1. Family: Arecaceae Bercht. & J.Presl
    1. Genus: Dransfieldia W.J.Baker & Zona
      1. Dransfieldia micrantha (Becc.) W.J.Baker & Zona

        Dransfieldia micrantha is a delicate, pinnate-leaved palm found in dense rainforest in New Guinea. It is the only species in the genus Dransfieldia, which was formally named by William Baker of Kew and Scott Zona of the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden (Coral Gables, FL, USA) in the journal Systematic Botany in 2006. The epithet micrantha means 'small-flowered'.


    Kew Species Profiles

    General Description
    Only recently placed in a genus of its own, the Latin name of this palm honours a Kew botanist and palm expert.

    Dransfieldia micrantha is a delicate, pinnate-leaved palm found in dense rainforest in New Guinea. It is the only species in the genus Dransfieldia, which was formally named by William Baker of Kew and Scott Zona of the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden (Coral Gables, FL, USA) in the journal Systematic Botany in 2006. The epithet micrantha means 'small-flowered'.

    Species Profile
    Geography and distribution

    Dransfieldia micrantha grows in scattered populations throughout the dense rainforest of northwestern New Guinea, in the Indonesian province of Papua. It is found up to 180 m above sea level.


    Dransfieldia micrantha is an elegant palm with pinnate fronds and numerous slender cane-like stems. It grows up to 10 m high, with a stem diameter of 2-5 cm and has a crownshaft (smooth column at the stem tip composed of tightly rolled tubular leaf sheaths).

    D. micrantha is monoecious (both male and female flowers are borne on the same plant) and bears small purple flowers, followed by olive-shaped black fruits. Seeds are ovoid with a flattened base.

    The inflorescences are borne on the stem below the leaves and are 34-60 cm long with spreading branches. The flowers are in triads (groups of three with a central female and two lateral male flowers) throughout the length of the rachillae (the branches of the inflorescence that carry the flowers). 

    Threats and conservation

    New Guinea, the world's largest tropical island, is a poorly explored biodiversity hotspot and an area of high priority for palm research and conservation. A recent expedition to the remote Foja Mountains by an international team attracted worldwide media attention, making astounding discoveries of new species of frogs, birds and palms. 

    Palms are tremendously important for subsistence communities and ecosystems throughout the island. However, many New Guinean palms are so poorly known that efforts to study and conserve them are hampered by our inability to identify the various species. While large areas of primary forest still exist in New Guinea, the rapid expansion of logging, mining and other major economic developments constitute a real and urgent threat to its habitats and biodiversity.

    In the past five years, a team of experts from Kew, the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, and botanists from Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Australia and Denmark have described more than 20 new species of palm from New Guinea, and these institutions are collaborating in writing a comprehensive book that will describe all the palms of the island.

    Many more species new to science have been discovered, but are yet to be formally described. A preliminary Field Guide to the Palms of New Guinea has been published, both in English and Indonesian language versions, and is an important tool in the conservation of these species.

    Land managers and conservationists can use the guide to identify palm species of conservation concern and geographic areas rich in palm diversity. 


    The stems of this palm are used to make harpoons and the leaves are used for thatching.


    This newly discovered palm is not in cultivation at Kew at present. It is occasionally cultivated by specialist palm growers in tropical countries and can be seen in the palm collection at the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden.

    Discovery of a new palm genus

    In 2000, the Kew botanist William Baker and collaborators from the Universitas Negeri Papua and the Indonesian National Herbarium found a palm which had not been seen for almost 130 years in the foothills of the remote Wondiwoi Mountains in western New Guinea.

    Originally described by the great Italian botanist Odoardo Beccari, who discovered it in 1872, this palm had been the subject of a long dispute because experts had been unable to agree on which genus it belonged to. However, recent evidence has shown that none of these experts, including Kew’s great Victorian director, Sir Joseph Hooker, got it right. With colleagues from the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden in Florida and Aarhus University in Denmark, William Baker analysed the DNA of the troublesome palm and found that it could not be placed in any known genus. The palm needed a whole new genus all to itself.

    Choosing the right name for a new plant is always a challenge. William and his colleagues decided to honour John Dransfield, who had recently retired as head of palm research at Kew and had made enormous contributions to the world of palms, by naming the new genus Dransfieldia

    'I was perplexed by this palm when we found it in the forest,” Baker explained “but it was only with the help of modern DNA methods that we realised how unique and special it is.'

    'The discovery of Dransfieldia micrantha is an urgent reminder that we still need to explore tropical forests before they disappear under the bulldozer and chainsaw,' said Scott Zona (of Fairchild). 'We never expected this palm to be a new genus. There is still so much we need to learn about remote areas like New Guinea.'

    The publication of the new genus is the culmination of a scientific collaboration that also involved Dr Carl E. Lewis of Fairchild, Ms Maria V. Norup of Kew and Aarhus University in Denmark, and Mr Charlie Heatubun and Mr Rudi Maturbongs, both of the Universitas Negeri Papua, Indonesia.

    This species at Kew

    Both dried and alcohol-preserved specimens of Dransfieldia micrantha are held in the Herbarium, one of the behind-the-scenes areas of Kew. The details of some of these specimens can be seen in the Herbarium Catalogue, and the specimens themselves are made available to researchers from around the world by appointment.

    Papua New Guinea
    Lowland rainforest.
    Not currently listed by IUCN, but forest conversion may be a threat to the remaining areas of suitable habitat within its range.

    None known.

    Ititohoho (Jamur), Kapis (Biak-Raja Ampat), Tama’e (Wondama).
    Near Threatened. Dransfieldia micrantha meets criterion B1 for threat category ‘‘Vulnerable’’ because its extent of occurrence is less than 20,000 km2, but it does not qualify for the requisite two out of three subsequent criteria B1a–c (IUCN 2001). However, the impact of widespread logging, both legal and illegal, suggests that D. micrantha will potentially meet the requirements of criteria B1a and B1b in the near future.
    General Description
    Clustering or rarely solitary, slender understory tree palm. Stem to 10 m in height, 2–5 cm diam., surface smooth, often reddish when young then turning brown, internodes 4.0–19.5 cm. Leaves 4–7 in crown, new leaves emerging reddish but soon turning green, 1–2 m long including petiole; sheath 30–45 cm long, crownshaft 50–60 x ca. 6 cm, green with white bloom, sometimes orange-red near the apex and extending into the abaxial side of the petiole, dark scales especially abundant at sheath mouth; petiole 10–20 cm long, 12–14 x ca. 11 mm at base; leaflets 12–27 on each side of rachis, borne 55–69 mm apart, concolorous, ramenta ca. 5 mm long; mid-leaf leaflet 52–76 x 2–5 cm; apical leaflets 18.0–36.0 x 0.8–1.7 cm. Inflorescence 34–60 cm long including peduncle and rachis, all axes red to purple at anthesis; peduncle 12–26 cm long, 9–13 x 5–8 mm at base; prophyll 11.5–27.0 x 1.4–2.0 cm, brown at anthesis; peduncular bracts 2–3, first peduncular bract 20.0–24.0 x 1.7–3.5 cm, remaining peduncular bracts 0.5–25.0 x 5.0–12.0 mm; rachis 9–17 cm long; primary branches 11–14, to 35 cm, with up to 7 rachillae each; rachillae 8.5–29.0 cm long, 1.5–3.5 mm diam. at anthesis, irregularly curvaceous, triads 15–28 per 5 cm; floral bracteoles spathulate, to 1 mm long. Staminate flowers 4.5–5.5 x 2.2–3.4 mm in bud near anthesis, purple; sepals 1.8–2.1 x 1.7–2.6 mm; corolla united in basalmost 0.5–1.4 mm, corolla lobes 4.2–4.8 x 1.7–2.5 mm; stamens 15–19, white, filaments 1.5–3.1 x 0.1–0.2 mm, anther 1.0–1.3 x 0.3–0.7 mm; pollen grains 30–40 mm long; pistillode less than 0.5 mm long. Pistillate flowers 3.8–4.3 x 3.3–3.9 mm in bud near to anthesis, purple; sepals 2.5–3.5 x 2.3–3.0 mm; petals 3.1–3.5 x 2–2.5 mm; staminodes ca. 3, 0.3–0.5 mm; gynoecium ca. 3.0 x 1.6 mm including stigmas ca. 0.7 mm. Fruit 15.0–15.9 x 7.6–9.5 mm; epicarp black when ripe, epicarp and mesocarp 0.7 mm thick, endocarp 0.3 mm thick, brown. Seed 8.9–11.0 x 6.1–7.0 mm.
    Lowland forests and forest on slopes and ridge tops, 10–180 m elevation.
    Restricted to far western Papua province in Indonesian New Guinea. Known from Waigeo Island in the Raja Ampat Archipelago, the Kepala Burung (Sorong and Bintuni Bay), the lower slopes of the Wondiwoi Mountains and the vicinity of Etna Bay. Although records are relatively few, a consequence of low collection densities, we have no reason to believe that the species is not more widespread between these localities. Palm growers have reported that the species occurs in Papua New Guinea (Migliaccio 2001). We have seen no confirmation of this and suspect that a misinterpretation of the origin of the seed source has been made.
    Stems used for harpoons. Leaves used for thatch. Unspecified parts used for sewing thatch. The species is grown as an ornamental in the USA and Australia, but is not yet widely available in the horticultural trade. Its colorful new leaves and inflorescences, along with its slender habit, make this palm highly desirable among palm collectors (Migliaccio 2001).



    Found In:

    New Guinea

    Dransfieldia micrantha (Becc.) W.J.Baker & Zona appears in other Kew resources:

    Date Identified Reference Herbarium Specimen Type Status
    May 11, 2006 Heatubun, C. [CH408], New Guinea K000208593
    Oct 18, 2004 Heatubun, C. [328], Indonesia K000114411
    Oct 18, 2004 Maturbongs, R.A. [702], Indonesia K000030719
    Oct 18, 2004 Heatubun, C. [321], Indonesia K000113568
    Oct 18, 2004 Baker, W.J. [1066], Indonesia 70026.000
    Oct 18, 2004 Baker, W.J. [1067], Indonesia 70032.000
    Oct 18, 2004 Baker, W.J. [1066], Indonesia K000112783
    Oct 18, 2004 Baker, W.J. [1067], Indonesia K000112784
    Oct 18, 2004 Heatubun, C. [97], Indonesia K000030575
    Oct 18, 2004 Beccari, O. [PP424], Indonesia K000113827 isotype

    First published in Syst. Bot. 31: 62 (2006)

    Accepted in:

    • [1] Govaerts, R.H.A. (2011) World checklist of selected plant families published update . Facilitated by the Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew


    • [2] Baker, W.J. & Dransfield, J. (2006). Field Guide to the Palms of New Guinea. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, London.
    • [3] Baker, W.J. & Zona, S. (2006). Dransfieldia deciphered. Palms 50(2): 71-75.
    • [4] Baker, W.J., Zona, S., Heatubun, C.D., Lewis, C.E., Maturbongs, R.A. & Norup, M.V. (2006). Dransfieldia (Arecaceae) - A new palm genus from western New Guinea. Syst. Bot. 31: 61–69.
    • [5] W.J. Baker & S. Zona & Ch.D. Heatubun & K. Lewis & K. Lewis & R.A. Maturbongs & M.V. Norup, Dransfieldia (Arecaceae)—A New Palm Genus from Western New Guinea. 2006


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