A highly threatened new species of stemless palm discovered by Kew botanists on the edge of Madagascar's newest protected area.
Dypsis humilis M.S.Trudgen, Rakotoarin. & W.J.Baker
Provisional IUCN assessment of Critically Endangered.
Disturbed rain forest on granitic ridge top, 100-200 m.
About this species
Dypsis humilis is an unusual new species of stemless palm discovered during collaborative fieldwork by botanists from Kew and Madagascar in 2007. It was officially named and described in 2009 along with four other new species from the vicinity of Madagascar’s newest protected area, Makira, in the north-east of the island. It is an extremely rare plant - fewer than ten plants were seen by the expedition team in an unprotected locality just outside the park boundary.
Over 20 species of palm from Madagascar have been formally described as new to science by Kew botanists in 2009.
Geography and distribution
This species occurs in northeast Madagascar, and is known from a single site above the Antainambalana River, west-northwest of Maroantsetra.
Overview: This low-growing, shrub-like palm has no visible stem.
Leaves: Its leaves, around 8 per plant, sprout like a shuttlecock directly from the ground. Each leaf is about 80 cm long and has around 16 leathery leaflets.
Flowers: The flowers develop on insignificant inflorescences that appear among the leaves at the base of the plant.
Fruits: The fruits are sickle-shaped, about 2 cm in length.
Threats and conservation
Dypsis humilis is known from only one locality where fewer than ten individuals were observed. Unfortunately the site is just outside the boundary of the Makira protected area and the forest is degraded, with much evidence of human activity (eg timber extraction).
Unless new localities exist, the future for the species is far from secure. The impacts of climate change on the species and the forests in which it occurs are hard to assess at this time.
Finding this species at Kew
Dried and alcohol-preserved specimens are held in the Herbarium, where they are made available to bona fide researchers by appointment. Details of these can be seen in the online Herbarium Catalogue.
Rakotoarinivo, M., Trudgen, M.S. & Baker, W.J. (2009). The Palms of the Makira Protected Area, Madagascar. Palms. 53: 125-146.
Kew Science Editor: William Baker
Kew contributors: Mijoro Rakotoarinivo, Melinda Trudgen
Copy editing: Emma Tredwell
Kew would like to thank the following contributors: Christopher Holmes and Rina Ralison of the Wildlife Conservation Society
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