Prota 2: Vegetables/Légumes
Ann. Jard. Bot. Buitenzorg 1: 157 (1876).
Areca alba Bory (1804), Dictyosperma aureum H.Wendl. & Drude (1878), Dictyosperma furfuraceum H.Wendl. & Drude (1878).
Hurricane palm, white barbel palm, yellow barbel palm, princess palm (En). Palmiste blanc, palmiste bon, palmiste de l’île Ronde (Fr).
Origin and geographic distribution
Dictyosperma album is endemic to Réunion and Mauritius.
Dictyosperma album is valued for its excellent palm heart. It is widely grown as an ornamental in the tropics and subtropics. In Mauritius a root decoction is used as a diuretic.
Slender palm up to 20 m tall, with trunk up to 16 cm in diameter. Leaves 10–20 in crown, arranged spirally, pinnately compound; sheath 70–110 cm long, with grey tomentum, petiole 15–45 cm long, rachis 2–2.5 m long; leaflets 50–70 on each side of the rachis, median leaflets 60–75 cm × 3–5 cm. Inflorescence up to 1.1 m long; lowest bract 0.4–1 m long; peduncle 4–7 cm long, with grey-brown scaly hairs; branches up to 40, 20–75 cm long, hanging, glabrous. Flowers unisexual, 3-merous, 5–8 mm long; male flowers yellow to brown, with 6 stamens and rudimentary pistil; female flowers with superior, ovoid, 1-celled ovary and 3 minute rudimentary stamens. Fruit an ovoid-ellipsoid drupe 1.5–2 cm × 1 cm, very dark purple or black, 1-seeded. Seed ovoid-ellipsoid, c. 1 cm long, irregularly ribbed; endosperm ruminate.
Dictyosperma comprises a single species. Three varieties are distinguished: var. album, the white hurricane palm; var. aureum Balf.f., the golden hurricane palm, generally less than 10 m tall and with a distinct yellow or orange stripe on the lower side of the petiole and rachis; and var. conjugatum H.E.Moore & L.J.Guého, with a short sturdy stem up to 5 m tall, red to brown male flowers and the tips of the leaflets staying attached to one another for a long time, giving it a characteristic appearance. Dictyosperma album is a medium fast grower.
Dictyosperma album grows at low elevations generally up to 600 m altitude. In cultivation, light shade or full sun and well-drained soils are recommended. It is salt and wind tolerant.
The three varieties of the hurricane palm are cultivated in the Mascarene Islands and elsewhere. In Réunion tree growth has been investigated on-farm under several management regimes, especially with regard to weed control.
Genetic resources and breeding
Dictyosperma album var. album occurs in the wild with a total of about 30 individuals in Mauritius and Réunion. No natural regeneration has been observed recently. This variety is extensively cultivated for the palm heart in Mauritius and Réunion, all stocks originating from Réunion. The Conservatoire Botanique National de Mascarin in Réunion and the Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam Botanic Garden in Mauritius have collections of var. album. Less than 10 individuals of var. aureum are known from Rodrigues, and all are in unprotected environments. Seedlings have been grown at the Solitude Nursery, Rodrigues, and near to 300 seedlings have been replanted in the two main reserves of the island. Var. conjugatum is endemic to Round Island, off the north-east coast of Mauritius, and only one wild adult individual is known. Seedlings have been grown by the National Parks and Conservation Service and 50 of these have been introduced to the rat -free Ile aux Aigrettes, off the east coast of Mauritius. The Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam Botanic Garden in Mauritius has extensive collections of this variety as well.
All three varieties are indicated as critically endangered, but they do not feature on the IUCN Red List.
Dictyosperma album is being planted experimentally for the palm heart. It takes a long time before the trees are sufficiently mature for harvesting the palm heart, but in the meantime they may provide a source of seeds which can be exploited commercially. This could provide the farmers with an additional source of income before the trees are cut for the palm heart. Dictyosperma album is an attractive ornamental palm. Var. conjugatum with its peculiar leaves has great ornamental potential, but the sources of seed are limited.
• Gurib-Fakim, A., 2002. Mauritius through its medicinal plants; towards a better understanding of medicinal plants of the Indian Ocean Islands. Éditions Le Printemps, Vacoas, Mauritius. 216 pp.
• Maunder, M., Page, W., Mauremootoo, J., Payendee, R., Mungroo, Y., Maljkovic, A., Vericel, C. & Lyte, B., 2002. The decline and conservation management of the threatened endemic palms of the Mascarene Islands. Oryx 36(1): 56–65.
• Moore, H.E. & Guého, L.J., 1984. Palmiers. In: Bosser, J., Cadet, T., Guého, J. & Marais, W. (Editors). Flore des Mascareignes. Famille 189. The Sugar Industry Research Institute, Mauritius, l’Office de la Recherche Scientifique Outre-Mer, Paris, France & Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, United Kingdom. 34 pp.
• Normand, F., 1999. Résultats d’une action de diversification fruitière menée a l’île de la Réunion. Fruits 54(4): 233–245.
• Tuley, P., 1995. The palms of Africa. The Trendrine Press, St. Ives, United Kingdom. 189 pp.
• Uhl, N.W. & Dransfield, J., 1987. Genera palmarum - a classification of palms based on the work of Harold E. Moore Jr. The L.H. Bailey Hortorium and the International Palm Society. Allen Press, Lawrence KS, United States. 610 pp.
• Gray, M., 2003. Palms. [Internet] Palm and Cycad Societies of Australia. Brisbane, Australia. http://www.pacsoa.org.au/palms/Dictyosperma/album.html. Accessed January 2004.
• IUCN, 2003. 2003 IUCN red list of threatened species. [Internet] http://www.redlist.org. Accessed January 2004.
• Palmarium, 2003. Choux palmistes exploités à l'île de La Réunion. [Internet] Palmiers du monde. http://perso.wanadoo.fr/palmarium/chouxpalmistes.html. Accessed 28 October 2003.
Correct citation of this article:
van der Burg, W.J., 2004. Dictyosperma album (Bory) Scheff. In: Grubben, G.J.H. & Denton, O.A. (Editors). PROTA 2: Vegetables/Légumes. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.