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Dadamanga

Ravenea sp. ???

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Dadamanga

I’m going to put this here in case some people don’t use Facebook, I’ve already published this on the IPS FB page and so far the debate has mainly been, “it’s a cycad”, which clearly it’s not. 

This palm has been a source of confusion to me for more than 20 years. Perhaps someone can solve my mystery. This palm grows on rocky mountain tops, in rock crevices, in the south east corner of Madagascar. They were historically cut and carted into Fort Dauphin for sale as house plants until they more or less disappeared. I’ve not seen them for probably 20 years. Today I spotted a guy carrying them for sale so I stopped him to take some photos. 

I took a photo to London in perhaps 1998 or 1999 and gave to Kew, but I never heard back. 

At this size (see photos) the palm is sexually mature and these plants have remnant dead inflorescences. I’ve seen the fruits and they are spherical about 20mm in diameter and brownish yellow when ripe. It has several unusual characteristics such as: it appears acaulescent, it’s a lovely blue grey green, and it has an unusual terminal part of the leaf rachis (or a modified leaflet)…

It’s a pretty palm and is very close to R. declivium I guess if not for the unique tip of the petiole. It doesn’t match R. nana either.

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tim_brissy_13

No doubt a palm and those old inflorescences scream Ravenea to me as does the foliage. That weird terminal leaflet things is seriously unusual and cool. I really can’t help beyond this, I’d say it probably joins a host of other unnamed mystery palms collected from Madagascar. 

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Dadamanga

Thanks Tim.  Yes.  But it is not like the many mystery palms from Madagascar where someone collected a seed forever ago and forgot where it came from, or died with the knowledge.  I know exactly where this palm lives.

I chatted to the guy who carried it into town for sale because I had really thought it had become locally extinct.  People used to carry them around for sale, all hacked out of the wild, and I do not know of one that ever survived.  I asked the guy who was selling them yesterday and he told me there are a few left, but you have to go further to find them.  Any expedition to check them out will need a fit person in charge of collecting specimens, it is literally right on top of a mountain.

Anyway he was doing his sales pitch to me and I said I didn't want to buy it because for one, the trade in the plants is ruining the natural habitat and two, they always die.  I tried to talk to him about how palms don't like to be ripped out of the ground like that and he assured me that this palm will grow, but, people over water them.  He said, amin'ny ity lafa itiky, rano dia fady"... translated to "with this palm, water is forbidden".

Anyway, I have sent the photos to Drs Dransfield and Beentje last night so perhaps one of the Kew people in Madagascar will collect a specimen one day.

 

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Tyrone

Yes, I agree those old inflorescences look like Ravenea. Not a cycad at all as a cycad would produce a cone.

What is really concerning is how they are being ripped out of habitat like that. Really bad. If they sold seed that would be way better provided some seedlings went back to habitat. 

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Dadamanga
16 minutes ago, Tyrone said:

Yes, I agree those old inflorescences look like Ravenea. Not a cycad at all as a cycad would produce a cone.

What is really concerning is how they are being ripped out of habitat like that. Really bad. If they sold seed that would be way better provided some seedlings went back to habitat. 

Indeed.  I am thinking about how to get a seed collection project underway, and mainly how to sustainably fund such a project.  It would be important to get an identification so I could discuss it with some authority, with the powers that be.

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BS Man about Palms

Sad, impressive and cool all at the same time!

 

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akamu

Very cool Palm thank you for sharing it with us. Cheers

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LJG

I didn’t know you sent this to John too. I did after FB post. From him, appears an unknown for now. I have never seen anything like this. Amazing what is still coming out of Madagascar. 

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Dadamanga

Yes, thanks, sent to both John and Henk by email. As you can imagine having not seen it for 20 years I’m a bit keen to get local authorities to make some conservation moves. An identification or confirmation that it’s unknown will help me a lot. 

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Alan_Tampa

Okay,  calling it again. New genera of palm. Write it down. 

Go back to the Tahinia thread and see what I said way back then.

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LJG
35 minutes ago, Dadamanga said:

Yes, thanks, sent to both John and Henk by email. As you can imagine having not seen it for 20 years I’m a bit keen to get local authorities to make some conservation moves. An identification or confirmation that it’s unknown will help me a lot. 

Or, *cough*, seed. :)

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Tyrone

@DadamangaKeep us up to date with what you find out. Thanks for posting.

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Dadamanga
17 hours ago, LJG said:

Or, *cough*, seed. :)

I don’t have any theoretical opposition to seed distribution but I’d like to first determine the status of the plant in terms of conservation and then move on to propagation locally for in-situ planting, but after that I’ll share if the law allows. 
 

I’ve had a response from Kew and will post again here if there’s any progress.

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Dadamanga

We collected a few samples today and some photos have been sent to Kew. 

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spike
9 hours ago, Dadamanga said:

We collected a few samples today and some photos have been sent to Kew. 

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That's great, are they from the wild or the plants being sold?

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Dadamanga

We went to the habitat. Photos coming.

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ellidro

Looking forward to some habitat photos. Sending some seeds to Floribunda would be a fantastic idea for making sure this species lives on forever. As Jeff has mentioned many  times in the past, private collectors are certainly part of the conservation efforts. 

 

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realarch

Fascinating chronicle and it sounds like an important one. I hope the vulnerability of the wild population in this specific location, and possibly others, can be accessed. Finding what may be a new species in situ, has to be one of the most rewarding events in a lifetime. (I can only imagine) The mind ponders what this palm’s future might be in cultivation.

Tim 

 

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Palm Tree Jim
1 hour ago, realarch said:

Fascinating chronicle and it sounds like an important one. I hope the vulnerability of the wild population in this specific location, and possibly others, can be accessed. Finding what may be a new species in situ, has to be one of the most rewarding events in a lifetime. (I can only imagine) The mind ponders what this palm’s future might be in cultivation.

Tim 

 

Spot on Tim.

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mike in kurtistown

I second the suggestion of sending some seeds to Jeff at Floribunda, both as a way of preserving the species ex-situ and as a way of making them available to palm collectors at some time in the future. Possibly, Montgomery Botanical Center in south Florida might also be interested.

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PalmatierMeg

Neat palm. My first guess was Ravenea, my second thought was "Ravenea cycadfolia". Years ago I tried some seeds from RPS that were labeled R. cycadfolia with a photo and description pointing out the palm's close likeness to a cycad. Unfortunately, the seeds didn't germinate and RPS never offered them again.

I also agree you should contact Jeff Marcus at Floribunda, share your info and photos and offer to send him seeds so this palm can be grown in HI.

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tinman10101

i certainly agree with many about sending some seeds to jeff marcus.  his life commitment to the conservation of palms precedes him and we all know his enthusiasm for conservation of a new palm species is unmatched. 

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Dadamanga

Just a small rectification everyone. The seeds collected and presented in the photo above seem to be seeds of Beccariophoenix that have fallen from above and collected in the litter around the Ravenea. 
Decisions about sending seeds will come much later. First I’m working on getting the permits to send specimens to Kew.

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Dadamanga

Here are some photos of the Ravenea in habitat. 

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Dadamanga

Some closeups of the details…

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Dadamanga

Some other palms growing in close cohabitation, hence the error by the local guys who collected the seeds. The Beccariophoenix are reproducing like crazy there are seeds everywhere.

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Dadamanga

But to close, it seems the Ravenea, as delicious as it was to think it was a new species, may be R. declivium. 

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Tyrone

I didn’t know that Beccariophoenix madagascariensis grew on such rocky ground. The general thought was it grew on sand.

In regards to sending seed, many Ravenea species need to be fresh to germinate. If the local collectors get to understand that there is more to be gained by keeping the parent plants in the ground on site and selling seeds they may leave them be. Otherwise they’re just gonna dig them up for a quick dollar. That would be tragic. 

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