Palm Archives No. 3 & 4

Another in Jorg's series about little-known palms. Here he gives
a verbal snapshot of two rare Madagascan species.

Jörg Schumann, Rathausplatz 2, 09247 Röhrsdorf, Germany

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Above: Ravenea glauca

Palm Archive No. 3 - Ravenea glauca

Are you looking for a palm that is attractive and easy to grow? Do you want to try something different? Do you need a plant that can survive dry periods? So why not a Ravenea glauca? Ravenea glauca grows up to 8m tall in the central highlands of southern Madagascar, at an altitude of up to 1800m. It is also sometimes found trunkless, mainly in dry areas. Interestingly, some people say that Ravenea glauca can survive bush fires; something few palms can lay claim to. This is the reason why you can find Ravenea glauca without understorey plants in some areas. Ravenea glauca is famous for its beauty, even as a seedling, with its glaucous, pinnate leaves. These are waxy beneath, hence the scientific name "glauca."

The lightweight seeds of Ravenea glauca are up to 20mm in diameter, and lose their viability very quickly. Therefore, it is necessary to use very fresh seeds for good germination rates. First, the thick primary root develops up to 20cm. In Madagascar, the thicker roots are necessary for surviving the drier periods. After some weeks, the first leaves begin to come very quickly. Ravenea glauca grows very well in a bright, sunny place, and with moderate watering, as they are easily over watered. A subtropical to tropical climate is best. A great indoor plant, Ravenea glauca can also be put outside during the summer months, which I have been doing for many years.

Palm Archive No. 4 - Dypsis pusilla

After the very extensive new classification by Dransfield and Beentje, the genus Dypsis now includes nearly 150 different species. Dypsis pusilla, for one, belongs to the genus formerly called Vonitra, and was the smallest member. During a recent trip to Madagascar, I visited the habitat of this particular species, an area which contains the Masoala peninsula and the Mananara Biosphere reserve. It seems that many members of Dypsis are suitable for indoor cultivation, such as Dypsis decaryi or Dypsis lutescens, though perhaps some of you have tried other species. Dypsis pusilla is surely a very attractive species that is still waiting for a serious introduction to indoor cultivation. This species is small, developing a fibrous stem generally less than 2m tall. Dypsis pusilla is normally single stemmed, only rarely forming multiple stems. I found Dypsis pusilla in their habitat in primary forest, where they seem to prefer semi-shade or shade to full sun. Give them enough water and a higher humidity and they will grow well.

The glossy green leaflets are densely arranged, elegantly curved and stiff, and held flat in a V-shape. There are up to 28 leaflets on each side of the rachis. Sometimes the new leaves are colored light red to brown. The oval seeds are about 16mm long, and they germinate very well, even if the seeds are not very fresh. The seeds germinate after a couple of weeks and the first leaf is bifid. Dypsis pusilla, like most of the Madagascan palms, is endangered and may be extinct in Madagascar in some years. Many of them will only survive in cultivation. Help to make sure that these wonderful palms will survive in the future!

If you may have questions about these very interesting palms, please contact me via email (

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  02-02-23 - 12:24GMT
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