Ptychococcus lepidotus

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Ptychococcus (tee-koh-KOK-uhs)
lepidotus (leh-pih-DOHT-uhs)
Ptychococcus lepidotus5.jpg
New Guinea. Photo by David Tanswell
Scientific Classification
Genus: Ptychococcus (tee-koh-KOK-uhs)
lepidotus (leh-pih-DOHT-uhs)
None set.
Native Continent
Habit: Solitary
Leaf type: Pinnate
Survivability index
Common names
Bow Palm.

Habitat and Distribution

Ptycococcus lepidotus is native to the rain forests of New Guinea above 1000 m
30 yr old garden Sunshine coast Queensland. Photo by Troy Donovan
(3300 ft.) It is widely distributed up to 3000 m (9800 ft.) over much of the island, where it is planted for use of the wood by the native population.


Trunk solitary, slender, gray, about 5 m. high or perhaps more, about 10 cm. in diameter. Leaves about 12 in crown, spreading or ascending; sheath about 6 cm. long, green with indument of dark brown membranous scales margined with appressed soft interlocking hairs forming a dense tomentose at first but the hairs deciduous in part leaving only the membranous center or the base of the scale at length, especially on marginal or unprotected areas, the margins oblique without ligules; petiole short, 5-20 cm. long. rounded and densely pale lepidote-tomentose below, more or less densely covered above with pale membranous lacerately interlocking scales when young or their darker bases when old; rachis 2.5-3 m. long, rounded centrally and channelled toward the margin below, scaly like the petiole above and helow when young, the margins f1attish toward the base and the upper surface channelled on each side of a median rounded ridge. becoming nearly deltoid in section at mid·leaf and to the apex where scales are often deciduous and the surface only dark punctate; pinnae 41-4.7 on each side of the rachis in regular, mostly alternate arrangement at intervals of 5-6 cm. near the middle, the blade nearly horizontal basally but twisting upward at about a 900 angle with the apex arcuately curved, the lower pinnae 50-65 cm. long, 2.1-4.3 cm. wide, median pinnae 68-78 cm. long, 6-9 cm. wide, apical pinnae 37-42 cm. long, 3.5-6 cm. wide, all with very oblique (basal) to nearly truncate (apical) sharply divided and toothed apex, very narrowly reduplicate at the base where densely and minutely red-brown lepidote above and paler lepidote on the prominent mid-nerve above, the lower surface densely and minutely red-brown or pale Iepidote with a line of twisted basifixed red-brown membranous scales to about 13 mm long on the midnerve, these sparser toward the apex. Inflorescences 9 (on type tree), stiff, densely clustered below the crownshaft, those in flower horizontal, those in fruit drooping; lower bract about 42 cm. long, 7 cm. wide in bud, densely pale lepidote-tomentose, ancipitous-margined and acute, enclosing the upper bract,


Despite its tropical apperance, it grows remarkably well in the subtropical/temperate zone of San Diego. Its natural range would seem to dictate humidity, adequate water, and shade when young.

"Even though I have managed to keep one of these alive in zone 9b, I would not label it as a 9b species... it grows OK in zone 10a in southern California, but never really looks good there (severely brown-tipped leaves). It is an attractive, solitary pinnate palm from New Guinea where it grows up to 30' tall. It has premorse (bitten-off-looking) leaflets and a mildly bulging light green crownshaft, holding up some 10 or more 10' long slight arching but mostly straight out perpendicular to the ground leaves. Slow growing even in the tropics. This palm looks a lot like a Ptychosperma." (Geoff Stein)

Comments and Curiosities

Etymology: The specific epithet is from the Greek for 'scaly'; referring to the scales on the leaf stem, as well as on the flower petals.

Uses: Its durable wood is used by the natives for bows and spears.

"Ptychococcus lepidotus grows only in the Highlands of New Guinea from an altitude range of 1000 metres up to 3000 metres! I have seen it growing in Eastern Highlands Province in Papua New Guinea right across the other Highland Provinces to the western most one, Enga Province. I believe it to occuralso in Irian Jaya at corresponding altitudes and after speaking to travellers who have toured the Baliem Valley it seems the native people definitely have a palm like P. lepidotus in cultivation. It must have a broad range of distribution and in some areas, at lower elevations may over lap with P. paradoxus, based on personal observations in Morobe Province in P.N.G. I would not say P. lepidotus is abundant in any one area that I've seen, and it is difficult to say whether or not people have been the major cause for its pattern of distribution, but I certainly suspect it so.

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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