Roy Banka with inflorescence of Heterospathe barfodii (Photo: John Dowe)
Geography and distribution
Heterospathe barfodii is only known from one specimen growing in the lowlands of mainland Milne Bay Province, Papua New Guinea.
It was found growing in an open grassy area at the side of a dirt road, in lowland tropical rainforest at about sea level.
Overview: Solitary palm with erect stem up to 8 m tall and 10 cm in diameter.
Leaves: 7–9 in crown. Sheaths up to 67 cm long, pale green with dense white covering, forming a well-defined silvery-white crownshaft.
Petiole (leaf stalk) up to 40 cm long, bright green, with dense white covering near sheath.
Central axis of leaf blade up to 240 cm long with about 40–55 leaflets along each side. Leaflets bright green, leathery, up to 78 cm long, held horizontally with tips drooping slightly.
Inflorescence: Up to 99 cm long, branched to three orders, deep maroon when flowers start to open.
Male flowers: Deep maroon on opening, about 8 mm in diameter, with three, thick, triangular sepals and three triangular petals. Stamens (male parts) white, up to 5 mm long, fused at base to form a ring around pistillode (sterile female organ).
Female flowers: Immature bud about 5 mm long, deep maroon, sepals and petals overlapping.
Fruits: Spherical, red at maturity, 1 cm in diameter.
Seeds: Spherical, pale brown, 7 mm in diameter.
Heterospathe barfodii growing at Floribunda Palms and Exotics, Hawaii, showing crownshaft, inflorescence and unripe fruits. (Photo: Jeff Marcus)
Threats and conservation
Heterospathe barfodii is only known from a single specimen at a single location and has been assessed as Critically Endangered (CR) according to IUCN Red List criteria.
It was found at a disturbed forest edge in an area under threat from logging, mining and oil palm plantations.