Phoenix pusilla

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Phoenix (FEH-niks)
pusilla (POO-sihl-lah)
Sigiriya - Dambulla Road, Sri Lanka. Photo by Dr. Sasha Barrow, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew/Palmweb.
Scientific Classification
Genus: Phoenix (FEH-niks)
pusilla (POO-sihl-lah)
None set.
Native Continent
Please set a value for continent.
Habit: Solitary & clustering
Leaf type: Pinnate
Survivability index
Common names
Ceylon Date Palm. INDIA. Chilta-eita (Telinga), eethie (Tamil), chiruta-itu (Telinga), eentha (Malayam), eecha maram (Tamil). SRI LANKA. Indi (Sinhalese), inchu (Tamil).

Habitat and Distribution

Sri Lanka and Eastern Ghats of Tamil Nadu and southern region of Kerala in India.
Roxburgh (1832) described P. farinifera (= P. pusilla) as a 'native of dry, barren ground, chiefly of the sandy lands at a small distance from the sea near Coringa (Coromandel coast of south eastern India)'. However, P. pusilla is not restricted to coastal areas in India but is also found inland at the margins of marshes and raised banks along borders of paddy fields, up to 700 m altitude. In Sri Lanka, P. pusilla is found in the dry lowlands of the north and east (where it was previously referred to as P. farinifera Roxb.), and wetter lowlands and hill country of the south west up to 500 m altitude (where it was previously referred to as P. zeylanica Trimen). (S.C. Barrow. 1998)/Palmweb.


Solitary or clustering palm. Stem to 6 m high and 30 cm in diam. Leaves to 3 m long; pseudopetiole to 70 cm long x 1.5 - 3 cm wide at base, rounded abaxially; leaf sheath fibrous, reddish-brown; leaf bases persistent, vertically orientated on trunk, c. 8 cm wide at base; acanthophylls individually arranged in one or more planes of orientation, about 7 - 18 on each side of rachis, yellow-green, very sharp, to 11 cm long; leaflets more or less irregularly arranged, quadrifarious proximally, about 30 - 100 on each side of rachis, elongate-spathulate in shape with very sharp, needle-like apices, 10 - 45 x 0.5 - 3 cm in length; leaflet join with rachis marked by yellow-orange pulvinus; lamina concolorous, dark, glossy green, and pliable in texture. Staminate inflorescences erect; prophyll coriaceous, 12 - 30 x 4 - 8 cm; peduncle 5 - 25 cm long; rachillae arranged at wide angle to the rachis, about 50 - 70 in number, to 21 cm long. Staminate flowers ovoid, yellow-white; calyx 1 - 1.5 mm high; petals 4 - 5 x 2 - 3 mm ovate, with rounded apices. Pistillate inflorescences erect, arching at fruit maturity; prophyll coriaceous, splitting twice, 17 - 41 x 2.5 - 5.5 cm; peduncle to about 25 - 75 cm; rachillae 20 - 120 in number, orange-green, 4 - 30 cm long. Pistillate flowers mostly in the distal half of rachilla; calyx to 1.2 mm high; petals 2 x 3 - 4 mm. Fruit ovoid, 11 - 15 x 5 - 8 mm, ripening from green to red to purple-black, moderately fleshy, sweet. Seed ovoid with rounded apices, pinkish-brown when fresh, drying glossy chestnut-brown, 8- 12 x 6 mm, with intrusion of testa in region of raphe (postament) often Y-shaped in transverse section; embryo lateral opposite raphe; endosperm homogeneous. (S.C. Barrow. 1998)/Palmweb. Editing by edric.


Full sun, well drained position in tropical thru to warm temperate regions. Frost and salt tolerant.

Comments and Curiosities

Uses: Leaflets of P. pusilla, once stripped of the midrib, boiled and sundried, are used for various woven products in south and west Sri Lanka (De Zoysa, in press). The sweet fruits are often eaten by children. (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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