Caryota L.

First published in Sp. Pl.: 1189 (1753)
This genus is accepted
The native range of this genus is Tropical & Subtropical Asia to Vanuatu.

Descriptions

Timothy M. A. Utteridge and Laura V. S. Jennings (2022). Trees of New Guinea. Kew Publishing. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

Distribution
About 13 species from South China to India, through South-East Asia to Australia, two species widespread in New Guinea.
Morphology General Habit
Robust, single-stemmed tree palm, height to 20 m, stem diameter 19–30 cm, crownshaft absent, stems dying after flowering, monoecious
Morphology Leaves
Leaf bipinnate, to 500 cm long, 7–8 in crown, ±horizontal. Sheath to 150 cm long, disintegrating into a mass of dark fibres
Morphology Leaves Petiole
Petiole short to long, 4–150 cm long (longer in juveniles)
Morphology Leaves Leaflets
Leaflets c. 25 each side of secondary leaf rachis, wedge-shaped, 8–12 cm long, with jagged tips, arranged regularly, horizontal or on edge, V-shaped in section at the base (induplicate)
Morphology Reproductive morphology Inflorescences
Inflorescence among the leaves, maturing from top of stem downwards, thus the oldest inflorescence at the stem tip, branched 1–3 orders, to 200 cm long, branches curved, ±pendulous Rachilla straight, pendulous
Morphology Leaves Prophyll
Prophyll small, inconspicuous, peduncular bracts 5–7, soon splitting, densely covered in indumentum, not dropping off as inflorescence expands
Morphology Reproductive morphology Inflorescences Peduncles
Peduncle shorter than or about the same length as rachis, 55–75 cm
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers
Flowers in triads throughout the length of the rachilla, not developing in pits, male flowers ±bullet-shaped. Fruit red or black, 1.5–2 cm × 1.5–2 cm, stigmatic remains apical, flesh juicy, filled with irritant needle crystals
Morphology Reproductive morphology Seeds
Seeds 1 or 2, ±globose or hemispherical, endosperm homogeneous or ruminate.
Ecology
Two species occur in New Guinea, both of which are robust, single-stemmed tree palms of lowland to montane forest from sea level to 1500 m.
Recognition
Caryota is unique in the palm family for its bipinnate leaves with wedge-shaped leaflets. Inflorescences are borne below the leaves, with the oldest inflorescences towards top of stem and younger inflorescences near the base of the stem. The stems die after flowering.
[TONG]

Baker, W.J., Barfod, A.S., Cámara-Leret, R., Dowe, J.L., Heatubun, C.D., Petoe, P., Turner, J.H., Zona, S. & Dransfield, J. (2024) Palms of New Guinea. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond. 726 pp.

Morphology General Habit
Robust, single-stemmed tree palms, crownshaft absent, stems dying after flowering, monoecious
Morphology Leaves
Leaf bipinnate, horizontal; sheath disintegrating into a mass of dark fibres; petiole short to long; leaflets wedge-shaped, with jagged tips, arranged regularly, horizontal or on edge, V-shaped in section at the base (induplicate)
Morphology Reproductive morphology Inflorescences
Inflorescence among the leaves, maturing from top of stem downwards, thus the oldest inflorescence at the stem apex, branched 1–2 orders, branches curved, ± pendulous; prophyll small, inconspicuous, peduncular bracts 5–7, soon splitting, densely covered in indumentum, not dropping off as inflorescence expands; peduncle shorter than or about the same length as rachis; rachilla straight, pendulous
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers
Flowers in triads throughout the length of the rachilla, not developing in pits, male flowers bullet-shaped, female flowers usually globose
Morphology Reproductive morphology Fruits
Fruit red or black, stigmatic remains apical, flesh juicy, filled with irritant needle crystals
Morphology Reproductive morphology Seeds
Seeds 1 or 2, globose or hemispherical, endosperm homogeneous or ruminate.
Distribution
About 13 species from South China to India, through South-East Asia to Australia, the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu, two species in New Guinea.
Note
Caryota is unique in the palm family for its bipinnate leaves with wedge-shaped leaflets. Inflorescences are borne below or between the leaves, with the oldest inflorescences towards the stem apex and younger inflorescences near the base of the stem. The stems die after flowering. The latest systematic treatment is that of Jeanson (2011). An account of the genus in Australia is given in Dowe (2010).
[PONG]

Distribution
About 13 species occurring from Sri Lanka, India, southern China, southwards through Southeast Asia, Malesia to northern Australia, the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu.
Morphology
Leaf, petiole, stem, root (Tomlinson 1961), root (Seubert 1998a, 1998b), stamen development following a pattern somewhat similar to that of Lodoicea (Borasseae) and Ptychosperma (Areceae) (Uhl and Moore 1980).
General Description
Moderate to large, solitary or clustered, hapaxanthic, monoecious palms. Stems with ± elongate internodes, obscured at first by persistent fibrous leaf bases and sheaths, usually becoming bare, conspicuously ringed with narrow leaf scars, striate. Leaves induplicately bipinnate (except in juveniles where pinnate), marcescent or abscising under their own weight; sheath triangular, eroding opposite the petiole into a mass of strong black fibres, a ligule-like extension frequently present, disintegrating into strong black fibres, the sheath surface covered in a dense felt of indumentum and caducous chocolate-brown scales, sometimes in broad stripes; petiole scarcely to well developed, channelled adaxially, rounded abaxially, bearing indumentum like the sheath; secondary rachises similar in form to the primary rachis, arranged ± regularly except rarely in 1 or 2 species where the most proximal few crowded; leaflets very numerous, borne ± regularly along the secondary rachises, obliquely wedge-shaped with no distinct midrib but several major veins diverging from the swollen, sometimes stalk-like base, upper margins deeply praemorse, blade concolorous, with broad bands of caducous chocolate-brown scales abaxially, transverse veinlets obscure. Inflorescences bisexual, solitary, produced in a basipetal sequence, interfoliar and sometimes infrafoliar (the proximal few), usually branched to 1 order, rarely to 2 orders (Caryota ophiopellis) or 3 orders (C. zebrina) or rarely spicate (C. monostachya), usually pendulous; peduncle ± circular in cross-section, densely scaly; prophyll tubular at first, soon splitting, 2-keeled, relatively small, densely tomentose and/or scaly; peduncular bracts to ca. 8, conspicuous, large, enclosing the inflorescence in bud, coriaceous, tubular at first, tending to split irregularly, usually densely tomentose and/or scaly; rachis shorter or longer than the peduncle; rachillae spirally arranged, densely crowded, usually scaly, each subtended by a small, low, triangular bract; the rachilla base usually somewhat swollen, with a short to moderately long bare section above this, distal portion of rachilla bearing close or rather distant, spirally arranged, protandrous triads, each subtended by an inconspicuous rachilla bract; floral bracteoles shallow, rounded. Staminate flowers usually ± elongate, symmetrical; sepals 3, ± distinct, coriaceous, ± rounded, imbricate; petals 3, valvate, coriaceous, connate at the very base, considerably exceeding the sepals; stamens 6–ca. 100, the filaments short, basally sometimes connate, anthers ± linear, latrorse, the connective sometimes prolonged into a point; pistillode absent. Pollen ellipsoidal, ± bi-symmetric; aperture a distal sulcus; ectexine intectate, usually finely and densely clavate, less frequently spiny, spines attached to smooth upper surface of foot layer, in some species spines more numerous along aperture margin, or gemmate, occasionally with gemmae linked together to form incomplete reticulum, or coalesced into larger irregular units; longest axis ranging from 26–31 µm; post-meiotic tetrads usually tetrahedral, sometimes tetragonal or, rarely, rhomboidal [8/14]. Pistillate flower ± globular or elongate; sepals 3, coriaceous, rounded, imbricate, connate at the very base; petals 3, coriaceous, valvate, connate into a tube in the basal ca. 1/3–1/2; staminodes 0–6; ovary rounded or somewhat 3-angled, trilocular with 1–2 locules fertile, septal glands present basally, stigma trilobed, apical, ovule hemianatropous, inserted adaxially at the base. Fruit globose, 1–2-seeded, with apical stigmatic remains; epicarp smooth, becoming dull, bright or dark coloured at maturity, mesocarp fleshy, filled with abundant, irritant, needle-like crystals, endocarp not differentiated. Seeds basally attached, irregularly spherical or hemispherical, somewhat grooved or smooth, endosperm homogeneous or ruminate; embryo lateral. Germination remote-tubular; eophyll bifid with rhombic, divergent, praemorse segments. Cytology: 2n = 34.
Vernacular
Fishtail palms.
Biology
Ranging from monsoon climates to perhumid areas, from sea level to ca. 2000 m in the mountains, in secondary forest (especially Caryota mitis) and in primary forest.
Diagnostic
Solitary or clustered, monoecious hapaxanthic palms of South and Southeast Asia to the western Pacific, instantly recognisable by the doubly pinnate leaf with fishtail leaflets.
[PW]

Uses

Use
All species appear to be utilised in some way. The apex is edible and good. Stems provide sago, the larger species being especially favoured. Timber of Caryota urens is used for construction purposes. Leaf sheath fibres are extremely durable and harvested for thatch, cordage, and other purposes. The woolly indumentum on leaf sheaths, petioles, and rachis is used variously as tinder or wadding. Inflorescences, especially of C. urens, are tapped for palm wine or sugar. There are several other minor local uses. Many species are cultivated as ornamentals.
[PW]

Common Names

English
Fishtail Palm

Sources

  • Herbarium Catalogue Specimens

    • 'The Herbarium Catalogue, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Published on the Internet http://www.kew.org/herbcat [accessed on Day Month Year]'. Please enter the date on which you consulted the system.
  • Interactive Key to Seed Plants of Malesia and Indo-China

    • The Malesian Key Group (2010) Interactive Key to Seed Plants of Malesia and Indo-China (Version 2.0, 28 Jul 2010) The Nationaal Herbarium Nederland Leiden and The Royal Botanic Gardens Kew
  • Kew Backbone Distributions

    • The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Vascular Plants 2024. Published on the Internet at http://www.ipni.org and https://powo.science.kew.org/
    • © Copyright 2023 World Checklist of Vascular Plants. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0
  • Kew Living Collection Database

    • Common Names from Plants and People Africa http://www.plantsandpeopleafrica.com/
  • Kew Names and Taxonomic Backbone

    • The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Vascular Plants 2024. Published on the Internet at http://www.ipni.org and https://powo.science.kew.org/
    • © Copyright 2023 International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Vascular Plants. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0
  • Palms of New Guinea

    • http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0
  • Palmweb - Palms of the World Online

    • Palmweb 2011. Palmweb: Palms of the World Online. Published on the internet http://www.palmweb.org. Accessed on 21/04/2013
    • Content licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0
  • Trees of New Guinea

    • Trees of New Guinea
    • http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0