Livistona R.Br., Prodr. : 267 (1810)

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Map uses TDWG level 3 distributions (
Assam present (World Checklist of Arecaceae)B
Bangladesh present (World Checklist of Arecaceae)B
Bermuda present (World Checklist of Arecaceae)B
Borneo present (World Checklist of Arecaceae)B
China South-Central present (World Checklist of Arecaceae)B
China Southeast present (World Checklist of Arecaceae)B
Djibouti present (World Checklist of Arecaceae)B
East Himalaya present (World Checklist of Arecaceae)B
Florida present (World Checklist of Arecaceae)B
Hawaii present (World Checklist of Arecaceae)B
Japan present (World Checklist of Arecaceae)B
Jawa present (World Checklist of Arecaceae)B
Kazan-retto present (World Checklist of Arecaceae)B
Lesser Sunda Is. present (World Checklist of Arecaceae)B
Malaya present (World Checklist of Arecaceae)B
Maluku present (World Checklist of Arecaceae)B
Marianas present (World Checklist of Arecaceae)B
Mauritius present (World Checklist of Arecaceae)B
Myanmar present (World Checklist of Arecaceae)B
Nansei-shoto present (World Checklist of Arecaceae)B
New Caledonia present (World Checklist of Arecaceae)B
New Guinea present (World Checklist of Arecaceae)B
New South Wales present (World Checklist of Arecaceae)B
Northern Territory present (World Checklist of Arecaceae)B
Ogasawara-shoto present (World Checklist of Arecaceae)B
Philippines present (World Checklist of Arecaceae)B
Queensland present (World Checklist of Arecaceae)B
Réunion present (World Checklist of Arecaceae)B
Society Is. present (World Checklist of Arecaceae)B
Solomon Is. present (World Checklist of Arecaceae)B
Somalia present (World Checklist of Arecaceae)B
Sulawesi present (World Checklist of Arecaceae)B
Taiwan present (World Checklist of Arecaceae)B
Thailand present (World Checklist of Arecaceae)B
Victoria present (World Checklist of Arecaceae)B
Vietnam present (World Checklist of Arecaceae)B
Western Australia present (World Checklist of Arecaceae)B
Yemen present (World Checklist of Arecaceae)B
About 35 species, ranging from the Horn of Africa and Arabia (Livistonia carinensis), to the Himalayas and Ryukyu Islands, south through Indochina and Malesia to New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Australia, where there is a great diversity of species. (J. Dransfield & N. Uhl & C. Asmussen & W.J. Baker & M. Harley & C. Lewis, Genera Palmarum. The evolution and classification of palms. 2008)A


  • A large and variable genus distinguished by flower structure, in particular by the gynoecium of three carpels connate only by their styles, by united sepals, by petals with internal grooves, by the usually small fruits with apical stigmatic remains and basal carpel remains, by seed with homogeneous endosperm, and by a large intrusion of seedcoat. (J. Dransfield & N. Uhl & C. Asmussen & W.J. Baker & M. Harley & C. Lewis, Genera Palmarum. The evolution and classification of palms. 2008)A
  • Recent analysis of molecular data uncovered the startling fact that Livistona, as currently recognized, is not a natural, coherent genus and that eight of its species, including the widely cultivated Livistona rotundifolia, along with the rare Pritchardiopsis jeanneneyi constitute a distinct genus, for which the earliest name is Saribus.

    Molecular data indicates that the majority of genera were indeed monophyletic. Livistona, however, was not found to be monophyletic, but was divided among two different groups that were not each other's closest relative. One group comprised three Livistona species (L. merrillii, L. rotundifolia and L. woodfordii) and two samples of the monotypic Pritchardiopsis jeanneneyi. The second group included 19 Livistona species from eastern Asia, south-east Asia, Australia and Africa. The grouping of the three Livistona species and Pritchardiopsis was highly supported and was more closely related to Pholidocarpus, Licuala and Johannesteijsmannia than to the remaining species of Livistona. Thus, to render all Trachycarpeae genera monophyletic, this group requires recognition at the genus level.
    A generic name, Saribus (Blume 1838) typified on Saribus rotundifolius (Lam.) Blume (syn. Livistona rotundifolia (Lam.) Mart.), is already available for this group. It takes priority over the other generic name in the group, Pritchardiopsis (Beccari 1910), which must be placed as a synonym of Saribus because of its later publication date.

    Saribus includes a Philippines endemic species (S. merrillii), a group of Papuasian species (S. brevifolius, S. chocolatinus, S. papuanus, S. rotundifolius, S. surru, S. tothur and S. woodfordii),
    an outlier species in New Caledonia (S. jeanneneyi) and one species widespread in Malesia (S. rotundifolius). The removal of Saribus reveals a new disjunction in the distribution of true Livistona between Australia and southern New Guinea (L. alfredii, L. australis, L. benthamii, L. concinna, L. decora, L. drudei, L. eastonii, L. fulva, L. humilis, L. inermis, L. lanuginosa, L. lorophylla, L. mariae, L. muelleri, L. nasmophila, L. nitida, L. rigida and L. victoriae) and tropical Asia west of Wallace's Line (L. boninensis, L. chinensis, L. endauensis, L. exigua, L. halongensis, L. jenkinsiana, L. saribus, L. speciosa and L. tahanensis), in addition to the known disjunction in Arabia and the Horn of Africa (L. carinensis).

    Saribus is readily distinguished from Livistona in the field, in cultivation and in the herbarium. The morphological characters that enable identification of Saribus include trifurcate inflorescences, consisting of three main axes (sometimes two) that join at their base within a single prophyll, whereas Livistona produces inflorescences comprising a single main axis only (Dowe 2009). Saribus has orange, orange-brown, or red mature fruit color, whereas the fruits of Livistona are green, blue, purple, brown or black (Dowe 2009, Dransfield et al. 2008). It should be noted that this group had already been highlighted by Dowe (2009) as a distinctive element within Livistona in its former sense.
    Because of these clear, consistent characters, we have been able to place several species in Saribus that we were not able to sample for our phylogenetic research.

    From an anatomical perspective, Saribus and the rest of the Livistoninae excluding Livistona have intercostal cells of the adaxial epidermis that are differentiated into long and short cells within the same cell file. Livistona has adaxial epidermal cells uniformly of the long cell type, like all genera of Trachycarpeae outside of Livistoninae (Tomlinson 1961b, Tomlinson et al. 2010). A similar character distribution occurs for the presence of fibers that are associated with surface layers and also depart
    from the sheath of transverse veins of the lamina ramifying in the mesophyll (Tomlinson 1961b, Tomlinson et al., 2011). These character states, though not unique to Saribus, further distinguish Saribus from Livistona.

    The reduction of the monotypic Pritchardopsis into synonymy as Saribus jeanneneyi is a notable outcome of this research, given the rarity and conservation significance of this species, which persists as one adult and a few juveniles in the far south of New Caledonia. This taxonomic change is strongly supported by both the molecular and morphological data described above. Saribus jeanneneyi deviates slightly in some respects from other members of the genus. Its fruit are reported to be
    purplish (Hodel & Pintaud 1998), although a near-ripe fruit figured in this reference is in fact yellow-orange. The fruit are also large (ca. 4 cm diam.; Hodel & Pintaud 1998) with seeds surrounded by a keeled, woody endocarp (Dransfield et al. 2008). However, fruits of similar or larger size are found in some species of Saribus (S. surru, S. tothur) and at least one other has an equally woody, thickened
    endocarp (S. papuanus; Fig. 5). The loss of charismatic genera through nomenclatural change can be controversial, but it in no way reduces the conservation importance of this critically endangered New Caledonian endemic. In fact, by knowing its evolutionary relationships more clearly, we may be better
    placed to understand its biology and to make appropriate, informed conservation decisions as a result. (C.D.Bacon & W.J. Baker (2011) Saribus Resurrected, Palms 55: 109-116)C


  • Usually tall, single-stemmed fan-palms of the Horn of Africa and Arabia, and Himalayas to Australia; there are a few dwarf species; most are hermaphroditic but a few dioecious species are known. (J. Dransfield & N. Uhl & C. Asmussen & W.J. Baker & M. Harley & C. Lewis, Genera Palmarum. The evolution and classification of palms. 2008)A

Biology And Ecology

  • The ecology is very varied. There are species adapted to fresh water and peat swamp forest (L. saribus), montane forest (L. tahanensis and L. jenkinsiana), undergrowth of tropical rain forest (L. exigua), dry savannah woodland (L. humilis and L. lorophylla), canyon Species are frequently gregarious, the tallest species often occurring in spectacularly beautiful groves (e.g., L. rotundifolia in Celebes and elsewhere). (J. Dransfield & N. Uhl & C. Asmussen & W.J. Baker & M. Harley & C. Lewis, Genera Palmarum. The evolution and classification of palms. 2008)A

Common Name

  • Cabbage palm (Livistona australis), Chinese fan palm (L. chinensis), serdang (West Malesian species). (J. Dransfield & N. Uhl & C. Asmussen & W.J. Baker & M. Harley & C. Lewis, Genera Palmarum. The evolution and classification of palms. 2008)A


  • Honours Patrick Murray, Baron Livingstone, who laid out a garden on his estate at Livingstone, west of Edinburgh, Scotland, in the latter part of the seventeenth century. (J. Dransfield & N. Uhl & C. Asmussen & W.J. Baker & M. Harley & C. Lewis, Genera Palmarum. The evolution and classification of palms. 2008)A


  • Many are planted as ornamentals. Leaves of severalspecies are used for thatch, their segments for umbrellas, andfibres for rope and cloth. Trunks have been used for wood.The ‘cabbage’ of L. australis is edible. (J. Dransfield & N. Uhl & C. Asmussen & W.J. Baker & M. Harley & C. Lewis, Genera Palmarum. The evolution and classification of palms. 2008)A


  • Slender (rarely) to robust, solitary, armed or unarmed, pleonanthic, hermaphroditic (rarely dioecious), shrub or tree palms. Stem erect, obscured at first by persistent sheaths, later becoming bare or covered with persistent petiole bases, conspicuously or obscurely ringed with leaf scars. Leaves induplicate, palmate or costapalmate, marcescent or deciduous under their own weight, a skirt of dead leaves sometimes developing; sheath disintegrating into a conspicuous interwoven, often cloth-like, reddish brown mass of broad and fine fibres; petiole well developed, grooved or flattened adaxially, rounded or angled abaxially, sparsely covered with indumentum or not, expanded and sometimes bulbous at the occasionally persistent base, the margins unarmed or armed with inconspicuous to robust horizontal spines or teeth; adaxial hastula well developed, abaxial hastula poorly developed or absent; blade divided along adaxial ribs to varying depths to form single or, very rarely, multiple-fold segments, these further divided for a short to long distance along abaxial folds near the tip, rarely the adaxial splits almost reaching the hastula and the costa, the segments then all single-fold and very fine; segments stiff or pendulous, interfold filaments sometimes present, scattered caducous indumentum present along ribs, wax sometimes present on the abaxial surface, more rarely waxy on both surfaces, midribs conspicuous, transverse veinlets obscure or conspicuous. Inflorescences interfoliar, solitary, branched to 5 orders, sometimes immediately trifurcating to give 3 equal ‘inflorescences’ enclosed within a common prophyll, each branch with its own prophyll (e.g. L. rotundifolia); peduncle elongate; prophyll 2-keeled, tubular, closely sheathing, variously covered with indumentum or not, frequently tattering at the tip; peduncular bracts 1–few, tubular, like the prophyll; rachis usually longer than the peduncle; rachis bracts variously covered with indumentum, each subtending a first-order branch; bracts of subsequent orders generally inconspicuous; rachillae erect, pendulous or divaricate, glabrous or hairy, usually numerous, bearing spirally arranged flowers, singly or in cincinni of up to 5, sessile or on low tubercles or slender stalks, each group subtended by a minute rachilla bract and each flower bearing a minute bracteole. Flowers small to very small, usually cream-coloured; calyx with receptacle often producing a short, broad stalk, tubular above, tipped with 3 triangular lobes, these sometimes imbricate at the very base, glabrous or hairy; corolla shallow, tubular at the base, apically with 3 triangular, valvate lobes; stamens 6, epipetalous, the filaments connate to form a fleshy ring, tipped with short, slender distinct filaments, anthers medifixed, rounded or oblong, latrorse; gynoecium tricarpellate, the carpels wedge-shaped, distinct in the ovarian region, connate distally to form a common, slender style, with an apical, dot-like or minutely 3-lobed stigma, ovule basally attached, anatropous; where dioecious, anthers or ovules not developing but otherwise as in the hermaphroditic. Pollen ellipsoidal, bi-symmetric, occasionally slightly asymmetric; aperture a distal sulcus; ectexine tectate, psilate and sparsely perforate, finely perforate, perforate, perforate-rugulate, foveolate or finely reticulate, aperture margin sometimes slightly finer; infratectum columellate; longest axis 19–37 µm [10/33]. Fruit usually developing from 1 carpel, globose to ovoid, pyriform, or ellipsoidal, small to medium-sized, variously coloured, green, scarlet, blue-green, blue-black, black or dark brown, stigmatic remains apical, sterile carpel remains basal; epicarp smooth, dull or shining, often with a wax bloom, mesocarp thin or thick, fleshy or dry, somewhat fibrous, usually easily separated from the bony or woody endocarp. Seed ellipsoidal or globose, basally attached, hilum circular or ± elongate, raphe branches few or lacking, endosperm homogeneous, penetrated laterally by a variable, frequently convoluted intrusion of seed coat; embryo lateral. Germination remote-tubular; eophyll lanceolate, plicate, minutely toothed apically. Cytology: 2n = 36. (J. Dransfield & N. Uhl & C. Asmussen & W.J. Baker & M. Harley & C. Lewis, Genera Palmarum. The evolution and classification of palms. 2008)A


  • Leaf (L. australis and L. chinensis; Tomlinson 1961),roots (Seubert 1997), floral (Morrow 1965); stegmata(Killmann and Hong 1989). (J. Dransfield & N. Uhl & C. Asmussen & W.J. Baker & M. Harley & C. Lewis, Genera Palmarum. The evolution and classification of palms. 2008)A

Fossil record

  • Leaves from India, Maharashtra State, were described as Sabalophyllum livistonoides (Bonde 1986b) and compared with Livistona (although the age span of the volcanic deposits in which they were found is controversial, see Chapter 5). Reid and Chandler (1933) report seeds, Livistona (?)minima [sic], from the Eocene (London Clay); and a seed, L. atlantica, is described from Germany, Middle Eocene (Geiseltal) (Mai 1976: the diagnosis for L. minima [Reid and Chandler 1933] is emended). From the Czech Republic, Turów, Lower Miocene, a seed, L. australis, is reported (Czeczott and Juchniewicz 1975). Stem wood, Palmoxylon, is difficult to identify to generic level; however, the Deccan Intertrappean beds of India (Maharashtra State) have yielded P. livistonoides (Prakash and Ambwani 1980) and P. arcotense (Ramanujam 1953), both of which are compared with Livistona. It needs to be stated that the generic attribution of all of these records is doubtful. Pollen (Jarzen 1978) from the Maastrichtian of Canada (Saskatchewan) is comparable to that of Livistona, and at least some of the small perforate or finely reticulate monosulcate pollen grains described by Khin Sein (1961) from southern England, Lower Eocene (London Clay) are probably assigned correctly to Livistona. Small monosulcate grains from palm flower compression fossils, Palmaemargosulcites fossperforatus, recovered from the Middle Eocene oil shales of Messel, Germany, are compared with pollen of a number of coryphoid genera, including Livistona (Harley 1997). (J. Dransfield & N. Uhl & C. Asmussen & W.J. Baker & M. Harley & C. Lewis, Genera Palmarum. The evolution and classification of palms. 2008)A


  • The monophyly of Livistona has not beentested. Livistona is resolved as sister to the rest of the Livistoninaewith low support (Asmussen et al. 2006, Baker et al. in review). (J. Dransfield & N. Uhl & C. Asmussen & W.J. Baker & M. Harley & C. Lewis, Genera Palmarum. The evolution and classification of palms. 2008)A

Taxonomic accounts

  • Beccari (1931). See also Dransfield and Uhl (1983b). The genus has recently been revised by John Dowe (in prep.). (J. Dransfield & N. Uhl & C. Asmussen & W.J. Baker & M. Harley & C. Lewis, Genera Palmarum. The evolution and classification of palms. 2008)A


    A. J. Dransfield & N. Uhl & C. Asmussen & W.J. Baker & M. Harley & C. Lewis, Genera Palmarum. The evolution and classification of palms. 2008
    B. World Checklist of Arecaceae
    C. C.D.Bacon & W.J. Baker (2011) Saribus Resurrected, Palms 55: 109-116