Pinanga cleistantha

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Pinanga (pih-NAHN-gah)
cleistantha (kleh-STAHN-tah)
CIMG0599 P. cliestantha.JPG
Malaysia. Photo by Clayton York, Utopia Palms & Cycads
Scientific Classification
Genus: Pinanga (pih-NAHN-gah)
cleistantha (kleh-STAHN-tah)
None set.
Native Continent
Habit: Clustering
Leaf type: Pinnate
Survivability index
Common names

Habitat and Distribution

Ulu Nerus, Trengganu, Malaysia. Photo by Dr. John Dransfield, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew/Palmweb.


Clustering undergrowth palm spreading by runners; stem to 1.5 m tall, 10 mm in diam., dull brown below, greenish above, bearing scattered brown scales; internodes to 5 cm; nodal scars ca. 2 mm high, paler than internode surface. Crownshaft well developed, to ca. 30 X 1. 7 cm, bright green, with 7-8 leaves in the crown. Leaf sheath strictly tubular to 23 x 1.7 cm, bearing scattered brown scales, the mouth with a tattered margin; petiole to 50 X 5 mm densely grey-brown tomentose; lamina unsplit except for a deep apical cleft to 25 cm, or split to produce 2-3 broad leaflets of uneven width on each side of the grey-brown tomentose rachis; lamina where unsplit to 55 X 25 cm, the apical margins with coarse teeth to 1 cm corresponding to the major ribs; lamina where split with leaflets 25-35 X 3-9 cm, the distal pair with apical toothing, the proximal long acuminate; adaxial lamina surface ± glabrous mid-green, mottled with dark green; abaxial surface slightly paler when fresh, not mottled, with scattered grey brown indument along the main ribs. Inflorescence infrafoliar, pendulous spicate; peduncle tomentose, flattened, to 10 X 6 X 2 mm, the margins undulate, the base with crescentic wings encircling the stem; prophyll enclosing the rachilla, lanceolate 13-19 X 2-4.5 cm, acuminate in a compressed tip to 10 X 3 mm, pale cream-colored when newly exposed, drying cinnamon brown; rachilla 7-9 cm long, about 3 mm wide at the base, tapering distally, densely covered with pale-brown tomentum; triads about 6-7 in all, ± distichously arranged 3-4 on each side of the rachilla, each subtended by a triangular bract to 4 X 4 mm. Staminate flowers unequal and asymmetric, pseudopedicellate, one flower with a highly developed pseudopedicel to 13 mm long, the other with pseudopedicel to 3 mm only, the pseudopedicel ± glabrous, compressed about 0.4 mm at the base increasing to 3 mm wide at the base of calyx lobes; calyx lobes explanate, keeled, triangular 1-3 X 1- 2 mm, two larger than the third; corolla glabrous with 3 uneven, contorted triangular petals, 2 broad triangular to 9 X 4 mm, the third to 9 X 2 mm; stamens 10--12; filaments ca. 1 X 0.1 mm, united at the very base; anthers 4 X 0.2 mm. Pistillate flower with 3 free imbricate, ciliate-margined striate sepals to 5 X 4 mm, and 3 free imbricate ciliate-margined petals to 5.5 X 3 mm; ovary to 5 x 2 mm, tipped with a short style to 0.8 mm, and a conspicuous pectinate-capitate stigma to 2.5 mm in diam. Fruit narrowly ovoid to fusiform, usually slightly curved, to 25 x 5 mm, epicarp in young state brownish green. Seed to 20 x 4 mm; endosperm with shallow ruminations; embryo basal. Seedling leaf unknown./Kew. Editing by edric.

This elegant colonial palm was collected in lowland Dipterocarp forest in a valley bottom at 50 m altitude; growing with it were Salacca multiflora Mogea, Calamus minutus J. Dransf., Arenga hookeriana (Becc.) T. C. Whitmore, A. hastata (Becc.) T. C. Whitmore and several widespread rattan species. otes: It differs from all other Pinanga spp. except for P. simplicijrons in the enclosed inflorescence; from P. simplicijrons it may be distinguished by the much greater size of all its parts, by the broad leaf with mottled upper surface and paler lower surface, by the lanceolate rather than the ovate prophyll, the tomentose unbranched rather than glabrous bifid inflorescence axis, and by the staminate flowers with extraordinary pseudopedicels. Like many species of Pinanga, P. cleistantha would make an elegant horticultural subject, but no fruit was perfectly ripe when I collected it in 1977, and as far as I am aware it has not been collected since. Furthermore, the area where it grew was in the process of being logged, so its survival in the only known locality must be severely threatened. Yet it must surely grow elsewhere in the Trengganu hills.

The specific epithet refers to the hidden flowers. Without further fieldwork I can only speculate on the significance of the enclosed inflorescence. Enclosed inflorescences are a feature of the rattan genus Ceratalobus, where the prophyll opens by a minute apical split and potential pollinators have to pass through this restricted passage to reach the flowers. In Manicaria the entire inflorescence is enclosed in a net-like bract; through the very small interstices of the bracts pass nitidulid beetles which seem to be the pollinators (Moore & Dransfield pers. obs. in Colombia, 1976). In these two genera the inflorescences are protected and the bracts act as pollinator sieves restricting access to the flowers to small beetles. If the prophylls of Pinanga simplicijrons and P. cleistantha open at the base then they probably function in a way similar to the prophyll in Ceratolobus and the bract in Manicaria, but there is evidence that the bract may never open./Kew.


Cold Hardiness Zone: 10b

Comments and Curiosities

"The palm gets its name from the flowers that remain enclosed by the prophyll throughout anthesis and fruit development." (Dr. Scott Zona)

A magnificent clustering dwarf Pinanga from lowland rainforest in Terengganu on the Malay Peninsula with beautifully mottled leaves that are entire or have only a few splits. The species is rather unusual in producing an inflorescence hidden entirely in a persistent bract. (

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).

All information copyright, Dr. John Dransfield, Royal Botanic, Gardens, Kew.

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

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