Prota 7(1): Timbers/Bois d’œuvre 1
J.Dransf. & Beentje, The palms of Madagascar: 185 (1995).
Chrysalidocarpus madagascariensis Becc. (1906), Chrysalidocarpus oleraceus Jum. & H.Perrier (1913).
Lucuba palm (En).
Origin and geographic distribution
Dypsis madagascariensis is endemic to northern and western Madagascar. It is cultivated as an ornamental in many tropical countries. Locally it has become naturalized, e.g. in Panama.
In Madagascar the wood is commonly used for floorboards of houses. The palm heart is an excellent vegetable and the fruits are edible. The palm is an attractive ornamental.
The wood is very hard because of an outer layer of tough fibres.
Palm up to 18 m tall with solitary trunk or 2–4 trunks clustering in clumps, up to 30 cm in diameter; crown shaft green, white waxy. Leaves 7–12 in the crown, arranged spirally, tristichous, pinnately compound; sheath up to 65 cm long, petiole up to 40 cm long, rachis 160–310 cm long; leaflets (30–)88–126(–177) on each side of the rachis, in groups of 2–6, mid-green, with drooping tips, basal leaflets up to 120 cm long, median leaflets up to 95 cm long, upper leaflets up to 40 cm long. Inflorescence between the leaves, branched to 3 orders, arching; peduncle 52–60 cm long, first reddish hairy, later becoming glabrous and green; bracts up to 80 cm long; rachis up to 95 cm long, branches up to 40 cm long, green with some reddish scales, with both male and female flowers. Flowers unisexual, 3-merous; male flowers with 6 stamens and a rudimentary pistil; female flowers with superior, apparently 1-celled ovary and rudimentary stamens. Fruit an obovoid to ellipsoid drupe 1–1.5 cm × 0.5–1 cm, 1-seeded. Seed narrowly ellipsoid, c. 1 cm long; endosperm uniform.
Dypsis comprises about 140 species, all endemic to Madagascar except 2 occurring in the Comoros and 1 on Pemba Island. The name Dypsis madagascariensis (Becc.) Beentje & J.Dransf. (1995) may be illegitimate because of the existence of Dypsis madagascariensis (Mart.) G.Nicholson (1885), which is a synonym of Areca madagascariensis Mart. Several other large-sized Dypsis species are cut for their timber used in house building, but most of these are very rare or have a very restricted distribution. The stems of some smaller-sized species are used to make blowpipes, fishtraps and bird cages.
The fruits of Dypsis madagascariensis are eaten by lemurs, which disperse the seeds.
Dypsis madagascariensis occurs in moist rainforest and semi-deciduous forest up to 650 m altitude. It can be found in drier forest than most other Dypsis species, even in gullies and ravines in dry bushland.
Pre-soaking of seeds in water for 3 days promotes germination, which starts in 2 weeks. The germination rate is up to 90%. Growth is fast, with seedlings about 120 cm tall after one year. They are then ready to plant out.
Only mature trees are harvested for the timber, as the trunks of young plants are too soft to produce durable planks. Only the lower portion of the trunk is used, the upper portion being too soft. The lower trunk portion is cut in up to 3 sections 3–4 m long. The sections are split in half, and the soft core is removed to produce 2 curved planks. The bark is scraped off, and the planks are tied together in bundles of 4–6. In 1994 the planks were sold for US$ 0.75, and a whole palm yielded up to US$ 4.50.
Genetic resources and breeding
The felling intensity of Dypsis madagascariensis trees is locally high, but usually only mature trees are cut, which gives them some time to reproduce by seed. In many areas, regeneration is fair. However, as is the case with most other Dypsis spp. in Madagascar, the population of Dypsis madagascariensis has much declined as a result of forest destruction, and in national parks illegal cutting is still practised. Dypsis madagascariensis is not yet classified as vulnerable according to the IUCN system, but it is close to qualifying according to the criteria.
It is unlikely that sustainable and economically interesting production of timber and palm heart is possible from the remaining wild stands of Dypsis madagascariensis. Protection of the species has become a major concern. Its importance as an ornamental palm will probably still increase.
• Adany, A.J., Birkinshaw, C.R. & Andrews, J.R., 1994. Illegal palm felling in Lokobe Reserve, Madagascar. Principes 38(4): 204–210.
• Dransfield, J. & Beentje, H.J., 1995. The palms of Madagascar. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and The International Palm Society, United Kingdom. 475 pp.
• Decary, R., 1946. Plantes et animaux utiles de Madagascar. Annales du Musée Colonial de Marseille, 54e année, 6e série, 4e volume, 1er et dernier fascicule. 234 pp.
• Johnson, D., 1998. Dypsis madagascariensis. In: IUCN. 2006 Red list of threatened species. [Internet] http://www.iucnredlist.org. Accessed January 2007.
Correct citation of this article:
Lemmens, R.H.M.J., 2007. Dypsis madagascariensis (Becc.) Beentje & J.Dransf. In: Louppe, D., Oteng-Amoako, A.A. & Brink, M. (Editors). Prota 7(1): Timbers/Bois d’œuvre 1. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.