Voanioala gerardii

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gerardii (jehr-AHRD-ee)
Cultivated in Temperate Nursery, at the Temperate Nursey, RBG Kew, UK. Photo by Dr. John Dransfield.
Scientific Classification
Genus: Voanioala
gerardii (jehr-AHRD-ee)
None set.
Native Continent
Habit: Solitary
Leaf type: Pinnate
Survivability index
Common names
(Forest coconut, Betsimisaraka).

Habitat and Distribution

Voanioala gerardii is Endemic to Madagascar, Masoala Peninsula. Primary
Antalavia, Masoala, Madagascar. Photo by Dr. John Dransfield, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew/Palmweb.
forest rich in palms and pandans in swampy valley bottom and on gentle slopes at about 400 m. alt. Voanioala gerardii is restricted to tropical rain forest on hills surrounding the Bay of Antongil in northeastern Madagascar; it is known from very few small populations, sometimes from scattered juvenile plants. It occurs on steep slopes and in valley bottoms, at an elevation of approximately 200–450 m above sea level. Sightings from near Toamasina need proper confirmation. (IUCN)


It is a massive palm of the forest canopy, with solitary stems to 15–20 m tall and c. 35 m diameter. The stems are distinctively “stepped,” marked with the protruding remains of the leaf bases. The crown is composed of about 15–20 leaves, each up to about 5 m long, with no petiole and about 70 crowded, regularly arranged leaflets. The inflorescence is produced between the leaves, and arches through the leaf sheaths, to about 1.5 m long. The second bract of the inflorescence is thick, woody and deeply grooved, and encloses the flowers in bud, then splitting longitudinally. The flower bearing branches are numerous (approximately 60) and bear both male and female flowers. The male flowers have 12 stamens. The fruit is 7–8 × 4–5 cm. bright red-brown at maturity. Inside the outer wall of the fruit lies the endocarp, extremely thick and woody, deeply grooved outside and with irregular protuberances on the inside that penetrate the seed. There are three distinctive pores at the basal end of the endocarp. The endosperm is homogeneous and the embryo basal. (IUCN) Editing by edric.

Very large feather palm, up to 20 m tall, closely resembling a coconut palm. It is anchored by a large root base. The trunk is characteristically 'stepped' and the feather-shaped leaves extending from the crown may reach up to 5 metres long. The waxy, green leaflets are fairly stiff, and around 70 are found on either side of the axis of each leaf. The fruits of this species are a rich red-brown colour when ripe and grow in thick bunches at the crown. It produces large bunches of reddish brown fruit.


Warm, moist, well drained position. Slow growing, but it developes long tap roots fast, care the opposite of say, Dypsis, and requires a rather large pot soon, instead of spending 3 years in a 4 inch pot. Requires filtered light to look it's best when young, does not do well in CA. This is an emergent palm.

Cold Hardiness Zone: 10a

Comments and Curiosities

External Links


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).

Dransfield, J. & Beentje, H. 1995. The Palms of Madagascar. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and The International Palm Society.
Many Special Thanks to Ed Vaile for his long hours of tireless editing and numerous contributions.

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