Heterospathe Scheff.
  • Ann. Jard. Bot. Buitenzorg 1: 141 (1876) 

Notes: Distribution: Philippines to W. Pacific

General Description

Dwarf to moderate, solitary or sometimes clustered, unarmed, pleonanthic monoecious palms. Stem creeping or erect, sometimes basally expanded, grey-green to brown, leaf scars prominent. Leaves pinnate, rarely entire bifid, erect, becoming spreading, often reddish when young; sheath splitting abaxially and not forming a well-defined crownshaft, margins fibrous, acute, glaucous or not; petiole short to elongate, usually deeply channelled adaxially, rounded abaxially, variously indumentose; rachis straight or curved, basally channelled adaxially, distally ridged, rounded abaxially, variously indumentose; leaflets, when present, single-fold, acute to acuminate, prominent, midrib elevated, marginal ribs often thickened, veins adaxially ± waxy or glabrous, abaxially tomentose or brown-dotted, with or without basifixed ramenta on midrib. Inflorescences interfoliar or infrafoliar at anthesis, branched to 1–4 orders basally, fewer distally, often with reddish-brown, deciduous tomentum; peduncle prominent, elongate, elliptic in cross-section; prophyll persistent, attached near the base and completely encircling the peduncle, tubular, 2-keeled laterally, more-or-less dorsiventrally flattened, splitting abaxially, and apically; peduncular bract 1 or rarely 2 (Heterospathe trispatha), attached below or sometimes above the middle of the peduncle, terete, beaked, enclosing the inflorescence in bud, greatly exceeding the prophyll, splitting abaxially and caducous or marcescent as the inflorescence matures; rachis short to elongate, bearing spirally arranged, short, pointed bracts subtending a few simple rachillae, or several branches with basal bare portions; rachillae slender, bearing sessile or slightly depressed, spirally arranged triads subtended by spreading lip-like bracts throughout the rachillae, or with paired or solitary staminate flowers toward the apex of the rachillae; bracteoles of the staminate flowers small, bracteoles surrounding the pistillate flower 2, spreading to cupular and imbricate. Staminate flowers symmetrical or slightly to markedly asymmetrical; sepals 3, distinct, broadly imbricate and rounded, ± keeled dorsally and gibbous basally; petals 3, distinct, valvate, usually about twice as long as the sepals, prominently lined when dry, ± acute, one usually somewhat larger than the others; stamens 6–36 or more, distinct, the filaments awl-shaped and strongly inflexed at the apex, anthers oblong in outline, dorsifixed and versatile at anthesis, latrorse; pistillode either small and conical, or columnar, prominent, nearly as long as the stamens, sometimes with an expanded apex. Pollen ellipsoidal asymmetric, occasionally oblate triangular; aperture a distal sulcus, infrequently a trichotomosulcus; ectexine tectate, perforate, perforate and micro-channelled or finely perforate-rugulate, aperture margin similar or slightly finer; infratectum columellate; longest axis ranging from 26–54 µm [12/32]. Pistillate flowers symmetrical, ± same size as the staminate; sepals 3, distinct, broadly imbricate, rounded; petals 3, distinct, broadly imbricate with briefly valvate apices; staminodes 3, tooth-like; gynoecium unilocular, uniovulate, short, soft, expanded upward into a thick stylar region below 3 recurved, short stigmas, the ovule lateral at top of locule, pendulous, hemianatropous. Fruit globose to ellipsoidal, small to large, orange to red when mature, stigmatic remains apical, eccentrically apical or subapical to lateral; epicarp smooth but drying granular or with irregular lines over short sclerosomes in the thinly to thickly fleshy mesocarp, with flattened anastomosing fibres, endocarp thin, operculate, smooth, shining within, or with thickened adnate fibres, irregularly sculptured, ridged and grooved, beaked at the apex, with a mass of slender fibres within a framework of thickened fibres at the base. Seed not adherent to endocarp, globose to ellipsoidal or with angled and with 3 rounded ridges laterally and abaxially, attached apically and laterally by the elongate hilum extending nearly the length of the seed, raphe branches simple to anastomosing, endosperm ruminate or rarely homogeneous (H. longipes and H. uniformis); embryo basal. Germination adjacent-ligular; eophyll bifid where known. Cytology: 2n = 32.

Diagnostic Description

Very variable small to moderate, solitary or clustered pinnate-leaved palms of the Philippines, the Moluccas, New Guniea and western Pacific Islands; lacking a conspicuous crownshaft, and fruit with lateral to apical stigmatic remains.


Leaf (Heterospathe elata; Tomlinson 1961), root (Seubert 1998a, 1998b) and fruit (Essig et al. 1999).


Inhabitants of lowland and montane rain forest. Many species are undergrowth palms; a few contribute to the forest canopy.


About 40 species from the Philippines and Micronesia to eastern Indonesia and to the Solomon Islands, Fiji and Vanuatu, including 16 species in New Guinea.


Fruit of Heterospathe elata is chewed as a betel substitute in the Philippines; the cabbage is said to be edible and the split petioles and leaflets are used in weaving.

Common Names

Sagisi palm.

Distribution Map

  • Native distribution
  • Introduced distribution
Found in
  • Asia-Tropical Malesia Maluku
  • Philippines
  • Papuasia Bismarck Archipelago
  • New Guinea
  • Solomon Is.
  • Pacific Northwestern Pacific Caroline Is.
  • Marianas
  • Southwestern Pacific Fiji
  • Vanuatu
Introduced into
  • Pacific South-Central Pacific Society Is.


  • 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.