A spectacular new species of canopy palm recently discovered by Kew botanists in the remote Western Province of Papua New Guinea.
About this Species
Cyrtostachys bakeri is a spectacular canopy tree palm that was discovered in Papua New Guinea by Kew’s Head of Palm Research Bill Baker and his local collaborator, Roy Banka in 2000. This species produces clumps of towering trunks that can reach 25 m in height. Its flowers are produced on colossal spreading inflorescences, though the flowers themselves are minute. The new species was officially described in 2009 by Charlie Heatubun, an Indonesian palm expert and long-time collaborator of Kew’s palm team. This palm is one of many new discoveries being made by Kew botanists and their collaborators as part of the ongoing Palms of New Guinea project. Dozens of new species of palm are being discovered in this, the largest tropical island in the world.
Geography & Distribution
This species occurs in Papua New Guinea, and is known only from the Tabubil area in North Fly District, Western Province.
Cyrtostachys bakeri, here cultivated in the National Botanic Garden of Papua New Guinea at Lae (Image: William Baker, RBG Kew)
Cyrtostachys bakeri is a robust, canopy palm with stems reaching to 25 m in height and 25 cm in diameter. It is also clump-forming so that each plant may consist of several towering trunks. Each stem can carry around eight leaves which are held like a shuttlecock.
The leaves are almost 5 m long with 160 to 180 pendulous leaflets. Huge inflorescences develop below the leaves, each up to 1.2 m in length. These bear tiny flowers in pits on the surface of the branches.
The fruits are black and bullet-shaped, and reach 2.5 cm in length.
Threats & Conservation
The massive inflorescence of Cyrtostachys bakeri (Image: William Baker, RBG Kew)
The conservation status of this palm is not sufficiently known. In the site of discovery, very few individuals were observed, with some other individuals remaining in grasslands from which forest had previously been cleared. More population and distribution data are required, but the primary threat is habitat degradation due to deforestation and mining activities in the area.
Finding this species at Kew
Scientific specimens of this new species are stored in Kew’s herbarium (where they are accessible by appointment to bona fide researchers).
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