Roystonea regia (Kunth) O.F.Cook, Science , II, 12: 479 (1900)

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Abundantly distributed throughout the hillsides and valleys of Cuba and the hammocks of the Everglades in Collier, Dade, and Monroe Counties, Florida, U.S.A. (Small, 1928; Austin et al., 1980; Jones, 1983). Also present in the Yucatan Peninsula and Gulf Coastal Mexico, Belize, and Honduras. Indigenous populations also exist in the Cayman Islands. This species appears to be the palm found by Gillis et a1. (1975) in the Bahamas. This taxon is very commonly cultivated throughout the tropics and subtropics and apparently naturalizes with ease. (Zona, S. 1996. Roystonea.(Arecaceae: Arecoideae). Flora Neotropica Monograph 71, 1-35.)A


  • The nomenclature of the Cuban royal palm is fraught with enough synonyms and inadequate descriptions to confound and bewilder those unfamiliar with the long history of this species. The most significant controversy involves the populations of this species that occur in southern Florida, U.S.A., which have over the years been assigned either to R. regia or R. elata.
    I have been unable to discern any morphological differences between palms representing the Floridian R. elata and those representing the Cuban R. regia. For this reason they are recognized as a single taxon; regrettably, the lesser-known name (R. etala) has nomenclatural priority. Because of the cultural and horticultural importance of this species, long known as R. regia, a proposal has been made to conserve the name R. regia over R. etala (Zona, 1994).
    The historical distribution of this species in the United States-far north of is present range in what is now Putnam, Lake, and Volusia Counties, Florida was discussed by Small ( 1937). Cooper (1861) believed that severe winter weather in 1835 may have extirpated more northerly populations. Small (1937) added that freezes in 1894-1895 as well as exploitation of palm wood for the manufacture of walking sticks eliminated Roystonea from north-central Florida.
    Central American populations of R. regia, long known as R. regia var. hondurensis, do not differ substantially from the Cuban populations. Central American populations may have somewhat shorter peduncular bracts, but this structure is not often collected, and what few collections exist overlap in size to the extent that two populations cannot be reliably discerned. The Mexican and Central American populations seem to have a slightly elongated fruit, more elongated than the Cuban populations and approaching R. dunlapiana with which it overlaps in range, but the two can immediately be distinguished by their peduncular bracts. A conservative taxonomy is adopted here, and the Central American and Mexican variety is not recognized as distinct. Roystonea jenmanii is represented by two original collections, each bearing Jenman's number 2057, but one was collected in 1884 and is annotated " Euterpe sp. nov.?" while the other was collected in June 1899 and is annotated "Euterpe jenmanii." Oddly enough, the two collections appear to represent two species. The 1884 specimen is designated as the lectotype; it matches Raystonea regia , hence R. jenmanii is synonymized here. The second collection, from June 1899, appears to be R. borinquena on the bas is of noral density on the rachillae. Although the jenmanii epithet predates Cook's R. borinquena, the latter name stands as the result of the lectotypi fication and synonymization based on the 1884 specimen. This is the most commonly encountered taxon in cultivation. Cultivated individuals and their descendants have been mistaken for indigenous populations in Panama (e.g., Beccari , 1912), Costa Rica, Guyana, and elsewhere. (Zona, S. 1996. Roystonea.(Arecaceae: Arecoideae). Flora Neotropica Monograph 71, 1-35.)A

Common Name

  • Florida royal palm, royal palm (U.S.A.), palma criolla, palma real, palma de seda (Cuba), waa (Panama), yagua, palma macho (Nee, 1987), Cuban royal palm, royal palm (in culti vation). (Zona, S. 1996. Roystonea.(Arecaceae: Arecoideae). Flora Neotropica Monograph 71, 1-35.)A


  • It is used in Cuba for timber, thatch, and hog feed. It is very popular as a cultivated ornamental. (Zona, S. 1996. Roystonea.(Arecaceae: Arecoideae). Flora Neotropica Monograph 71, 1-35.)A


  • Trunk gray-white, to 20(-30) m tall, 37-57.5 cm diam.
    Leaves ca. 15, lowest leaves hanging below the horizontal; crownshaft ca. 2 m long; rachis ca. 4 m long; middle segments 63- 119 cm long and 2.5-4.6 cm wide.
    Inflorescence ca. 1 m long and 1 m wide; prophyll ca. 36 cm long and 7.3 cm wide; peduncular bract 0.8-1 .6 m long and 9.8-13 cm wide, widest at the middle, apex acuminate; rachillae 11-31 cm long and 0.9-2.3 mm diam. Staminate flowers white; sepals triangular, 0.8-1.4 mm long and 0.9-2 mm wide; petals elliptical 10 ovate, 3.5-6.4 mm long and 2.2-3.5 mm wide; stamens 6-9, 3.2-7.5 mm long; filaments awl-shaped, 2.3-5.6 mm long; anthers 2.4-4.5 mm long; pistillode minute. Pistillate flowers white,2-4.5 per cm; sepals reniform, 0.7-1 .8 mm long and 1.8-3.4 mm wide; petals ovate, 2.7-3.7 mm long mm; gynoecium 1.1-3.5 mm long and 0.9-2.6 mm diam.
    Fruits spheroid to ellipsoid, somewhat dorsiventrally compressed, 8.9-15.1 mm long, 6.9-11.2 mm dorsi ventral thickness, and 7-10.9 mm wide; epicarp purplish black, stigmatic scar plain; endocarp ellipsoid, 7.5-11.1 mm long, 6-7.7 mm dorsi ventral thickness, and 5.8-7.9 mm wide; seed ellipsoid, somewhat dorsiventrally compressed, 5.5-9.7 mm long, 4-6.3 mm dorsiventral thickness, and 5.1-7.2 mm wide; raphe circular. Eophyll linear-lanceolate, 13.5-19 cm long and 1.3-1.5 cm wide, exstipitate, weakly costate. n = 18 (Sharma & Sarkar, 1957). (Zona, S. 1996. Roystonea.(Arecaceae: Arecoideae). Flora Neotropica Monograph 71, 1-35.)A

Materials Examined

  • UNITED STATES OF AMERICA FLORIDA: Without locality, Garber 26 (MO). Collier Co.: Big Cypress, Scenic Drive, vicinity of Fakahatchee, Lakela & Lang 29981 (US), Zona & Bigelow 405 (FLAS), Layne s. n. (MO); Collier Seminole State Park. N of boat ramp and picnic area. Zona & Bigelow 406 (FLAS). Dade Co.: Everglades National Park. Royal Palm Hammock. Zona & Bigelow 402 (FLAS); Paradise Key, Brillon & Rolf 228 (K, NY).
    MEXICO. CAMPECHE: Beyond La Frontera, Moore 8073 (BH).
    TABASCO: Mpio. Cárdenas, along Hwy 180 between Cárdenas and Villahermosa at km marker 150. Zona & Flores 458 (FLAS, HUMO); at km marker 5 between Cárdenas and Coatzacoalcos. Cowan 3367 (MEXU, NY); Mpio. Huimanquillo, between Cárdenas and Coatzacoalcos, along rd. to Campo Magallenes at Pemex 147 Campo Tucan, Zonaa & Flore. 459 (FLAS, HUMO).
    VERACRUZ: Mpio. Nanchita1, along Hwy 180 between Coatzacoalcos and Villahermosa, at Tabasco state line, Zona & Flores 457 (FLAS, HUMO); swampy land between Minatitlan and Coatzacoalcos, Moore & Brossard 6362 (BH); Mpio. Veracruz (?), between Veracruz and Cordoba, Rancho "La Esmaralda," lima & Flores 460 (FLAS, HUMO); Mpio. Xalapa, old rd. between Xalapa and Veracruz, rancheria Neveria, Gutiérrez 3141 (MEXU).
    YUCATÁN: 18 km N of Colonia, Read el al. 79-004 (US); 3 km W of Colonia Yucatán on rd. to Tizimin, Quero 2988 (MEXU).
    BELIZE, Without locality, Cook & Doyle 9 (US).
    HONDURAS. ATLÁNTIDA: Mpio. Tela. Quebrada de Arena, near San Alejo, Zona et af. 42/ (BH. FLAS. RSA, TEFH).
    CORTES: Amapa, Allen 6361 (EAP)
    CUBA, Without locality, Combs s.n. (P).
    CIENFUEGOS: Limones, Jack 4728 (A, US); Soledad Botanical Garden, Singlelon 826 (ECON), Rehder 1252 (A); Cieneguita, Combs 694 (GH, MO, NY).
    GRANMA: Sierra Maestra, S of Bayamo, Marie Victorín & Clemente 21384 (GH, US).
    GUANTANAMO: Near Monte Verde, Wright 1467 (GH, MO, P); Mpio. Baracoa Paso de Cuba, La Ceiba, lima et al. 387 (FLAS, HAJB, RSA); base of El Yunque, Underwood 828 (NY); El Yunque, Underwood 1290 (NY); Mpio. lmías: El Cuero, Zona & Leiva 396 (BH, FLAS, HAJB, RSA).
    HABANA: Guatao, León 21041 (GH, US); near Santiago de las Vegas, Wilson 3516 (FI, NY), van Hennon 697 (NY, P, US); W of Batabanó, León 14266 (GH, US).
    ISLA DE LA JUVENTUD: Near Nueva Gerona, Curtiss 432 (A, K, MO, NY, P, US).
    MATANZAS: S of Matanzas hills, Britton 464 (NY).
    PINAR DEL Rio: Without locality, Shafer 315 (NY); San Diego de los Banos, Britton 6741 (NY); along Rio Mestanza, Britton 10143 (NY).
    BAHAMAS. Little Inagua, NW sector of island, Correll et al. 47345 (FTG,Il, US); same locality, Buden 13 (IJ, US).
    CAYMAN ISLANDS, Grand Cayman, Brunt 1947 (lJ); Grand Cayman, central part of island, Brunt 1753 (IJ).
    CULTIVATED OR ESCAPED, MEXICO: Veracruz: Cosamaloapan, Nee 29252 (BH).
    PANAMA: San Blas: Cangandi, De Nevers el al. 7690 (BH). (Zona, S. 1996. Roystonea.(Arecaceae: Arecoideae). Flora Neotropica Monograph 71, 1-35.)A

Use Record

  • Roystonea regia (Kunth) O.F.Cook: Selva. Palma real. Leaves. Decotion. Antispasmodic, antidiarrheal, vermifuge. (DeFeo, V. 1992: Medicinal and magical plants in the northern Peruvian Andes)
    Use CategoryUse Sub CategoryPlant PartHuman GroupEthnic GroupCountry
    Medicinal and VeterinaryNervous system and mental healthEntire leafNot identifiedN/APeru
    Medicinal and VeterinaryDigestive systemEntire leafNot identifiedN/APeru


    A. Zona, S. 1996. Roystonea.(Arecaceae: Arecoideae). Flora Neotropica Monograph 71, 1-35.