Balaka Becc.
  • Ann. Jard. Bot. Buitenzorg 2: 91 (1885) 

Notes: Distribution: SW. Pacific

General Description

Small to moderate, solitary, unarmed, pleonanthic, monoecious palms. Stem erect, slender, ringed with rather prominent leaf scars. Leaves pinnate, somewhat arched and spreading; sheath tubular, forming a prominent crownshaft, covered with brown scales; petiole very short to moderate, nearly terete or channelled adaxially, rounded abaxially, covered in tattered brown scales; rachis channelled to ridged adaxially, rounded abaxially, densely covered in tattered, brown scales; leaflets elongate to sigmoid or wedge-shaped and little tapered, alternate in one plane, single-fold, oblique or truncate apically, praemorse, with brown scales along ribs abaxially and scattered on bases of ribs adaxially, several veins about equal in size to midrib and marginal veins prominent, transverse veinlets not evident. Inflorescences infrafoliar, branched to 2 orders basally, 1 order distally, spreading; peduncle long; prophyll rather short and slender, 2-keeled laterally, slightly beaked, opening apically; peduncular bract inserted well above and much longer than the prophyll, terete, beaked, both bracts usually caducous before anthesis and bearing brown scales or tomentum; rachis shorter than the peduncle, bearing spirally arranged, pointed bracts subtending rachillae; rachillae rather short, bearing distichously arranged, low, rounded bracts subtending triads of flowers nearly throughout, a few solitary staminate flowers distally; floral bracteoles prominent, margins somewhat jagged. Staminate flowers symmetrical, bullet-shaped in bud; sepals 3, distinct, glabrous or red-brown tomentose, rounded, imbricate, margins toothed; petals 3, briefly united at the base, ovate, valvate, grooved adaxially; stamens numerous (24–50), filaments erect in bud, awl-shaped, anthers elongate, dorsifixed near the base, bifid apically, briefly sagittate basally, latrorse; pistillode bottle-shaped with a long neck, often ±flexuous apically at anthesis. Pollen ellipsoidal asymmetric; aperture a distal sulcus; ectexine tectate, perforate, or perforate-finely rugulate, aperture margin similar or slightly finer; infratectum columellate; longest axis ranging from 33–41 µm [5/11]. Pistillate flowers ovoid; sepals 3, distinct, imbricate, margins toothed; petals 3, distinct, widely imbricate, toothed laterally, pointed apically; staminodes usually 6, small, ± united, tooth-like with jagged tips; gynoecium ovoid, unilocular, uniovulate, stigmas apparently short, ovule pendulous, form unknown. Fruit irregularly ovoid, tapered distally or at both ends, often angled, ± beaked, reddish-orange at maturity, drying pebbled, stigmatic remains apical; epicarp thin, mesocarp with outer sclereid layer, inner fleshy layer, and a single series of vascular bundles with thick fibrous sheaths next to the endocarp, endocarp thin, not operculate. Seed elongate, pointed, ridged, 4–5-angled in cross-section, hilum elongate, lateral, raphe branches few, endosperm homogeneous, embryo basal. Germination and eophyll not recorded. Cytology not studied.

Diagnostic Description

Small or moderate, solitary pinnate-leaved palms, native to Fiji and Samoa, all with crownshafts and praemorse leaflets, with long peduncles and generally with a 4–5-ridged seed.


Root (Seubert 1998a, 1998b) and fruit (Essig 1977).


These palms occur in various types of forest up to about 1000 m altitude.


About 11 species, six endemic to Fiji and five in Samoa.


The straight stems have been used for walking sticks and spears, and the kernel is reported to be edible. Some species (e.g., Balaka seemannii) are widely grown as ornamentals in Fiji and elsewhere.

Common Names

Balakwa (Fiji), balaka palms.

Distribution Map

  • Native distribution
Found in
  • Pacific Southwestern Pacific Fiji
  • Samoa


  • 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.
  • 3 Govaerts, R. (1996). World Checklist of Seed Plants 2(1, 2): 1-492. Continental Publishing, Deurne.

 Information From

Palmweb - Palms of the World Online
Palmweb 2011. Palmweb: Palms of the World Online. Published on the internet Accessed on 21/04/2013
  • A Content licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License
  • B
Global Biodiversity Information Facility
  • C All Rights Reserved
eMonocot. (2010, 1st November). Retrieved Wednesday, 8th February, 2012, from
  • 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; Retrieved 2011 onwards
  • E See 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.