Voanioala J.Dransf.
  • Kew Bull. 44: 192 (1989) 

Notes: Distribution: Madagascar

General Description

Solitary, unarmed, pleonanthic monoecious palms. Stem erect, very conspicuously stepped and ringed with oblique leaf scars. Leaves pinnate, cleanly abscising; leaf-sheath tubular at first, fibrous, apparently soon disintegrating to leave a massive elongate rectangular leaf base, forming an apparent petiole with sparsely fibrous margins; true petiole absent; rachis rectangular in cross-section in the mid-leaf region; leaflets numerous, regularly arranged, scarcely pendulous, coriaceous, concolorous, unevenly bilobed at the tip, adaxially glabrous apart from bands of caducous chocolate-coloured scales on areas exposed in the sword leaf, abaxially bearing scattered ramenta near the base of the midrib, transverse veinlets obscure, but surface of leaflet minutely transversely striate, thin white wax present on both surfaces. Inflorescence solitary, apparently protandrous, branching to 1 order; prophyll tubular, 2-keeled, fibrous, remaining hidden among the leaf bases; peduncular bract bright green and strictly tubular until shortly before anthesis, then splitting longitudinally, flattening and becoming somewhat cowl-like, abaxially deeply and longitudinally grooved, bearing scattered brown scales on the ridges between the grooves, adaxially smooth, glabrous, pale cream-coloured; peduncle ± circular in cross-section; rachis bearing spirally arranged rachillae, each subtended by a small triangular bract; rachillae numerous, most with a basal bare portion. Staminate flowers asymmetrical, broadly or narrowly triangular in outline; sepals 3, distinct, slightly to strongly imbricate at the base, triangular, acute to acuminate, membranous, glabrous; petals 3, distinct, unequal, valvate, glabrous, thinly coriaceous except at the thick angular tips, broadly and irregularly triangular-ovate, with acute or acuminate tips, abaxially smooth, adaxially marked with the impressions of the stamens and papillose near the thick tips; stamens 12(–13), filaments subulate, very short to moderate in length, anthers basifixed, basally sagittate, apiculate at the tips, latrorse; pistillode absent. Pollen bisymmetric, ellipsoidal, or less frequently oblate triangular; aperture a distal sulcus or trichotomosulcus; ectexine intectate, finely granular interspersed with larger psilate gemmae, separate or arranged in a loosely reticulate pattern, aperture margin with small gemmae arranged linearly; longest axis of ellipsoid grains 55–65 µm, trichotomosulcate grains 49–52 µm; post-meiotic tetrads tetrahedral [1/1]. Pistillate flowers only known as buds, much larger than the staminate, irregularly triangular; sepals 3, distinct, unequal, strongly imbricate, broadly ovate with triangular keeled tips, coriaceous, glabrous, the margins minutely toothed; petals 3, distinct, longer than the sepals, basally irregularly imbricate, conspicuously valvate at the triangular tips, abaxially with scaly indumentum towards the apex, adaxially strongly papillose towards the tip; staminodal ring high with 9 irregular triangular teeth, 0.1–0.5 mm; gynoecium syncarpous, tricarpellate, triovulate, stigmas 3, angled, papillose and scaly, ovules anatropous. Immature fruit green covered with dense chestnut-brown scaly indumentum. Mature fruit 1-seeded, somewhat irregularly ellipsoid, tipped with a short beak and stigmatic remains; epicarp purplish-brown, densely covered with brown scaly indumentum; mesocarp with an outer fibrous zone just below the epicarp, and an inner fleshy zone; endocarp ± ellipsoid, apically pointed, basally truncate, very heavily thickened, pale brown when fresh, becoming grey with age, deeply grooved without, with numerous embedded fibres and lacunae, and with irregular rounded intrusions, penetrating the central cavity, basally with 3 very deep intrusions, each with a pore. Seed irregularly ellipsoid, filling the endocarp cavity, laterally attached with a narrow irregular hilum, endosperm homogeneous but irregularly intruded by the endocarp protuberances, very hard, white, with a narrow irregular central lacuna; embryo basal, top-shaped, positioned opposite an endocarp pore. Germination remote-tubular; eophyll entire, lanceolate. Cytology: 2n = 550–606 ± 3.

Diagnostic Description

The forest coconut — solitary pinnate-leaved tree palm from northeastern Madagascar, the staminate flowers have 12–13 stamens and the fruit has large grooved endocarps with irregular protruberances on the inside that penetrate the homogenous endosperm.


Root (Seubert 1998a, 1998b).


Found in primary forest rich in palms and pandansin swampy valley bottoms and on gentle slopes at ca. 400 m.


A single species endemic to Madagascar.


Sometimes cut for palm hearts.

Common Names

Voanio-ala (forest coconut, Betsimisaraka dialect).

Distribution Map

  • Native distribution
Found in
  • Africa Western Indian Ocean Madagascar


  • 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
eMonocot. (2010, 1st November). Retrieved Wednesday, 8th February, 2012, from http://e-monocot.org.
  • C 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
  • D 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.