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20. Arecaceae (PALMAE)

棕榈科 zong lü ke

Authors: Shengji Pei, Sanyang Chen, Lixiu Guo, John Dransfield & Andrew Henderson

Stems solitary or clustered, short and subterranean, erect, or climbing. Leaves pinnate, palmate, or costapalmate, spirally or rarely distichously arranged, sometimes spiny; sheaths usually open, sometimes closed and forming crownshafts, in climbing plants usually with knees and sometimes with flagella; petioles short or absent to elongate, smooth, spiny, in palmate leaves with a hastula at apex, rarely hastula absent; rachis short to elongate, absent in palmate leaves, sometimes extended into a whiplike climbing organ (cirrus); pinnae in pinnate leaves either regularly or irregularly arranged along rachis, spreading in 1 or several planes, variously shaped, mostly reduplicate, rarely induplicate, sometimes jagged or lobed at apices, rarely gray abaxially; segments in palmate leaves variously arranged, single or multi-fold, split to varying degrees, mostly induplicate, rarely reduplicate. Plants monoecious, sometimes dioecious, iteroparous (pleonanthic) or less often semelparous (hapaxanthic). Inflorescences borne among or below leaves, solitary or rarely multiple at each node; peduncle bearing a prophyll and usually 1 or more peduncular bracts; rachis bearing prominent or much-reduced rachis bracts; rachillae 1 to many, bearing flowers in various arrangements, often solitary, paired, in threes (triads) or more; flowers usually with 3 sepals, 3 petals, 6 stamens, and 3 carpels. Fruits variously shaped and colored, sometimes covered with overlapping scales; endosperm ruminate or homogeneous; germination remote or adjacent; eophylls undivided, bifid, pinnate, or palmate.

About 183 genera and ca. 2,450 species: tropical and subtropical areas in Africa, the Americas, Asia, Madagascar, and the Pacific; 18 genera (two introduced) and 77 species (27 endemic, four introduced, including Areca catechu, Arenga pinnata, Cocos nucifera, and Phoenix dactylifera) in China.

A very wide range of palm species is grown as ornamentals in botanical gardens, including those in the humid, tropical parts of China. A few are more widely grown in China and are listed at the end of this account.

See Henderson (Palms S. Asia. 2009).

Pei Shengji, Chen Sanyang & Tong Shaoquan. 1991. Palmae. In: Pei Shengji & Chen Sanyang, eds., Fl. Reipubl. Popularis Sin. 13(1): 1-172.

Cultivated taxa

Archontophoenix H. Wendland & Drude (假槟榔属 jia bin lang shu). One species is cultivated in tropical and subtropical areas of Fujian, Guangdong, Guangxi, Hainan, Taiwan, and Yunnan: A. alexandrae (F. Mueller) H. Wendland & Drude (Linnaea 39: 212. 1875; Ptychosperma alexandrae F. Mueller, Fragm. 5(33): 47. 1865; 假槟榔 jia bin lang), native to Australia.

Borassus Linnaeus (糖棕属 tang zong shu). One species is cultivated in S Yunnan (Xishuangbanna): B. flabellifer Linnaeus (Sp. Pl. 2: 1187. 1753; 糖棕 tang zong), native to Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Butia (Beccari) Beccari (布迪椰子属 bu di ye zi shu). One species is cultivated as an ornamental: B. capitata (Martius) Beccari (Agric. Colon. 10: 507. 1916; Cocos capitata Martius, Hist. Nat. Palm. 2: 114. 1826; 布迪椰子 bu di ye zi), native to Brazil and Uruguay.

Corypha Linnaeus (贝叶棕属 bei ye zong shu). One species is cultivated in S Yunnan (Xishuangbanna): C. umbraculifera Linnaeus (Sp. Pl. 2: 1187. 1753; 贝叶棕 bei ye zong), native to India and Sri Lanka.

Dypsis Noronha ex Martius (散尾葵属 san wei kui shu). One species is cultivated in S China: D. lutescens (H. Wendland) Beentje & J. Dransfield (Palms Madagascar, 212. 1995; Chrysalidocarpus lutescens H. Wendland, Bot. Zeitung 36: 117. 1878; 散尾葵 san wei kui), native to Madagascar.

Elaeis Jacquin (油棕属 you zong shu). One species is cultivated in Hainan, Taiwan, and Yunnan: E. guineensis Jacquin (Select. Stirp. Amer. Hist. 280. 1763; 油棕 you zong), native to W Africa but now very widely grown for its oil-rich fruits.

Hyophorbe Gaertner (酒瓶椰子属 jiu ping ye zi shu). One species is becoming a common street tree in Hainan: H. lagenicaulis (L. H. Bailey) H. E. Moore (Principes 20: 119. 1976; Mascarena lagenicaulis L. H. Bailey, Gentes Herb. 6: 74. 1942; (酒瓶椰子 jiu ping ye zi), native to Round Island, Mauritius.

Raphia P. Beauvois (酒椰属 jiu ye shu). One species is recorded as cultivated in China: R. vinifera P. Beauvois (Fl. Oware 1: 77. 1806; 酒椰 jiu ye), native to W Africa.

Roystonea O. F. Cook (王棕属 wang zong shu). Two species are recorded as cultivated in China: R. oleracea (Jacquin) O. F. Cook (Bull. Torrey Bot. Club 28: 554. 1901; Areca oleracea Jacquin, Select. Stirp. Amer. Hist. 278. 1763; 菜王棕 cai wang zong) and R. regia (Kunth) O. F. Cook (Science, n.s., 12: 479. 1900; Oreodoxa regia Kunth in Humboldt et al., Nov. Gen. Sp. 1, ed. 4°: 305. 1816; 大王椰子 da wang ye zi), both native to the Caribbean region.

Sabal Adanson (箬棕属 ruo zong shu). Two species are recorded as cultivated in China: S. minor (Jacquin) Persoon (Syn. Pl. 1: 399. 1805; Corypha minor Jacquin, Hort. Bot. Vindob. 3: 8. 1776; Chamaerops acaulis Michaux; 小箬棕 xiao ruo zong) and S. palmetto (Walter) Loddiges ex Schultes & J. H. Schultes (Syst. Veg. 7: 1487. 1830; Corypha palmetto Walter, Fl. Carol. 119. 1788; 箬棕 ruo zong), both native to SE United States.

Syagrus Martius (金山葵属 jin shan kui shu). One species is cultivated in S China: S. romanzoffiana (Chamisso) Glassman (Fieldiana, Bot. 31: 382. 1968; Cocos romanzoffiana Chamisso, Choris. Voy. Pittor. 5. 1822; 皇后葵 huang hou kui), native to Brazil.

Washingtonia Rafinesque (华盛顿棕属 hua sheng dun zong shu). One species is cultivated in Fujian, Guangdong, Taiwan, and Yunnan: W. filifera (Linden ex André) H. Wendland (Bot. Zeitung (Berlin) 37: lxi, 68. 1880; Pritchardia filifera Linden ex André, Ill. Hort. 24: 32. 1877; 毛华盛顿棕 mao hua sheng dun zong), native to Mexico (Baja California) and the United States (Arizona, California); and one species is cultivated in S China: W. robusta H. Wendland (Gart.-Zeitung (Berling) 2: 198. 1883; 华盛顿棕 hua sheng dun zong), native to Mexico (Baja California, Sonora).

There are many newly introduced palm species cultivated in China as ornamental and indoor plants.


Within the definitions, italics indicate terms that are defined in this glossary.

Cirrus (plural cirri) – a long, narrow extension of the leaf rachis with small, grapnel-like spines, found in climbing palms.

Clustered – a term applied to an individual palm with basal axillary branching giving several stems in the same plant.

Costapalmatepalmate but with a short leaf rachis.

Crownshaft – a cylindric structure formed by the base of the leaves, and appearing as an extension of the stem.

Eophyll – the first green, expanded leaf of a seedling.

Flagellum (plural flagella) – a modified inflorescence consisting of a long, whiplike organ covered with recurved spines, found in some climbing species of Calamus.

Hastula – in palmate leaves, a flap of tissue borne at the apex of the petiole, where it joins the blade, usually on the adaxial surface.

Induplicate – of a pinna or segment in which the central axis of a fold is abaxial and the margins adaxial (i.e., V-shaped in cross section).

Infrafoliar – of an inflorescence reaching anthesis below the leaves, and free of its subtending leaf.

Interfoliar – of an inflorescence reaching anthesis while still subtended by its leaf. Interfoliar inflorescences may become infrafoliar in fruit.

Iteroparous (syn. pleonanthic) – the condition of a stem with a relatively long reproductive phase, typically of over 20 years duration, before death.

Knee – in climbing palms, the rattans, a swollen area on the sheath immediately below the petiole.

Ocrea – an extension of the leaf sheath above the point of insertion of the petiole.

Palmate – of a leaf in which the rachis is truncated and the leaf appears fan-shaped.

Peduncular bract – the second (and subsequent) bract(s) on an inflorescence after the prophyll.

Pinna (plural pinnae) – a single leaflet of a pinnate leaf.

Pinnate – of a leaf in which the rachis is elongate and the leaf appears feather-shaped.

Prophyll – the first bract on an axillary branch, usually applying to that of an inflorescence.

Rachilla (plural rachillae) – the flower bearing branch(es) of an inflorescence.

Reduplicate – of a pinna or segment fold in which the central axis of a fold is adaxial and the margins abaxial (i.e., L-shaped in cross section).

Remote germination – germination in which the seedling develops at some distance from the seed, by extension of the cotyledonary petiole.

Semelparous (syn. hapaxanthic) – the condition of a stem with a relatively short reproductive phase, typically of 1–7 years duration, before death.

1 Leaves palmate or costapalmate   (2)
+ Leaves pinnate (or pinnately veined if undivided) or bipinnate   (7)
2 (1) Hastula absent; petioles deeply channeled.   12 Chuniophoenix
+ Hastula present; petioles not deeply channeled   (3)
3 (2) Petiole margins unarmed   (4)
+ Petiole margins armed   (5)
4 (3) Segments with 1(or 2) reduplicate folds, green abaxially.   9 Rhapis
+ Segments with several induplicate folds, grayish or silvery white abaxially.   7 Guihaia
5 (3) Leaf blades split to their bases into multi-fold, wedge-shaped segments with lobed apices.   11 Licuala
+ Leaf blades not or seldom split to their bases, segments single or multi-fold, not wedge-shaped, with pointed or split apices   (6)
6 (5) Adult leaves markedly costapalmate; petioles with stout spines along margins; fruits globose to ellipsoid, not grooved.   10 Livistona
+ Adult leaves palmate; petioles with small, blunt spines along margins; fruits kidney-shaped or oblong, grooved.   8 Trachycarpus
7 (1) Pinnae induplicate, at base of leaf modified into green, straight spines.   6 Phoenix
+ Pinnae reduplicate, at base of leaf not modified into spines   (8)
8 (7) Stems, leaves, or inflorescences spiny   (9)
+ Stems, leaves, and inflorescences not spiny   (13)
9 (8) Stems stiff and erect, sometimes short and subterranean, not climbing, without flagella and cirri   (10)
+ Stems thin and flexible, climbing, with either flagella or cirri   (11)
10 (9) Stems always short and subterranean, or creeping; ocrea absent.   1 Salacca
+ Stems subterranean or erect; ocrea present, often conspicuous.   3 Calamus
11 (9) Knees on leaf sheaths absent; inflorescences borne simultaneously at apex of stem, their production ending life of stem (semelparous); inflorescence branches covered with prominent, overlapping bracts obscuring flowers.   2 Plectocomia
+ Knees on leaf sheaths usually present; inflorescences borne sequentially along stem, their production not ending life of stem (iteroparous); inflorescence branches without prominent, overlapping bracts, flowers visible   (12)
12 (11) Cirri always present; inflorescences not flagellate, usually shorter than leaves, with boat-shaped bracts splitting their entire length and then either falling off or remaining attached and enclosed by prophyll, without grapnel-like spines.   4 Daemonorops
+ Cirri present or absent; inflorescences flagellate or not flagellate, usually longer than leaves, with sheathing, tubular bracts not or only briefly splitting and remaining attached, not enclosed by prophyll, usually with grapnel-like spines.   3 Calamus
13 (8) Pinnae with pointed apices   (14)
+ Pinnae, at least apical ones, with lobed or jagged apices   (15)
14 (13) Stems creeping, seldom visible; leaves erect.   5 Nypa
+ Stems erect; leaves spreading.   16 Cocos
15 (13) Leaf sheaths closed and forming a crownshaft; inflorescences borne below crownshaft, with only 1 bract (or bract scar); only apical pinnae with lobed margins   (16)
+ Leaf sheaths open, not forming a crownshaft; inflorescences borne among leaves, with several bracts (or bract scars); all pinnae with lobed or jagged margins   (17)
16 (15) Apical few nodes of stems covered with reddish brown scales; apical part of rachillae not shriveling, male and female flowers borne all along rachillae.   18 Pinanga
+ Apical few nodes of stems green, without scales; apical part of rachillae with male flowers only, shriveling after flowers are shed.   17 Areca
17 (15) Leaves bipinnate; pinnae green abaxially.   13 Caryota
+ Leaves pinnate; pinnae silvery gray abaxially   (18)
18 (17) Pinnae strongly asymmetric, scarcely to deeply lobed along margins; sepals of male flowers joined at their bases into a cupule.   15 Wallichia
+ Pinnae ± symmetric, notched but usually not lobed along margins; sepals of male flowers free, imbricate.   14 Arenga

  • List of lower taxa


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