Pholidocarpus macrocarpus

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(foh-LEE-doh-kar-puhs) macrocarpus (mak-roh-KAR-puhs)
Thailand. Photo by Geoff Stein
Scientific Classification
Genus: Pholidocarpus
Species: macrocarpus (mak-roh-KAR-puhs)
None set.
Native Continent
Habit: Solitary
Leaf type: Costapalmate
Survivability index
Common names
kepau, Kepang palm. Thai: Kapao (กะเปา) (Peninsular)

Habitat and Distribution

Malaya, and Thailand. Endemic to Malaysia and Thailand's inland lowland peat forests. Swamp forest up to 500 m.
Lae Botanic Garden, Papua New Guinea. Photo by Dr. John Dransfield, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew/Palmweb.
Restricted to Peninsular Malaysia and Peninsular Thailand.


Tall single trunk reaching 30-40 m; Leaf palmate about 2 m diameter, segmented commences at center or one third way to stalk; petiole length; 2.5-3 m, with sharp thorns; Inflorescence/spadix emerges at petiole axial; fruit oval 8-10 cm in diameter, corky with knurled-textured surface; flesh orange color. Editing by edric.

Palm tree up to 30 m tall. Stem 25–30 cm in diam. Crown of 40–50 leaves. Leaf sheath dissolved in abundant, reddish brown, fibrous mesh, apically extended in up to 40 cm long ligule; petiole 1.6–2.5 m long, glossy dark green, abaxially with two longitudinal stripes, armed with straight 4–5 (–7) cm long, basally swollen spines, distantly inserted and decreasing in length towards the distal end; blade untidy looking with age, up to 2 m across, divided almost to the hastula in 12–14, 3–4-folded segment groups; these again divided to 1/3–2/3 of the radius into single-folded segments, with stiff to eventually drooping tips. Inflorescence, peduncle and rachis more or less equal in length, 0.8–1 m; first order branches 5–7, rachillae numerous, 15–25 cm long. Fruit 10–12 (–15) cm in diam., corky-warty, brown at maturity. (Palms of Thailand)


Cold Hardiness Zone: 10b

Comments and Curiosities

Malaya. Lowland seasonal swamp forest, along valleys, scattered, endemic. Like Livistona exc. stamens form long tube free from petals, fruits with thick corky cracked outer wall. Flesh orange with strong apricot smell (edible?). Not all leaf divisions to centre, some only 1/3 way in to stalk. (Hijjas Kasturi)

Etymology: Genus Name; Comes from 2 Greek words meaning 'scale' and 'fruit'.

Conservation: Now a rarity due to habitat loss. Most of the swamp forests are subject to forest conversion and forestry activities. Restricted to Peninsular Malaysia and Peninsular Thailand. (IUCN RedList - vulnerable 1998).

"Very tall fan palm from Thailand and surrounding countries- looks, and is probably related to, Livistonas. Has deeply divided, somewhat drooping huge fan leaves (6' wide) on long (6-7') petioles. The most beautiful feature of younger palms (can't appreciate this as palms get too tall) are the ornamental broad yellow stripes along the petioles. Needs a tropical environment to do well, and not aware of any success here in California with this species." (Geoff Stein)

A majestic palm native to swampy lowland areas on the Malay Peninsula. It sports a very tall, slender, solitary trunk that carries a large, spherical crown of bright green, fan-shaped leaves held on fiercely armed leaf stalks with two characteristic yellow stripes. It is closely related to Livistona but easily distinguished by its very large, corky fruits. Pholidocarpus is rarely seen in cultivation and does best in a tropical climate with abundant moisture. (

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).

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

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