, CHARLIE D. HEATUBUN & WILLIAM J. BAKER Phytotaxa 370 (1) © 2018 Magnolia Press.

Uses:—Used for flooring, roofing, bed construction, arrows and spears, harpoons and chicken coop. The young shoots are consumed. Locally planted as an ornamental.

Vernacular names:—Kantrabel, Inpsal (Kanum), Honggomi, Patani, Sanggum (Wondama), Sal (Amele), Kitat (Daga), Kenege (Kutubu), Upo (Meko), Lai (Matbat), Sirata (Sayal), Kelkal (Aru Islands), Bil (Mianmin), Koeyauw (Yei), Befer (Marap), Kava Kava (Patep, Buangs), Sapuh (Maprik), Morr (Gal), Salvaik (Sempi), Fabu (Ambakanja), Ndzip (Timbunke), Kanyaweni (Konti-unai), Kaikinei (Woi). PETER PETOE, CHARLIE D. HEATUBUN & WILLIAM J. BAKER Phytotaxa 370 (1) © 2018 Magnolia Press.

Conservation status:—Least Concern (LC; Petoe et al. 2018).

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).

Baker, W.J. & Loo, A.H.B. 2004. A synopsis of the genus Hydriastele (Arecaceae). Kew Bulletin, Vol. 59, No. 1, pp. 61-68.

PETER PETOE, CHARLIE D. HEATUBUN & WILLIAM J. BAKER A monograph of Hydriastele (Areceae, Arecaceae) in New Guinea and Australia (Phytotaxa 370) 92 pp.; 30 cm. 24 September 2018 ISBN 978-1-77670-472-9 (paperback) ISBN 978-1-77670-473-6 (Online edition)

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

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