Allagoptera arenaria

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Allagoptera (ahl-lah-gohp-TEH-rah)
arenaria (ahr-eh-nahr-EE-ah)
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Bees (European Bees) gathering pollen on flower (Allagoptera arenaria) - Restinga da Marambaia - Itaguaí - Mangaratiba - Rio de Janeiro - Brazil. Photo by Tony.
Scientific Classification
Genus: Allagoptera (ahl-lah-gohp-TEH-rah)
arenaria (ahr-eh-nahr-EE-ah)
None set.
Native Continent
Habit: rhizomatous
Leaf type: Pinnate
Survivability index
Common names
Restinga da Marambaia, coco-de-praia, Purunã. Brazil: buri da praia, cachandó, caxandó, côco da praia, coqueiro da praia, côco guriri, guri, guriri, imburi , pissandó, coqueiro dos areais, coqueiro guriri, buri da praia, puraná. Seashore palm, Restinga palm.

Habitat and Distribution

Allagoptera arenaria is endemic to Brazil Northeast, Brazil Southeast.
Heliopolis (Attracted by and adapted for a high intensity of sunlight.), dominant in Restinga, and low coastal dunes of eastern Brazil, in Bahia, Rio de Janeiro, and Espírito Santo. It occurs on white sandy soils from sea level to 100 m. Lives naturally in sandy soil, sometimes salty, sandy soil, along the coast of southern Brazil.


Plumose-leaved, monoecious stemless to short-stemmed (acaulescent to 3 ft.), solitary, but a branching subterranean trunk, this palm is rhizomatous, giving it the appearance of a clustering palm, un-armed, leaflets are deep green with a prominent mid-rib and curl to various degrees depending on plant, age and climate. Flowers look sort of like corn-cobs on a long stick (peduncle). Very old plants can grow 9'/3 m to 15'/4.5 m wide (rare in cultivation). Editing by edric.

Allagoptera arenaria is popularly known as seashore palm, is a fruit tree endemic to the Atlantic Coast of Brazil. It grows in coastal strand, just above the high tide mark, and is widely cultivated as an ornamental throughout South America. The seashore palm is small in size, reaching about 6 feet (1.8 m) tall. The spiky flower stalks have both male and female flowers, so one plant can produce seeds by itself. The female flowers and the fruits that follow are borne in distinct spirals. The leaves of the seashore palm emerge right out of the ground from a subterranean trunk that is rarely visible, and grow in a swirling pattern, spreading out on different and seemingly random planes. There are 6–15 bright green to silvery green pinnately compound (feather-like) leaves 2–6 ft (0.61–1.8 m) long, with each leaflet about 2 ft (0.61 m) long. Its fruits are yellowish green and shaped like small coconuts, about 1 inch (25 mm) long and 0.5 in (13 mm) in diameter.


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Although this palm normally grows in sandy soil, it seems able to adapt to many types of soils, even heavy clay. It prefers ample amounts of water, but once established, it can be fairly drought resistant. This palm is somewhat cold hardy and can withstand freezes down to 25 F/-3.88 C. Colder temps can damage the plant severely, but it will often recover from brief freezes down to nearly 20 F/-6.66 C. In addition to being cold and drought tolerant, it is seemingly heat resistant as well. A.arenaria can thrive in the dry, hot, inland southern California deserts as well as the cold, salty beaches along the coast. It is also one of the most salt tolerant palms grown in cultivation. It survives full sun to fairly dense shade. Rarely does it brown tip, even if watered with poor quality city water. However, it is prone to bud damage if watered excessively by sprinklers from above (best to water this one with a drip system, if possible, or rain water/deionized water). The bud damage from such watering practices may not be as severe as what is typically seen in many other species, but will often result in bizarre leaves with the leaflets folding back on themselves (which can be unsightly). As a seedling, A. arenaria is an agonizingly slow-growing plant, at least when grown in a Mediterranean climate. But its growth will increase dramatically when placed in a greenhouse, or warm, humid climate. Once it reaches 15 gallon size, its growth rate in a Mediterranean climate would still be considered slow-growing, but would be faster than the painfully slow pace during its seedling stage. The seashore palm is one of the best palms for beach and coastal situations in subtropical and tropical settings. It requires moderate to full sunlight and is used as a beach screen, being very tolerant of extreme coastal and beach exposure, as well as salt spray. In its native environment, the seashore palm is highly tolerant of poor soils that have good drainage, thriving in soils that are thoroughly moist. Considered a slow grower when it is young, the seashore palm propagates by seeds and responds well to fertilizer and water.

Comments and Curiosities

This is a tillering palm, it exhibits saxophone style root growth (it has a heel), keep top third of heel above soil elevation!

Etymology: The genus name from the Ancient Greek words αλλαγή (allage), meaning change, and πτερόν (pteron), meaning wing, and refers to the swirled, changing pattern of the feathery leaves. The specific epithet (species name) arenaria; from the Latin, for "sandy" or growing in sandy sites.

Historic: Based on fossil records, it is also regarded as the most ancient of palms, a predecessor to all others.

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).

Mónica Moraes. Flora Neotropica, monograph 73, Allagoptera. The New York Botanical Garden.

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

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