Phoenix roebelenii O'Brien

First published in Gard. Chron., ser. 3, 6: 475 (1889)
This species is accepted
The native range of this species is China (Yunnan) to N. Indo-China. It is a shrub and grows primarily in the subtropical biome. It is has environmental uses and for food.


Bernal, R., G. Galeano, A. Rodríguez, H. Sarmiento y M. Gutiérrez. 2017. Nombres Comunes de las Plantas de Colombia.

palma robeleni, palma robelini, rebelén, rebelín, robelini

A naturally restricted distribution, habitat loss and a horticultural trade in wild-collected plants may mean that the wild populations of P. roebelenii merit 'vulnerable' status, but further studies are needed. Demand for P. roebelenii as an ornamental is mostly met through seeds and offshoots from cultivated plants. However, Barrow (1994) suggested that collection of mature palms from the wild poses an increasing threat.
General Description
Clustering palms (often solitary in cultivation), forming clumps with stemless plants suckering at base of taller stems. Stem 1 - 2 m (rarely 3 m) high, without sheaths to 10 cm in diam., erect or twisted, pale, becoming smooth with age, marked with diamond-shaped persistent leaf bases each with a central bump of remnant vascular tissue; stem base developed with a root boss; roots occasionally emerging from stem above ground level. Leaves arching, 1 - 1.5 (2) m long; pseudopetiole to c. 50 cm long; leaf sheath reddish-brown, fibrous; acanthophylls arranged singly or paired, c. 12 on each side of rachis, orange-green, to 8 cm long; leaflets regularly arranged, opposite, c. 25 - 50 on each side of rachis, linear, concolorous, deep green, often flaccid, to 40 x 1.2 cm; lamina with discontinuous white scurfy ramenta along abaxial veins and midrib, almost totally covering abaxial surface of unexpanded (sword) leaves. Staminate inflorescences pendulous; prophyll coriaceous, two-keeled, splitting once abaxially between keels, c. 30- 60 cm long; peduncle to 30 cm long; rachillae 7- 20 cm long. Staminate flowers with calyx a three-pointed cupule, 1.2 mm high, yellow- white; petals pale yellow-white with acuminate apices and with jagged margins, 7 - 8 x 2 - 2.5 mm; anthers 3.5 - 4 mm long. Pistillate inflorescences erect, arching as fruits ripen, up to 35 cm long; prophyll coriaceous, two-keeled, to 35 cm long x c. 5 cm wide, splitting once adaxially between keels to reveal inflorescence; peduncle green, to c. 30 x 3 cm; rachillae with bulbous bases, orange-green, occasionally branched to one order, subtended by papery bracts (c. 4 cm long). Pistillate flowers pale green, arranged in distal three quarters of rachilla, subtended by papery bracts to 5 mm long; calyx a three-pointed cupule, thickened and ridged up to apices, striate, 2 - 2.5 mm high; petals 3.5 x 4 mm with acute apices; generally only one carpel reaching maturity. Fruits obovoid, with persistent perianth, maturing from dark green to purplish brown, 13 - 18 x 6 - 7 mm; stigmatic remains apical, 1 mm long, orange- brown, often recurved. Seed narrowly elongate, terete, with rounded apices, 7 - 3 mm; embryo lateral opposite raphe; endosperm homogeneous.
THAILAND. Paam sipsong pannaa (Xishuangbanna palm), [Smitinand (1948)]. VIETNAM. Cha rang (Moyenne Region), [Magalon (1930)].
Closely associated with riverside or cliff habitats where it grows as a rheophyte. The rheophytic habit is rare within the palm family (Dransfield 1992). The clustering habit of R roebelenii may help it to survive flooding.
Northern Laos (Nam Ou valley), Vietnam (Upper Black R. region near Lai-Chau), and southern China (Xisuangbanna region of Yunnan), most notably along the banks of the R. Mekong.

Cultivated in Colombia. Colombian departments: Antioquia, Bogotá DC, Cundinamarca, Tolima, Valle del Cauca.
Shrub, Solitary palm.
Habitat according IUCN Habitats Classification: forest and woodland, shrubland, artificial - terrestrial.

Bernal, R., Gradstein, S.R. & Celis, M. (eds.). 2015. Catálogo de plantas y líquenes de Colombia. Instituto de Ciencias Naturales, Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Bogotá.

Cultivada en Colombia.
Morphology General Habit
Arbusto, palma solitaria


Since its introduction to Europe, P. roebelenii has become a popular and widely cultivated ornamental palm and is now found in private and botanical gardens around the world.

Use Environmental
Environmental uses.
Use Gene Sources
Used as gene sources.
Use Food
Used for food.

Common Names

Dwarf Date Palm


  • Catálogo de Plantas y Líquenes de Colombia

  • Herbarium Catalogue Specimens

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    • The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Vascular Plants 2023. Published on the Internet at and
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  • Kew Living Collection Database

    • Common Names from Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew Living Collection
  • Kew Names and Taxonomic Backbone

    • The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Vascular Plants 2023. Published on the Internet at and
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  • Palmweb - Palms of the World Online

    • Palmweb 2011. Palmweb: Palms of the World Online. Published on the internet Accessed on 21/04/2013
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  • Universidad Nacional de Colombia

    • ColPlantA database
  • Useful Plants and Fungi of Colombia