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Family Arecaceae

Synonyms: Palmae APNI*
Nypaceae APNI*
Palmae APNI*

Description: Plants arborescent, usually unbranched, or climbing, often with furrows and/or annular scars (formed by fallen leaf bases) on the trunk, dioecious or monoecious.

Leaves borne in a terminal crown or alternate on stems of climbers; lamina pinnately or palmately divided, rarely entire, occasionally spiny; petiole with a sheathing base, in some palms the bases much broadened and collectively forming a crownsheath that envelops and hides the bases of the upper leaves.

Inflorescence paniculate or spike-like, enclosed in one or more large spathes. Flowers actinomorphic, usually 3-merous, unisexual or bisexual. Tepals usually 6 in 2 more or less dissimilar whorls, tepals free or fused. Stamens 3, 6, 9–mnay, free or fused to each other or to perianth; anthers 2-locular, dehiscing by longitudinal slits [or apical pores]. Ovary superior, carpels usually 1–3, free or fused and ovary mostly 3-locular (absent or rudimentary in male flowers).

Fruit a berry or drupe, with 1 or sometimes 2, 3 or more seeds.

Photo T.M. Tame

Photo T.M. Tame

Photo J. & P. Edwards

Other photo
Photo Karen L Wilson

Distribution and occurrence: World: c. 190 genera, c. 2400 species, tropical & subtropical regions. Australia: 19 genera, c. 60 species, Qld, N.S.W., Vic., N.T., W.A.

External links:
Angiosperm Phylogeny Website (Family: Arecaceae, Order: Arecales)

Howea, a genus of 2 species, is endemic to Lord Howe Island; H. forsteriana (C. Moore & F. Muell.) Becc., the Kentia Palm, is widely cultivated as a houseplant. Many palms are frequently cultivated as ornamental and street plants, including species of Bismarckia, Brahea, Butia, Caryota, Chamaedorea, Chamaerops, Hyophorbe, Licuala, Phoenix, Ravenea, Rhapis, Rhopalostylis, Sabal, Syagrus, Trachycarpus, Washingtonia. Commercial species include Cocos nucifera (the coconut) and Calamus spp. (for rattan furniture). Syagrus and Cocos are included in the key to genera since they may become naturalised but are not further described here.

Text by A. K. Brooks (1993); edited KL Wilson (Jan 2013; May 2015)
Taxon concept:

Taxa not yet included in identification key

 Key to the genera 
Trees or shrubs2
2Leaves palmately divided (fan-shaped); flowers bisexualLivistona
Leaves pinnately divided (feather-like); flowers unisexual
                       Back to 1
3Leaves to 1.5 m long4
Leaves 2–7 m long
                       Back to 2
4Inflorescence spike-like, elongated, pendulous; no crownshaft; leaves with 6–12 pairs of pinnae irregularly shaped and arrangedLinospadix
Inflorescence panicle-like, spreading to drooping; crownshaft 20–50 cm long; leaves with numerous (>20) pairs of pinnae, regularly shaped and arranged
                       Back to 3
5Short crownshaft to 20 cm long, green with brown scurf Lepidorrhachis
Elongated crownshaft to 50 cm long, glaucous
                       Back to 4
6Crownshaft 0.5–1 m long7
No crownshaft
                       Back to 3
7Leaflets more or less flat and held in one plane on the frond; crownshaft greenArchontophoenix
Leaflets inversely V-shaped and held semi-erect in a V-shape on the frond; crownshaft glaucous
                       Back to 6
8Inflorescence spike-like, elongated, pendulousHowea
Inflorescence panicle-like, spreading to drooping
                       Back to 6
9Leaves with large, stout spines near base of the stalk; trunk covered in rough leaf bases or rough diamond-shaped scars from fallen leaf basesPhoenix
Leaves without spines; trunks smooth apart from rings (circular scars) from fallen leaves
                       Back to 8
10Fruit 10–35 cm long, with large central cavity filled with fluidCocos
Fruit 2–3 cm long, with small central cavity without fluid
                       Back to 9

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