Phoenix caespitosa

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Phoenix (FEH-niks)
caespitosa (sehs-pee-TOHS-ah)
South West of Sanaa, Yemen. Photo by Dr. John Grimshaw, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew/Palmweb.
Scientific Classification
Genus: Phoenix (FEH-niks)
caespitosa (sehs-pee-TOHS-ah)
Phoenix arabica
Native Continent
Habit: Clustering, acaulescent & caespitose.
Leaf type: Pinnate
Survivability index
Common names
SOMALIA. Balmo, mayro/mairu (plant), awang (fruit) (Somali), YEMEN. Schottob (Hadjeih), Schegja (Ussil).

Habitat and Distribution

Djibouti, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Yemen.
Jbel Bura, Yemen. Photo:
In dry wadis, semi-desert bushland and rocky crevices and ravines up to 900 m in Somalia (Thulin 1995), up to 1950 m in Saudi Arabia (Collenette 1985). The species is often found in extensive thickets. (S.C. Barrow. 1998)/Palmweb.


Stemless palm, clustering to form extensive thickets. Leaves to 3 m long; acanthophylls ± regularly arranged in one plane of orientation, to about 13 on each side of rachis, to 8 cm long; leaflets ? irregularly arranged in one to two planes of orientation, often fascicled proximally, about 20 - 50 on each side of rachis, 15 - 50 x 0.8 - 1.5 cm, narrowing to a sharp point, stiff, glaucous; lamina concolorous, drying pale green. Staminate inflorescences erect; prophyll coriaceous, splitting twice between margins, to about 40 x 3- 4 cm; peduncle to about 50 x 1.2 cm; rachillae about 60 in number, to 15 cm long. Staminate flowers with calyx cupule 2 mm high; petals 4 - 6 x 3 mm, with rounded apices. Pistillate inflorescences erect; prophyll not seen; peduncle to about 40 cm long; rachillae about 15 in number, occasionally branched to one order, to 24 cm long. Pistillate flowers with calyx cupule 2 - 3 mm high; petals 3 - 4 x 4 mm. Fruit sphaeroid-ovoid, 10 - 16 x 8 - 12 mm, ripening deep orange to purplish-brown, with fleshy, sweet, edible mesocarp. Seed ovoid, 12 x 8 x 8 mm; embryo lateral opposite raphe; endosperm homogeneous. (S.C. Barrow. 1998)/Palmweb. Editing by edric.

Phoenix caespitosa is a dwarf palm described by Chiovenda (1929) from Somalia, and later recorded from Saudi Arabia and Yemeni Arab Republic. Of the many names published for Phoenix palms in Africa most refer to the polymorphic species P. reclinata. However, I consider P. caespitosa to be a distinct species. Staminate flower petals of P. caespitosa are rounded apically, as against the acute to acuminate petal apices of staminate flowers of P. reclinata. (S.C. Barrow. 1998)/Palmweb.


Cold Hardiness Zone: 9b

Comments and Curiosities

Uses: The fruits of P. caespitosa have a sweet and moist mesocarp layer, making them much sought after by animals including humans in Somalia (Abdi Shire, pers. comm.). (S.C. Barrow. 1998)/Palmweb.

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).

S.C. Barrow, A Monograph of Phoenix L. (Palmae: Coryphoideae). 1998. A Monograph of Phoenix L. (Palmae: Coryphoideae). Kew Bulletin, Vol. 53, No. 3 (1998), pp. 513-575.

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

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