Dypsis Noronha ex Mart.
  • Hist. Nat. Palm. 3: 180 (1838) 

Notes: Distribution: Tanzania (Pemba), Comoros, Madagascar

General Description

Very small to very large unarmed pleonanthic monoecious palms. Stems solitary or clustered, very short, subterranean, creeping-rhizomatous, erect, in one species climbing, sometimes branched aerially by apparent dichotomy. Leaves pinnate or pinnately ribbed, neatly abscising or marcescent; sheath tubular, rarely almost open, usually forming a well-defined crownshaft, sometimes fibrous, in a few species with abundant pendulous piassava, sheath surface variously scaly and/or waxy or glabrous, auricles sometimes present; petiole absent or short to long, variously glabrous, scaly or hairy; blade entire, entire-bifid, or divided into single or multi-fold reduplicate leaflets, regularly or irregularly arranged, sometimes fanned within groups to produce a plumose appearance, leaflets usually entire, rarely praemorse, very rarely discolourous, often with abundant minute punctiform scales on both surfaces and ramenta along the main rib abaxially. Inflorescences mostly interfoliar, more rarely infrafoliar, spicate or branched to 1–4 orders, apparently protrandrous (?always); peduncle usually elongate, basal branches not sharply divaricate; prophyll often borne above the base of the peduncle; peduncular bract usually conspicuous, exserted and caducous; rachillae variously glabrous or scaly and hairy; rachilla bracts low, generally inconspicuous, sometimes conspicuous; flowers borne in triads of a central pistillate flower and two lateral staminate flowers, triads superficial or slightly sunken in shallow pits. Staminate flowers symmetrical, ± rounded to bullet-shaped, sometimes very small; sepals imbricate; petals valvate, basally briefly connate; stamens 3 (antesepalous or antepetalous) or 6 (very rarely 1, 4 or 5 as monstrosities), 3 staminodes sometimes present, these either antesepalous or antepetalous, very rarely adnate to the pistillode; pistillode present or absent. Pollen ellipsoidal, elongate ellipsoidal, pyriform or oblate triangular, with slight or obvious asymmetry; aperture usually a distal sulcus, occasionally a trichotomosulcus; ectexine usually tectate, occasionally semi-tectate, perforate, perforate and micro-channelled, perforate-rugulate, reticulate,muri of reticulum occasionally coarsely granular (rarely granularcrotonoid) or spinulose, aperture margin similar or slightly finer;infratectum columellate; less frequently ectexine intectate with coarselygranular structures, sometimes coalesced into larger elements with orwithout spinulae, aperture margin similar; longest axis 17–65 µm; post-meiotic tetrads usually tetrahedral, rarely tetragonal or rhomboidal[30/140]. Pistillate flowers about the same size as the staminate; sepalsrounded, broadly imbricate; petals imbricate with triangular valvate tips;staminodes usually present, minute, tooth-like, usually 3 or 6 at one sideof the ovary; pistil pseudomonomerous, often strongly asymmetrical(especially in smaller species), stigmas 3, apical, sometimes eccentric,ovule form unknown. Fruit borne with persistent calyx and corolla,spherical, ellipsoid, fusiform or rarely curved, stigmatic remains basal,often obscured by perianth; epicarp often brightly coloured or jet blackor rarely dull green or brown; mesocarp thin, fleshy or fibrous; endocarpusually thin, fibrous. Seed closely adhering to the endocarp, endospermhomogeneous, sometimes deeply pentrated by regular grooves, orweakly to strongly ruminate; embryo subbasal. Germination adjacentligular; eophyll bifid or pinnate. Cytology: 2n = 32, 34.

Diagnostic Description

A complex and highly variable genus of pinnate-leaved palms that has radiated spectacularly in Madagascar and Comores, with an outlier on Pemba off the coast of Tanzania; the genus includes towering forest giants, bottle palms, litter-trappers, stemless palms, some of the most slender of all palms, and even two climbing members; all have fruit with basal stigmatic remains.


Leaf (Achilli 1913, Tomlinson 1961), root (Seubert 1998a, 1998b) and floral (Rudall et al. 2003).


The genus displays an extraordinary range of ecological adaptations, occurring from sea level to over 2200 min the mountains, from rain forest to forest transitional with spiny xeromorphic scrub. Many species are palms of the forest canopy whereas others are among the smallest of all palms. Dypsis crinita is a rheophyte, at least as a juvenile, while D.aquatilis grows in relatively deep water, paralleling the remarkable Ravenea musicalis that grows in a nearby river system.


Approximately 140 species confined to Madagascar, the Comores and the island of Pemba off the coast of Tanzania. At least 20 more are currently undescribed.


For local names and uses see Dransfield and Beentje (1995b).

Common Names

For local names and uses see Dransfield and Beentje (1995b).

Distribution Map

  • Native distribution
  • Introduced distribution
Found in
  • Africa East Tropical Africa Tanzania
  • Western Indian Ocean Comoros
  • Madagascar
  • Mauritius
Introduced into
  • Africa Western Indian Ocean Réunion
  • Asia-Tropical Indo-China Andaman Is.
  • Pacific South-Central Pacific Society Is.
  • Southern America Caribbean Dominican Republic
  • Haiti
  • Jamaica
  • Leeward Is.
  • Puerto Rico
  • Venezuelan Antilles
  • Central America El Salvador

Included Species


  • 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
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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.