This dwarf palm from Madagascar is threatened by forest destruction. It is only known from three sites, and fewer than fifty Dypsis brevicaulis plants have been found in the wild.
Dypsis brevicaulis in Sainte-Luce, Tolagnaro, Madagascar, October 2008, in littoral forest on white sand (Photo: John Dransfield)
Dypsis brevicaulis (Guillaumet) Beentje & J.Dransf.
Critically Endangered (CR) according to IUCN Red List criteria.
Evergreen forest; on white sand or laterite.
About this species
The leaves of Dypsis brevicaulis, a rare palm found in very small numbers at only a few sites in Madagascar, appear to grow directly out of the ground, hence its Latin epithet brevicaulis, which means ‘short-stemmed’.
Geography and distribution
This palm species is known from only three sites in the north of Tolagnaro, in the extreme southeast of Madagascar, where its numbers are extremely low. It occurs in the forests of the east coast, just north of Manantenina and Manafiafy/Sainte-Luce, at 100-700 m above sea level.
Overview: Dypsis brevicaulis is a dwarf palm which appears to be almost acaulescent (lacking a visible stem). The stem is mostly underground and is up to 15 cm long and 2 cm in diameter.
Leaves: Its 5-8 leaves are covered with reddish scales, have two small auricles (ear-like lobes) at the base and ragged margins. The erect leaves are narrowly triangular in shape, up to 1.5 m in length, and have a deeply-notched apex.
Flowers: The inflorescences are usually unbranched but rarely branch into two, and are up to 40 cm long and covered with small scale-like hairs. Each inflorescence carries 60-80 clusters of flowers (known as triads), each flower being no more than 3 mm in diameter.
Threats and conservation
Known from only three sites, north of Tolagnaro, Dypsis brevicaulis numbers are extremely low (fewer than 50 have ever been seen).
This area is being deforested by villagers for use in shifting cultivation and there are also plans to mine for ilmenite (a mineral used in titanium dioxide production) there in the future.
Conservation assessments carried out at Kew
Dypsis brevicaulis is being monitored as part of the 'IUCN Sampled Red List Index for Plants', which aims to produce conservation assessments for a representative sample of the world’s plant species. This information will then be used to monitor trends in extinction risk and help focus conservation efforts where they are needed most.
Dransfield, J. & Beentje, H. (1995). The Palms of Madagascar. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
Rakotoarinivo, M. & Dransfield, J. (2010). Dypsis brevicaulis. Assessment using IUCN Categories and Criteria 3.1 (IUCN 2001). Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
Kew Science Editor: Lauren Gardiner
Kew contributors: Mijoro Rakotoarinivo, John Dransfield
Copyediting: Emma Tredwell
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