Licuala pumila

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Licuala (lik-oo-AH-lah)
pumila (poo-MIH-lah)
Scientific Classification
Genus: Licuala (lik-oo-AH-lah)
pumila (poo-MIH-lah)
None set.
Native Continent
Habit: Solitary & acaulescent.
Leaf type: Costapalmate
Survivability index
Common names
Indonesia: seredik itam (Lampung), sadang upul (Palembang), wiru leutik (Sundanese).

Habitat and Distribution

Java, Indonisia. Ridge top hill of Dipterocarp forest to lowland Dipterocarp
Nong Nooch Botanic Garden, Thailand.
forests, 90-1000 m altitude.


Solitary, acaulescent or with short stem no more than 1 m tall, about 1.5-2 cm in diameter, pale brown in colour. Leaves in the crown 10-14; sheaths brownish; petioles up to 1.5 m long, 5-7 mm wide near base, about 2.2 mm wide toward apex, greenish colour, with sparsely spines along less half of petiole, little and turn, claws shape, dense near base of petiole, about 3-4 mm long and 0.5-1 mm wide. Fronds orbicular, apex shallow dentate, radiately parted 7-14 or more up to 18, about 33 cm long, 41 cm wide, lateral segment 2-4 costulate, 31 x 4.5 cm, central segment entire, 4-7 costulate, 33 x 35 cm. Inflorescences shorter than leaves, erect to patent, 40-55 cm long with 2-3 partial inflorescences; branching to one order; one to two opposite branching in proximal part, the upper usually occupied by a single rachilla; peduncular bract lacking; peduncle tubular, flattened at the base, about 10 cm long, about 5 mm wide, glabrous, green in colour; rachis strongly flattened, glabrescent or sometime slightly puberulous; rachillae 4-5, about 5-10 x 2 cm size, covered with sparsely golden brown hairs, bracts about 4-7 cm. Flowers solitary, irregularly, sessile, bud size 6 x 2.5-3 mm; calyx cylindrical to cyathiform, about 4 x 3 mm, very slightly three toothed, base thickened, apex acuminate, glabrous, striate externally, green in colour; corolla coriaceus, triangular, tripartitus, about 5 x 3 mm, thick, glabrous, base thickened, apex acute, striate externally, deeply sculptured inside, whitish in colour; staminal ring membranous, filament subulate, anthers about 0.5 mm long, blunt; ovary turbinate, glabrous, sculptured above, about 2 mm long; style subulate, about 1 mm long. Fruit sub globose, about 9-10 x 8-9 mm, smooth, green in young and orange to red when mature. Seed dark brown, sub globose about 6-8 mm in diameter, smooth. (Uhl and Dransfield 1987) Editing by edric.

A pleonanthic, small, usually multi-stemmed palm; stems up to 120 cm tall and 15 cm in diameter. Leaves palmate; sheath fibrous; petiole variably spiny in the lower half, usually longer than the blade; blade forming 2/3 of a circle, deeply incised into 8-12 (-22), 2-3 (-5)-veined segments, larger segments 25-35 cm long. Inflorescence interfoliar, simply branched, spiciform, 40-50 cm long; peduncle with a tubular prophyll and several tubular peduncular bracts; flowers bisexual, sessile; calyx connate, 3-fid, glabrous; corolla deeply 3-fid, slightly longer than the calyx, 4.5-5 mm long; stamens 6, filaments connate to form a 6-lobed tube; pistil 3-carpellate, glabrous, united distally to form a single exserted style. Fruit a globose to broadly ellipsoid drupe, 9—10 mm long, with the remains of the style at the apex. Licuala pumila is found along river banks and in ravines, up to 250 m altitude. It is categorized as a rare species. (


The shrubs prefer a half-shady situation on fresh to moist soil. The substrate should be sandy loam. They tolerate temperatures only above at least 1°C. Tropical Moist Forest, Cold Hardiness Zone: 10b

Comments and Curiosities

"Licuala pumila produces three-stellate flowers that are arranged in spikes."

"This is quite a straightforward one. Blume described Licuala elegans, a dwarf palm from Sumatra, way back in the mid 19th Century. On balance we think this is probably a synonym of Licuala pumila, again a dwarf palm from west Java, no more than about 50 cm tall. When Watana Sumawong first introduced his wonderful form of Licuala peltata with an entire leaf, it was quickly named informally Licuala elegans, since when I and other taxonomists have repeatedly pointed out that this name is completley inappropriate and incorerct for this Thai palm. It was not until Saw Leng Guan came along and provided a proper validated name that we had a name to use - Licuala peltata var. sumawongii. As far as I know, there are no photos of the real Licuala elegans - in any case it is probably Licuala pumila. So anything you see with a huge entire leaf named Licuala elegans is not, repeat not, and for one more time, not Licuala elegans, but Licuala peltata var. sumawongii. By the way, taxonomists had absolutely nothing to do with the naming of the Thai palm as Licuala elegans. I do not know who was responsible, but it may well have been Watana Sumawong himself. It is sometimes quite frustrating the way these incorrect names continue to persist in usage. I hope this clears up the problem for once and for all! John" (Dr. John Dransfield)

Uses: As a stimulant, the young unfolded leaves used to wrap cigarettes. For this, the young shoots were carefully opened, left hanging up outdoors for 2 nights and then smoothed out. Fine strips of the young leaves were also sometimes mixed with opium, probably to add bulk, but perhaps also to improve combustion. Older leaves are used for thatching roofs and to make hats. (Plant Resources of South-East Asia No. 16 Stimulants. Backhuys Publisher, Leiden, the Netherlands. pp. 130-131)

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. 1976. Palms in the every life of west Indonesia. Principes 20: 39-47.

Uhl, N.W. & Dransfield, J. 1987. Genera Palmarum. Lawrence. Allen Press.

Dransfield, J. & Moore, H.E. 1982. The Martian correlation two editions of Martius’ Historia Naturalis Palmarum Compared. Kew Bull 37: 91-116.

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

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