Dypsis pinnatifrons Mart., Hist. Nat. Palm. 3: 180 (1838)

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  • This is a handsome palm that has become quite widespread in cultivation outside Madagascar. The great altitudinal and latitudinal range of the species suggests that there may be considerable variability of value for the selection of different strains to suit particular gardening climates. D. pinnatifrons is superficially very similar in habit, inflorescences and, especially, leaf form to D. nodifera. If staminate flowers and/or fruit are available, then there is no difficulty in separating them, for the former has three stamens and a seed with homogenous endosperm while the latter has six stamens and a seed with ruminate endosperm. There do appear to be good differences between the seedlings at about the six-leaf stage, D. pinnatifrons with numerous leaflets that are already clearly grouped and divergent within the groups, each leaflet abruptedly narrowed at its tip and D. nodifera with entire leaves or with parallel-sided leaflets that are not obviously grouped and divergent. This apparent difference needs confirmation. The species epithet, pinnatifrons, meaning pin-nate-leaved, would be appropriate for many a palm in Madagascar but was probably appropriate when it was first published to distinguish the species from the other two species of Dypsis known at that time (D. forficifolia and D. hirtula). (Dransfield, J. & Beentje, H. 1995: The Palms of Madagascar)A


Widespread throughout all humid forested areas; one of the commonest palms in Madagascar. (Dransfield, J. & Beentje, H. 1995: The Palms of Madagascar)A


  • The typification of the name Dypsis pinnatifr ons is most complex and open to several interpretations. According to Beccari (1914), Martius' concept of this palm includes several elements, referable to Phloga polystachya (our D. nodifera), Vonitra thouarsiana (our D. fibrosa) and Dypsis gracilis (see also Dransfield & Moore, 1982) - as Beccari stated -"un grande imbroglio di nomenclatura". Typified on the element Martius noted in passing as Areca gracilis Bory non Roxb., an unpublished name on a herbarium sheet, D. pinnatifrons is the name applicable to the palm described above. Inflorescences of D. pinnatifr ons are usually branched to three orders. In some areas, e.g. Marojejy and Nosy Be, individuals with inflorescences branched to four orders are found. These are often very robust palms, almost twice as large as "normal" D. pinnatifrons. Nosy Be is the type locality of D. sambiranensis and all modern collections from the island display inflorescences branched to four orders. However, the type specimen, Perrier 18742, has inflorescences that appear to be branched to three orders only. Where individuals with inflorescences branched to four orders occur together with individuals with inflorescences branched to three orders, as on Marojejy, the two types of palm look distinctly different, and for some time it appeared that we would maintain two taxa. However, apart from the difference in numbers of orders of branching, there are no obvious differences discernible in the herbarium, and furthermore, the previously conceived restriction of these palms with inflorescences branched to four orders to the northern part of the island does not hold true; one collection from Analamazaotra, Perrier 12010, also has inflorescences branched to four orders.We thus feel that it is not possible at present to distinguish two taxa. However, this variation deserves further study in the field. (Dransfield, J. & Beentje, H. 1995: The Palms of Madagascar)A

Biology And Ecology

  • Lowland and montane forest, somewhat tolerant of disturbance; to 1000 m. (Dransfield, J. & Beentje, H. 1995: The Palms of Madagascar)A


  • Not threatened. Widespread. (Dransfield, J. & Beentje, H. 1995: The Palms of Madagascar)A

Common Name

  • Tsingovatra, Tsingovatrovatra, Ovatsiketry, Ambolo, Hova, Tsobolo. (Dransfield, J. & Beentje, H. 1995: The Palms of Madagascar)A


  • Stems used for making blowpipes. (Dransfield, J. & Beentje, H. 1995: The Palms of Madagascar)A


  • Solitary palm of forest undergrowth or middle story. STEMS erect, caducous pale and dark scales; leaflets ± sigmoid, often acuminate 2.5-12 m tall, 4.5-15 cm diam. at maturity, juvenile stems tending in a long drip tip, 22-46 on each side of the rachis, arranged in to be more slender and stem increasing in diameter with age, distant groups of 2-7, the leaflet bases crowded on the rachis and internodes 2-8 cm, very short near crown in old stems, stem surface usually strongly swollen to form somewhat corky pulvini, the leaflets green and sometimes somewhat mottled when young, becoming fanned within the groups, the proximal leaflet of the group usual- grey-brown and often corky-warted and vertically cracked with age, ly shorter than the distal, distal few leaflets usually almost regularly the nodal scars then becoming obscure. LEAVES c. 8-16 in crown, arranged; proximal leaflets (especially when petiole lacking) very spreading, sometimes with a tendency to be marcescent; crownshaft short and slender, c. 7 x 0.5 cm, or longer, mid-leaf leaflets 17-49 well developed, tending to be rather swollen, green, sometimes x 3-7.5 cm, apical leaflets 8-15 x 1-4 cm; emerging leaf often tinged bright pink when young; sheaths 25-48 cm long, 6-18 cm tinged pink, leaflet surfaces glabrous. INFLORESCENCES interfoliar, diam., lacking distinct auricles, flecked with vertical patches of spreading, or somewhat pendulous, shorter than the leaves, c. reddish to chocolate-brown scales and patchy white wax; petiole 80-130 cm long, branching to 3-4 orders; peduncle 35-66 cm usually very short or absent, rarely 8-36 cm long, 0.8-3 cm diam., long, 1.4-3 cm wide at base, ± crescent-shaped in cross section, densely covered with caducous pale and dark scales; rachis 75-220 densely covered with red-brown indumentum when young; pro-cm, to c. 3 cm wide at base, usually less, densely covered with phyll inserted c. 8-20 cm above the base of the peduncle, 24-47 x 2-4 cm, with scattered dark red-brown scales; peduncular bract inserted 10-12 cm above the prophyll insertion, 19-35 x 2.5-3.5 cm; rachis 40-55 cm, with red-brown indumentum; rachillae very numerous, usually at least 200, somewhat arched or pendulous, 4-45 cm long, slender, glabrous, c. 1.5 mm diam., increasing in diameter with age, triads c. 1-3 mm apart. STAMINATE FLOWER c. 2 x 1.2 mm; sepals 0.8 x 0.8 mm, ± rounded, irregularly gibbous and keeled; petals 2 x 1 mm, striate; stamens 3, antesepalous, c. 1.3 mm long, filaments 0.9 x 0.4 mm, anthers sagittate, 1.0 x 0.7 mm, thecae 1.0 x 0.3 mm; pistillode pyramidal 0.8 x 0.4 mm. PISTILLATE FLOWER globular; sepals very broad, 1 x 1.5 mm, irregularly explanate, striate, with dark tips; petals 2.5 x 2.5 mm, basally imbricate, with triangular valvate tips; staminodes 3-6, irregularly toothlike; ovary c. 1.5 mm diam.FRUIT green at first, ?turning brownish at maturity, 14 x 6.5 mm. SEED 10 x 4 mm; endosperm homogenous; embryo lateral, near the base. (Dransfield, J. & Beentje, H. 1995: The Palms of Madagascar)A

Materials Examined

  • Nosy Be: Ampasindava, Lokobe Forest Reserve, Sept. 1932 (fr.), Perrier 18742 (P; Holotype of D. sambiranensis); idem, July 1992 (fl.), Beentje & Andriampaniry 4696 (BH, K, MO, P, TAN). Ambanja: Ampasindava, path from Ampopo to massif Ambohimarahavavy, Jacquemin H524J (P); Manongorivo, 2 km S of Ambalafary, Jan. 1992 (fl.), Beentje et al. 4563 (BH, K, MO, P, TAN); Bekolosi, Feb. 1992 (fr.), Beentje et al. 4573 (K); Antsatrotro, March 1993 (fl.), Malcomber et al. 2280 (K, TAN). Andapa, Marojejy, N of Mandena, Nov. 1989 (fl.), Dransfield et al. JD6765 (BH, K, MO, P, TAN); idem, Feb. 1989 (fl.), Miller & Lowry 4027 (K, MO). Sambava: 6 km SW of Ambodivoara, Ankatoka R., June 1992 (fl., fr.), Beentje & Andriampaniry 4688 (BH, K, MO, P, TAN). Maroantsetra: Masoala, April 1971, Moore 9917 (BH, P); south of Maroantsetra, Oct. 1986 (fl, fr.), Dransfield et al. JD6357 (BH, K, MO, P, TAN); Nosy Mangabe, Oct. 1987 (fl.), G.E. Schatz 1665 (K, MO, P); idem, Feb. 1988 (fl.), Henderson et al. 755 (K, MO, NY, P, TAN); idem, Nov. 1989 (fr.), Carlson 27 (K, MO, P); Bay of Antongil, 1837, Richard 16 (FI, P). Soanierana-Ivongo: Soanierana-Ambohoabe, Dec. 1938 (fl.), Lam & Meeuse 5660 (K, L, P); Tanambo, April 1851, Boivin s.n. (FI, P). Toamasina, Mahatsara Forest Reserve, Mahavelona, Feb. 1992 (fl.), Noyes et al. 939 (K, MO, TAN); road between Toamasina and Fenerive, near PK 83, Croat 32533 (MO, P); Ambodirafia, June 1955 (fl.), Martin 7257 RN (K, P). Ampasimanolotra: Anivorano Kely and Andrambolahy Kely, April 1951 (fr.), Cours 4496 (K, P); Ambila, May 1928 (fl.), Decary 6448 (K, P). Moramanga: Andasibe, Analamazaotra, Nov. 1986 (fl.), Dransfield et al. JD6415 (BH, K, MO, P, TAN); idem, March 1991 (fr.), Beentje & Raharilala 4402 (K, P, TAN); idem, Nov. 1970 (fl.), Keraudren 25334 (K, P); idem, (fl.), Perrier 12010 (P); idem, (fl.), Perrier 12092 (P); idem, Service des Eaux et Forêts 3305 (P); idem, Moore 9908 (BH, P); Bemainty, Rahobevava, March 1951 (fl.), Cours 4200 (P). Vatomandry: 1903 (fl.), Bernard s.n. (P). Vohipeno: Matitana, Baie Mienaru, Aug. 1911 (fl.), Perrier 12059 (P). Ifanadiana, Ambinanindrano, Jan. 1993 (fl.), Beentje & Andriampaniry 4800 (BH, K, MO, P, TAN). Mananjary: Mananjary, March-April 1909 (fruit), Geay 7188 (P); idem, (seedling), Geay 7267 (P); idem, (fl.), Geay 8053 (P). Farafangana, Vondrozo, Tsararano, Dec. 1963 (fl.), Bosser 18553 (K, P). Tolanaro: Manentenina, Forêt de Marovony, 29 Oct. 1990 (fl.), A. Randrianosolo et al. 185 (MO, P); 13km N of Ezoambo, March 1992 (fr.), Beentje & Andriampaniry 4598 (BH, K, MO, P, TAN); Tolanaro, June-July 1890 (fr.), Scott Elliot 2957 (K); idem, Jan. 1962 (fl.), Rabevazaha 12183 (P); Réserve Naturelle 11, Nov. 1952 (fl.), Rakotoniainia 4884 (K, P); Ampalanana, Dequaire 27682 (P). Without locality, April 1890 (fr.), Scott Eliot s.n. (FI, K); idem, 1819, Perrotet s.n. (FI, P) (syntype of Dypsis gracilis); idem, Chapelier s.n. (FI, P); idem, Commerson s.n. (P) (lectotype of D. pinnatifrons). (Dransfield, J. & Beentje, H. 1995: The Palms of Madagascar)A


    A. Dransfield, J. & Beentje, H. 1995: The Palms of Madagascar