Dypsis scandens J.Dransf., Palms Madagascar : 255 (1995)

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  • This remarkable species is the first climbing palm to be recorded for Madagascar. In habit and texture, it bears an uncanny resemblance to the central American climbing palm, Chamaedorea elatior Mart., so much so that on first finding it in November 1994, we had to examine the inflorescences closely to convince ourselves that the plant was an Arecoid palm rather than a Ceroxyloid. Its discovery, just before the manuscript of this book was completed, emphasises yet again the extraordinary richness of the Madagascar palm flora and how much there may yet be to discover and describe. The species name is Latin for ‘climbing’. (Dransfield, J. & Beentje, H. 1995: The Palms of Madagascar)A


Map uses TDWG level 3 distributions (https://github.com/tdwg/wgsrpd)
Madagascar present (World Checklist of Arecaceae)B
Ifanadiana area, only known from one site. (Dransfield, J. & Beentje, H. 1995: The Palms of Madagascar)A


  • Unfortunately the type bears only dead inflorescences; however, we found one mummified fruit and several flowers still attached to the inflores cences and this has allowed a rather complete description to be prepared. The climbing habit makes this species instantly identifiable. The leaves have distinctive distant reflexed leaflets that are grossly swollen at the base in the manner of those of D. pinnatifrons and D. nodifera. These reflexed leaflets presumably act, as in Chamaedorea elatior, as grapnels that help to support the long flexible stems. Leaf texture and inflorescence, flower and fruit structure suggest that the relationships of D. scandens are probably with D. jumelleana and related species. (Dransfield, J. & Beentje, H. 1995: The Palms of Madagascar)A


  • habitu scandenti, caudicibus gracilibus vaginis foliorum glabris, foliolis divaricatis, basin pulvinatis, inflorescentia in 2 ordines ramificanti instanter distinguibilis. (Dransfield, J. & Beentje, H. 1995: The Palms of Madagascar)A

Biology And Ecology

  • Low canopy forest with small crowns on poor soils on quartzite ridge; 500 m. (Dransfield, J. & Beentje, H. 1995: The Palms of Madagascar)A


  • Probably endangered if not critical. The forests in this area are not protected, and are under pressure from shifting cultivation. (Dransfield, J. & Beentje, H. 1995: The Palms of Madagascar)A

Common Name

  • Olokoloka (Tanala). (Dransfield, J. & Beentje, H. 1995: The Palms of Madagascar)A


  • Stems harvested for splitting to make fish traps, bird cages and hats. Said to be widespread in the area, but much harvested. (Dransfield, J. & Beentje, H. 1995: The Palms of Madagascar)A


  • Clustering, climbing palm. STEMS to 8–10 m long, flexible, 7–12 mm diam., internodes 20–31 cm long, bright green, with scattered dark brown scales, nodal scars c. 2 mm wide; sheathed stem c. 1.5–1.8 mm diam. Stems carrying about 15 green leaves and several dead marcescent leaves. LEAF-sheaths 15–30 cm, pale green, smooth, with thin white wax, glabrous, turning dark blackish brown on drying, auricles absent; petiole absent; rachis 1.1–1.45 m, 7 mm wide at the base, triangular in section, tapering to c. 1 mm diam. at the tip; leaflets c. 15–18 on each side of the rachis, grouped, lanceolate, long acuminate, mostly strongly reflexed and with a conspicuous basal woody pulvinus, basal leaflets arranged singly, then two distant groups of two leaflets, then mostly singly to the tip, the leaflets dull green, glabrous, turning dirty brown-black on drying, basal leaflets 20 x 0.2 cm, median 24–30 x 3–3.5 cm, distal to 6 x 1.5 cm. INFLORESCENCE, only dead mummified material available, interfoliar, branched to 2 orders; peduncle mostly enclosed by the subtending leaf sheath, 16–45 cm, 7–20 mm wide at the base, 3–10 mm diam. near the tip; prophyll borne up to 10 cm above the peduncle base, to 15–34 x 1.6–3.1 cm, membranous, somewhat striate, glabrous; peduncular bract only fragments known, c. 15 x 1.5 cm, much tattered; rachis 27–40 cm long, bearing c. 13–15 first order branches; lowermost branches 12–18 cm, bearing 3–6 rachillae; rachillae c. 40–50 in total, 8–12 cm long, c. 1.2 mm diam., triads c. 1–3 mm distant. STAMINATE FLOWER rounded; sepals ± rounded, gibbous, keeled, c. 0.8 mm diam., smooth; petals triangular, c. 1.5 x 1.5 mm, striate; stamens 6, somewhat biseriate, the antepetalous longer than the antesepalous, filaments 0.3–0.5 mm, anthers elongate c. 1 x 0.2 mm, joined to connective throughout their length; pistillode low, conical. PISTILLATE FLOWER with sepals rounded, c. 0.8 mm diam., smooth; petals triangular, striate, 1.8 x 2 mm, enlarging to 2 x 2 mm in fruit, ovary c. 1 mm diam. FRUIT ellipsoid, 8 x 4.5 mm; endosperm homogeneous. (Dransfield, J. & Beentje, H. 1995: The Palms of Madagascar)A

Materials Examined

  • Ifanadiana: c. 10 km east of Ifanadiana, Nov. 1994 (dead infl.), Dransfield & Beentje JD7515 (Holotype K; isotypes BH, P, TAN) (Dransfield, J. & Beentje, H. 1995: The Palms of Madagascar)A


    A. Dransfield, J. & Beentje, H. 1995: The Palms of Madagascar
    B. World Checklist of Arecaceae