| Rhapis (RAH-pis) |
Photo by David Strand.
Habitat and DistributionChina South-Central, China Southeast. South China, West Guangxi, South East
Stems recorded to 2.5 m tall, diam. not recorded. Leaf sheath fibers close together with coarse outer fibers partially obscuring finer inner ones, producing a diagonal-lined mesh, ligule often remaining intact at maturity; petiole to 4 mm wide, margin smooth; blade large, with conspicuous palman, segments 14, folds 30, the longest segments to 450 mm, narrow (1 or 2 folds), tapering, apices pointed with secondary splitting, primary splits to within 23–66 mm of the blade base, thick in texture. Inflorescence, male not seen, female branching to 2 orders; prophyll similar in appearance to rachis bracts; rachis bracts 3 or 4, large, tubular, overlapping the base of the next rachis bract, relatively thick in texture, dark brown, lacking tomentum, sometimes also a distal incomplete rachis bract present; rachis greatly exceeding the bracts, overall length to 560 mm, broad 8–10 mm in diam., rachillae densely packed on the rachis, those of the second order held at right angles to those of the first order, relatively short and narrow, pale brown with pale rusty brown tomentum. Male flowers unavailable. Female flowers 3–5 mm apart, to 4.5 × 3.0 mm; calyx to 2 mm, tomentose, lobes to 0.8 mm with pale edged irregular margin; corolla darkly pigmented, with a long receptacular-stalk to 2.5 mm; staminodes present. Fruit to 8 mm in diam., borne on a receptacular-stalk to 5 mm long; epicarp shiny translucent papillose, apical region with conspicuous lenticels. (L. Hastings. 2003)/Palmweb. Editing by edric.
The specimens seen indicate that this is probably the largest and most robust species of Rhapis. Complete stem width, blade shape and colour of abaxial surface were not available from the specimens or recorded on the notes on the sheets. All the specimens seen with inflorescence were female; one was in flower and the others were in fruit. The fruit is yellow according to Feng 13462. The distinctive large number of segments which do not split close to the blade base produce a conspicuous palman. A notable characteristic of this species is the relatively long receptacular-stalk of the fruit. (L. Hastings. 2003)/Palmweb.
Growth rate: moderate
Cold Tolerance: 28º F.
It prefers a sheltered, wind free, shady position in constantly moist, well drained soil. Frost tolerant. Cold Hardiness Zone: 9b
Comments and Curiosities
humilis or multifida
7-20 leaflets; if 14-23 leaflets > multifida
(1) blades not spilt to the base
(2) pointed apices of leaflets
(3) ligules persistent; if only sometimes persistent > multifida
(4) stem to 2.5 cm diameter, if to 3 cm only humilis
R. multifida is regarded as the most attractive of the Rhapis, being very similar to R. excelsa except that it is usually more elegant in appearance. It is slightly shorter, and has wider, paler green leaves with more and narrower leaflets that droop a little. The crown is also less dense. It grows to about 2.0 metres tall with multiple stems to 10 mm in diameter. Canes are covered in fine light brown fibres that adhere closely to the trunks. Leaves are dark green and fairly thick textures, moderate in size up to 600 mm across, and divided into many narrow segments that are joined near the base. The two outer and one central leaflet segment being wider than the rest. Although twelve is cited in the literature it has been stated that this palm can have up to thirty six leaflets per leaf, but fifteen is the most I have counted. Inflorescence is inter-foliar, enclosed in tubular bracts, that are many branched. The branch-lets are covered in fine hairs. Fruits are rounded to oval, and are about 9 mm long. (Palms & Cycads)
Rhapis multifida is a relative newcomer to the palm collectors. Native to southern China and has a cold hardiness of 28º F and will even tolerate light frost without damage. The suckering trunk is thin with a brown woven fiber on it. The leaves dark green and are an almost full circle palmate with long thin leaflets. The leaf fan has an unusual characteristic in that the center and two outer leaflets are wider than the others. Leaves can also reach up to 24 inches across, but this is usually only in low light conditions. Typically there are about a dozen leaflets to each fan, but some actually have as much as tripled this amount. This can grow to about 6 to 8 feet tall and is a moderate grower given the minimum requirement of rich well drained soil in a moist and shady or filtered sun location. Inflorescence is among the leaves and enclosed in tubular bracts, that are multiple branched. Fruits are rounded to oval, and are about 5/16 inch long. This is suitable for as a patio palm since it does not get too large. Some consider this the ultimate Lady palm due to the fan leaves with its numerous narrow segments and slender canes. Availability of this tree is limited, but worth the effort to get one or more for your surroundings and you will be rewarded with one of the most desired Rhapis varieties. This is the most delicate looking of all Rhapis and also makes an extraordinary house plant. (palmsnc.org)
"This is the most delicate looking of the Rhapis with very slender pointed leaflets. It has a more 'naked' stem than the the other forms of Rhapis. This species makes an excellent potted plant as well as a smaller specimen for a shady garden in a warm climate. Many label this plant as a form of Rhapis humilis, but I don't think that's right... it is phenotypcially, at least, very different- smaller, thinner, slower and has different leaves. This is probably the best 'cheaper' Rhapis for smaller areas in warm gardens... there are lots of fancy excelsa cultivars out there.. but yikes, they are expensive." (Geoff Stein 2003)
"Rhapis multifida is probably the most beautiful of all the commonly grown Rhapis palms and is somewhat of a miniaturized version of Rhapis humilis with numerous very slender, delicate pointed leaflets making up each leaf. It is a shorter palm, normally only about 4 or 5 feet tall. Though plants can grow up to 8 feet in nature, I have never seen any specimen that tall. The stems of this plant are pencil-thin and nearly fiber-free and have a lot of visible green stem showing through. This is my favorite species of Rhapis and I have several growing about the yard. This plant does not tolerate drought and seems to need its roots wet all the time or it does not look good. This species cannot tolerate full sun well, particularly in arid climates. It is also less cold-tolerant, having some leaf damage when temperatures fall to the mid-20s. Some consider this a form of Rhapis humilis and include it in the same species, despite there being females of this ‘form'." (Geoff Stein)
"I'd argue this to be the best looking in the genus. This particular palm can be damaged by windy sites, and then it is among the ugliest in the genus. Of all the different cultivars, the most sought after is the plant with the thinnest leaflets(also the most susceptible to wind). As for this being the cheapest of the rhapis... only excelsa is sold at home depot and even then, it is often over 60$ for a generic clump. Excelsa is the most commonly grown lady palm in south florida. Common almost invariably leads to cheaper." (Andrew Street)
We believe this is the ultimate Lady Palm. With its fan leaves split into many very narrow segments and its slender canes, it has a much more elegant appearance than the common R. excelsa, yet it is just as cold tolerant, just as robust, and just as well suited to indoor conditions. Outdoors, this palm from southern China does very well in temperate or tropical climates and will take several degrees of frost without damage. (RPS.com)
"Last week I got an early morning tour of the landscape at Disney's Animal Kingdom. This is in the new 14 acre Pandora section. It is based on the Avatar movie. They have done a spectacular job with the landscaping using many, many unusual and odd plants. They have also added "fake" alien plants and the blend is seamless. The detail of this park is just incredible. In addition to the Caryota obtusa (they planted over 200 of these) which I posted in a separate post, they planted some other nice palms and most aren't the common specimens found here. Bismarckia nobilis, most of these were 25-30ft tall and several were green forms". Rhapis multifida. Orlando, FL. Photo by H.P. Leu Gardens Botanist Eric S.
- Glossary of Palm Terms
- MODERN BOTANICAL LATIN
- "Just To Be Clear"
Phonetic spelling of Latin names by edric.
Special thanks to Geoff Stein, (Palmbob) for his hundreds of photos.
Special thanks to Palmweb.org, 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).
Hastings, L.2003. A Revision of Rhapis, the Lady Palms. Palms 47(2) 62-78.
Many Special Thanks to Ed Vaile for his long hours of tireless editing and numerous contributions.