Rhapis L.f. ex Aiton
  • Hort. Kew. 3: 473 (1789) 

Notes: Distribution: S. China to Indo-China

General Description

Small, clustering, unarmed, pleonanthic, dioecious or polygamous palms. Stems slender, reed-like, erect, covered with persistent leaf sheaths, eventually becoming bare, conspicuously ringed with leaf scars. Leaves induplicate, palmate, marcescent, divided to the base or to ca. 3/4 the radius between the folds into several-ribbed segments, apices divided along and between the folds to form shallow teeth; sheath composed of numerous, interwoven, black or grey-brown fibres, when young bearing sparse, caducous brown indumentum; petiole elongate, slender, ± elliptic in cross-section, margins smooth; adaxial hastula small, ± triangular, sometimes tomentose, abaxial hastula absent; blade palmate to deeply bifid, segments usually variable in number of ribs, position of splits precise, usually at a position about 2/3 the width of the interfold nearer the abaxial fold, the segment margins minutely toothed, blade glabrous, transverse veinlets conspicuous. Inflorescences interfoliar, usually very short, branching to 1–2 orders in pistillate, up to 3 orders in staminate; peduncle short, frequently entirely enclosed by the leaf sheaths; prophyll tubular, 2-keeled, splitting along the abaxial midline; peduncular bracts absent; rachis longer than the peduncle, bearing 1–2 large, tubular, single-keeled bracts, distal rachis bracts much smaller; rachis bracts each subtending a first-order branch adnate to the axis above the bract node and bearing very inconspicuous, narrow triangular bracts subtending second-order branches; second-order branches adnate to the first-order branches; rachillae glabrous or hairy, lax, spreading in pistillate and polygamous inflorescences, more crowded in staminate, rachillae bearing spirally arranged, solitary or rarely paired flowers in the axils of minute apiculate bracts. Staminate flowers symmetrical; calyx cup-shaped, thick, shallowly 3-lobed distally, the lobes somewhat irregular, triangular, glabrous or hairy; corolla fleshy, tubular, inserted above calyx and appearing ± stalked basally, the 3 lobes ± triangular, valvate, usually very short, sometimes ciliate at the margins; stamens 6, filaments elongate, but adnate along ± the entire length of the corolla tube, free at their very tip, anthers short, rounded, latrorse; pistillode minute, 3-lobed. Pistillate and distinct, wedge-shaped, each with a short apical style, distally expanded into a conduplicate, fimbriate, tube-shaped stigma, ovules basally attached, 1 in each carpel, hemianatropous, with a basal fleshy aril. Pollen ellipsoidal, usually with slight to obvious asymmetry; aperture a distal sulcus; ectexine tectate, coarsely perforate, aperture margin slightly finer; infratectum columellate; longest axis 21–40 µm; post-meiotic tetrads tetrahedral [2/8]. Fruit usually developing from 1 carpel with apical stigmatic remains, more rarely 2 or 3 carpels developing, sometimes the stalk-like corolla base persisting and becoming a sub-woody fruit stalk; epicarp becoming purplish-brown or white, mesocarp fleshy, somewhat fibrous, endocarp thin, brittle. Seed with short lateral raphe, endosperm homogeneous, laterally penetrated by the seed coat; embryo subbasal or lateral. Germination remote-tubular; eophyll entire, slender, strap-shaped, plicate. Cytology: 2n = 36, 4n = 72.

Diagnostic Description

Slender clustering dioecious or polygamous fan palms with reed-like stems, from Southern China to Thailand and North Sumatra, often on limestone; instantly recognizable from the leaves divided between the folds into segments.


Leaf (Tomlinson 1961); plication development in the leaf (Kaplan et al. 1982b); stem vasculature (Zimmermann and Tomlinson 1965), roots (Seubert 1997), floral (Uhl et al. 1969).


Undergrowth palms of dry evergreen forest; Rhapis subtilis and some other species seem to be confined to forest on limestone hills.


About eight species in southern China, southwards through Indochina to peninsular Thailand, one species in northernmost Sumatra.


Widely grown as ornamentals; many dwarf varieties have been developed in Japan. See also McKamey (1983). Stems are used as sticks and canes.

Common Names

Lady palms.

Distribution Map

  • Native distribution
  • Introduced distribution
Found in
  • Asia-Temperate China China South-Central
  • China Southeast
  • Hainan
  • Asia-Tropical Indo-China Cambodia
  • Laos
  • Thailand
  • Vietnam
  • Malesia Sumatera
Introduced into
  • Asia-Temperate Eastern Asia Japan
  • Nansei-shoto
  • Asia-Tropical Malesia Jawa


  • 1 J. Dransfield & N. Uhl & C. Asmussen & W.J. Baker & M. Harley & C. Lewis, Genera Palmarum. The evolution and classification of palms. 2008
  • 2 Govaerts, R. & Dransfield, J. (2005). World Checklist of Palms: 1-223. The Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

 Information From

Palmweb - Palms of the World Online
Palmweb 2011. Palmweb: Palms of the World Online. Published on the internet http://www.palmweb.org. Accessed on 21/04/2013
  • A Content licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License
  • B http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0
Global Biodiversity Information Facility
  • C All Rights Reserved
eMonocot. (2010, 1st November). Retrieved Wednesday, 8th February, 2012, from http://e-monocot.org.
  • D Content licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License
World Checklist of Selected Plant Families
WCSP 2014. 'World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. Facilitated by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Published on the Internet; http://apps.kew.org/wcsp/ Retrieved 2011 onwards
  • E See http://kew.org/about-kew/website-information/legal-notices/index.htm You may use data on these Terms and Conditions and on further condition that: The data is not used for commercial purposes; You may copy and retain data solely for scholarly, educational or research purposes; You may not publish our data, except for small extracts provided for illustrative purposes and duly acknowledged; You acknowledge the source of the data by the words "With the permission of the Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew" in a position which is reasonably prominent in view of your use of the data; Any other use of data or any other content from this website may only be made with our prior written agreement.