| Wallichia (wahl-lihk-EE-ah) |
New Caledonia, photo by Ben
Habitat and DistributionWallichia disticha is found in Assam, Bangladesh, China South-Central,
"An extremely unusual looking palm, in which the leaves form just two rows on either side of the trunk i.e. looking down on the palm, the leaves would all form a single straight line. It grows to about 7m tall, while the long, course leaflets are dark green above, and greyish white underneath." (Dr. John Leslie Dowe)
Stems solitary, to 9 m tall, 15-25 cm in diameter. Leaves arranged in one or a few planes, crown is nearly half the hight of the tree, (see photos); sheaths 40-60 cm long, fibrous, with coarse, overlapping, black fibers, those of the outer layer thicker than the inner ones; petioles 0.5-1.5 m long; rachis 1.8-3.5 m long; pinnae 45-73 per side of rachis, irregularly arranged in clusters of 3-8 pinnae, spreading in different planes, pinnae from middle of leaf 56-80 cm long, 5-8 cm wide at widest point, linear or linear-lanceolate, shallowly lobed. Inflorescences unisexual, staminate and pistillate borne on the same stem, the pistillate terminal and the staminate lateral; staminate inflorescences to 1.2 m long, pendulous; prophyll not seen; peduncle to 50 cm long; peduncular bracts several, open and not sheathing the peduncle; rachillae to over 1000, to 30 cm long, 2 mm in diameter, arranged in irregular whorls; staminate flowers to 10 mm long; sepals 1.5-2 mm long, connate into a cupular, lobed calyx, the lobes very briefly imbricate; petals to 10 mm long, purple and yellow; stamens 8-15; pistillate inflorescences to 1 m long, pendulous; prophyll not seen; peduncle to 50 cm long; peduncular bracts open and not sheathing the peduncle; rachillae 40-50, 30-60 cm long, 5-9 mm in diameter; pistillate flowers 2 mm long; sepals 1 mm long; petals 2 mm long; gynoecium 2 mm long; fruits ellipsoid, to 2.2 cm long, to 1.5 cm in diameter, reddish-brown. (Henderson, A.J. 2007)/Palmweb. Editing by edric.
There is considerable variation in size and shape of pinnae, from narrowly linear to more broadly linear-lanceolate. Staminate and pistillate inflorescences are borne on the same stem, with the pistillate terminal and the staminate lateral. Direction of anthesis amongst inflorescences is basipetal. There is no evidence that inflorescences are subtended by smaller leaves. An individual stem can produce inflorescences for over two years. On staminate rachillae, the direction of anthesis is acropetal. The locality of Brandis s. n. has not been found. Sopilura (Sopilara?) is not found on modern maps or gazeteers, and the only Gonda Hills found in India is in the state of Jharkhand, an unlikely locality for Wallichia disticha. (Henderson, A.J. 2007)/Palmweb.
"Although it comes from the Himalaya, it comes from the lower reaches which are still tropical, so it prefers that climate, however it will grow in sheltered sub-tropical areas." (Dr. John Leslie Dowe)
Cold Hardiness Zone: 9b In tropical zones, it may flower as early as eight years old.
Comments and Curiosities
Uses: The pith from the stems is eaten in times of famine.
Short lived, getting to about 15 years old, then flowering for 4-5 years, before dying. This is a hapaxanthic (monocarpic is for annuals & biennials) genus.
"This is my experience with W. disticha: I planted 4; 3 in 1996 from 1G pots (the palms were probably about 12 inches/30 cm tall, or so) and the 4th one went in the ground in 1999 from a 5G pot, so may very well have been from the same seed batch. Today, all four are about 20-25 ft tall. Three of them began to flower about 2 yrs ago, the 4th one not yet. They have all produced a few inflorescences but no viable seeds until just now! The only one with viable seeds is a good distance away from the other 3, probably close to 400 ft or 100 m., which leads me to believe you can probably get viable seeds from a single individual. I'm going to harvest these seeds tomorrow, but just now I climbed up on a 16 ft ladder, leaned out with the camera and aimed it towards the fruit. Unfortunately, a little bit out of focus, sorry about that. The seeds are viable and there are two seeds in each fruit, with one side of each seed (the side facing the other seed) perfectly flat. One very unique and interesting characteristic about this palm (other than the fact that the fronds open up in one plane) is that they all seem to lean heavily in one direction. I planted all four straight up (the "normal" way), but all four have a dramatic lean to them, a la the leaning tower of Pisa." (Bo-Göran Lundkvist)
"Wonderfully fascinating solitary fishtail-like palm from the Himalayas, and nothern Thailand and India. This palm is 'distichous' meaning the leaves come out in two ranks only, one leaf on top or opposite the other... sort of like a flattened fishtail palm (since the leaflets are nearly fishtail). The leaves are pinnate, though, not bipinnate like true fishtail palms. It IS monocarpic like fishtail palms, and once it flowers, it only has about 6 months to a year left to live. Here in southern California this palm does quite well, but doesn't attain its native height of up to 30' before flowering. Here it's more like 15'. The trunk is an ornamental dark color of criss-crossed fibre mat. It tolerates a good deal of frost and I have not had a problem with it though the leaves do show damage with overnight frosts into the high 20's. Here in southern California it's a slow growing palm... not sure about the tropics, where it does even better. It is a relatively short-lived palm... taking only 10-20 years from seedling to flowering adult. One of the few palms the average southern California palm grower can witness it's entire 'normal' lifespan." (Geoff Stein)
Because of its unusual distichous leaf arrangement, this is one of the most intriguing and recognizable palms. Its leaves are arranged in two vertical rows alongside the trunk. The numerous narrow fishtail-shaped leaflets are arranged in clusters and spread in several planes, giving the leaf a plumose appearance. Wallichia disticha is of medium size and grows extremely fast once established. Native to northeastern India and Burma, it is highly adaptable and succeeds very well in climates ranging from warm temperate to tropical. (RPS.com)
- 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).
Henderson, A.J. 2007. A Revision of Wallichia (Palmae). Taiwania 52(1) 1-11.
Many Special Thanks to Ed Vaile for his long hours of tireless editing and numerous contributions.