Ptychococcus paradoxus

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Ptychococcus (tee-koh-KOK-uhs)
paradoxus (pah-rah-DOKS-uhs)
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Flecker Botanic Garden, Cairns, QLD, 28/11/12 Photo by Russell Cumming
Scientific Classification
Genus: Ptychococcus (tee-koh-KOK-uhs)
paradoxus (pah-rah-DOKS-uhs)
None set.
Native Continent
Habit: Solitary
Leaf type: Pinnate
Survivability index
Common names
Wrinkled-Fruit Palm.

Habitat and Distribution

Ptychococcus paradoxus is a widespread palm that occurs throughout the lowlands of
Flecker Botanic Garden, Cairns, QLD, 28/11/12 Photo by Russell Cumming
New Guinea, the Bismarck Archipelago and the Solomon Islands, primarily from 0-850 m, but some records from higher elevations (up to 1600 m) are known. Its distribution may be altered by humans. This species occurs in lowland coastal or riverside primary and secondary lowland and montane forest, often on limestone. It is also reported from swamp forest/mangrove transition as well as alluvial flats. (Zona 2005).


Solitary, moderately robust tree palm, to about 15 m. Stem 9 cm in diam. Internodes 11 cm. Crown with 10 leaves, leaves spreading but some tilted to one side by almost 90 degrees. Crownshaft 106 cm long x 8 cm wide. Sheath 75 cm with easily detached shite indumentum, and some purple scales. Leaf 310 cm long including 33 cm petiole. Leaflets 39 each side of rachis, arranged regularly. Inflorescence about 80 cm long including 12 cm peduncle, branched to 3 orders, 19 primary branches, widely spreading, largest primary branch 70 cm long, all branches pale green. (William J. Baker, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew 2000.)

The trunks grow to 15 m, usually no wider than 25 cm, and both are solitary, ringed, and crownshafted. The leaf is pinnately compounded, in long sheaths, usually covered in scales and hairs, as is the short petiole. The ridged rachis is flattened on the bottom and also covered in hairy tomentum. The unusual leaflets are once-folded and toothed, twisting upwards in their bottom half. Each leaflet also bears scales and a prominent midrib, with tomentose margins, and lacking visible veinlets.[2] The inflorescence emerges below the crownshaft, stiff and horizontal, and branched to three orders. Covered in scales, the peduncle is short and thick, the prophyll is tubular, beaked and tomentose, and the long rachis bears numerous short rachillae which are often Z-shaped. The rachillae bear short round bracts subtending triads of large flowers throughout.[2] The staminate flowers are more or less asymmetrical and bear three distinct, hairy sepals, and three ovate, scaly petals. There may be as many as 100 stamens, with short filaments, and elongated, apically notched, deeply bifid anthers. The exine is finely reticulate and tectate. The pistilode is bottle-shaped and has pointed tips. The pistillate flowers are smaller, ovoid, and occasionally hairy; both sepals and petals are imbricate, the latter bearing scales. There are three united staminodes forming a small cup, the gynoecium is ovoid and uniovulate; the pendulous stigma has three lobes. The fruit is egg-shaped with a wrinkly exterior, divided into lobed segments when dry, and mature at orange or red. The epicarp is fibrous, the mesocarp fleshy, covering a five-lobed seed, resembling the dry fruit.


Only P. paradoxus is cultivated with any regularity, though it is relatively uncommon. They are tender to cold, need quickly draining soil and generous amounts of water. In the New Guinea highlands, the trunks of P. lepidotus are used in construction or cut into 2 m strips and carved into bows; smaller pieces are fashioned into arrows and arrow heads. Cold Hardiness Zone: 10a

Comments and Curiosities

This stately, tropical beauty from Melanesia grows a full crown of large, dark glossy green, upright to spreading leaves, supported by a tall crownshaft with long, wide leaflets that have jagged tips. The large orange fruits each contain a hard, heavily winged and deeply grooved almost black seed. (

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).

Uhl, Natalie W. and Dransfield, John (1987) Genera Palmarum - A classification of palms based on the work of Harold E. Moore.

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

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