Trachycarpus oreophilus

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oreophilus (oh-reh-oh-FILL-uhs)
Trachycarpus oreophilus.jpg
Chiang Dao, Thailand. At 2225 meters. Photo by Alexander Nijman.
Scientific Classification
Genus: Trachycarpus
oreophilus (oh-reh-oh-FILL-uhs)
None set.
Native Continent
Habit: Solitary
Leaf type: Palmate
Survivability index
Common names
Thai Mountain fan Palm

Habitat and Distribution

NW-THAILAND: Doi Chiang Dao, a large, isolated limestone mountain about 70 km N of Chiang Mai.
Chiang Dao, Thailand. At 2225 meters. Photo by Martin Gibbons and Tobias W. Spanner.
Forming large colonies on steep, rocky hillsides and exposed cliffs among lichen- and moss-covered shrubs and stunted trees on the mountain's several peaks, between 1700 and 2150 m. (M. Gibbons. 1997)/Palmweb.


Solitary, very lightly armed, dioecious palm to about 9 m tall; trunk slender, erect, bare, brown, conspicuously ringed, 10-16 cm in diam., in young plants occasionally clothed in persistent, fibrous leaf sheaths. Leaves about 20, forming a dense upright, rather flat crown; marcescent leaves few, leafblade, petiole and leafsheath soon deciduous, the thick, almost bulbous leaf bases persistent at first, covering the trunk for about 50 cm below the crown, eventually deciduous; leafsheath fibrous, about 30 cm long, brown, fine, soft, rapidly disintegrating thinly tomentose below, separated into short single threads towards the apex, not forming an appendage petiole about 50 cm long, stiff, robust, 2 cm wide near the middle, flattish above, depressedly triangular to rounded below, margins minutely toothed and thinly tomentose base thick and robust; adaxial hastula prominent, to 3 cm long, triangular, acute; leafblade palmate, 3/4 to nearly 4/4 orbicular, about 70 cm long from the hastula and about 100 cm wide, leathery, green above, glaucous below, parted to a nearly even depth for more than 1/2 its length into about 60 stiff, deeply folded, linear segments, tapering towards the apex from their broadest point; central segments about 70 cm long, lateral segments gradually shorter to 40 cm, apex acute-notcheds, hortly bifid for a few centimeters. Inflorescence about 4, solitary, interfoliar, 90-100 cm long; staminate inflorescence erect, peduncle short; prophyll two-keeled, 25 cm long; peduncular and rachis bracts five, 15-25 cm long, base tubular, inflated distally, apex acute; rachillae short; flowers globose, very small; sepals very small, ovate, joined at the base for 1/4 to 1/5 of their length; petals rounded with a blunt tip, 2.5 times as long as the sepals; stamens 6; filaments ventricose; anthers broadly ovate-sagittate with nearly disjoint cells, not apiculate; pistillodes (2-) 3, half as long as the stamens; pistillate inflorescence stiff, slightly arching or nearly horizontal in fruit, densely branched to three orders; peduncle about 50 cm long oval in cross section, 3.5 X 2 cm; prophyll two-keeled, apex acute; peduncular bracts three, 35 cm long, long and tubular; rachis bracts two, the basal one 25 cm long, similar to peduncular bracts, the distal one small and much reduced; rachillae 3-10 cm long, greenish (in fruit); flowers not seen. Fruit on short stalks, reniform, wider than long, epicarp thin, green, not seen when fully mature; mesocar? thin, fibrous; seed reniform, wider than long, 6 mm long, ll mm wide; endocarpv ery thin, with a crustaceoussa nd like layer of small, irregular scales; endosperm homogenous. Germination remote-tubular, eophyll simple, plicate, papery, 1 cm wide. Seedling leaves narrow, erect and very finely divided. (M. Gibbons. 1997)/Palmweb. Editing by edric.


Cold Hardiness Zone: 9b

Comments and Curiosities

Etymology: The specific epithet (L. oreophilus, cloud-loving) relates to the fact that this palm and its habitat are often totally obscured by clouds.

Conservation: The population on Doi Chiang Dao is the only one known in Thailand and there is no evidence to suggest that it might occur in similar sites outside Thailand, in Burma for instance. The Doi Chiang Dao population consists of a few thousand trees and is protected in a forestry reserve. It appears to be in a good state though all the more accessible sites have long since been cleared of palms by tribes of people and there are no seedlings and few young plants present at them. However, the vast majority of the palms grow in very steep, practically inaccessible sites and as pressure on these stands by man or beast is negligible, their future seems secure.W e would categorizeit as "rare." Trctchycarpus oreophilus has only very recently been introduced into cultivation. There are no mature palms of this species outside its native habitat. (M. Gibbons. 1997)/Palmweb.

A recently described (see "Principes" Vol. 41, No. 4) rare species from a single mountain range in northern Thailand, where it grows on exposed ridgetops and spectacular limestone cliffs at over 2000m a.s.l. and is regularly obscured by clouds and buffeted by wind. It has a bare trunk and an attractive small and compact crown of regularly split fan-shaped leaves. (

Trachycarpus oreophilus (Naga Hills / Manipur)-Saramati Palm. A very exciting new discovery that comes from the most remote corner of India, the northeastern states of Nagaland and Manipur and from neighboring Burma, where it grows on grassy or rocky slopes to around 2000 m (6500 ft.) in altitude. It is likely that this is the same palm that Frank Kingdon Ward wrote about in his 1952 book Plant Hunter in Manipur: "I had hoped to get an uninterrupted view into Burma from the top, besides a close-up of the palm trees, which were almost the only trees growing on the naked sandstone. They grew isolated or in small clumps and rows, stiffly, often leaning far over the edge, and had a curiously unfinished appearance, as though they had been left over and forgotten from an earlier geological age". While the palm apparently shares some characteristics with the Chinese Trachycarpus princeps, it is certainly not identical with that species. Its leaflets are more numerous and not as white below, the petioles more sturdy and not blue, and overall it is coarser than T. princeps. Even though it has recently been described as a new species, T. ukhrulensis, its features are poorly distinguishable from those of T. oreophilus from Thailand, and the two are likely one and the same species. It is a very promising and quite cold tolerant though slow growing palm that is best suited to temperate climates. (

"This is still quite a rare palm in cultivation, but a wonderful one for southern California.. shows some good cold and sun tolerance (better than T latisectus) and has a neat, tidy trunk of tightly woven, ornamental fiber- not the frizzy, messy fiber seen on most other Trachycarpus species. The leaves are nearly circular and deep bright green, and the petioles have a thick white wool along them. Supposedly one of the few Trachycarpus that do equally well in a tropical climate as a temperate one... though I have seen T martianus happily growing in Hawaii... From Thailand." (Geoff Stein)

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).

Gibbons, M.1997. Trachycarpus oreophilus - The Thailand Trachycarpus. Principes 41: 201-207.

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

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