Mystery Dypsis

by Bo-Göran Lundkvist
Leilani Estates, Big Island of Hawai’i

There are certainly many more than ten Dypsis species that can be considered "mystery palms", but I decided to write about what, to me, are ten of the more spectacular ones, each in its own way. They can be divided up in two distinct groups; those that have been sold under a fictitious name (eg. Dypsis sp. bef, Dypsis sp. mony mony, etc.) and those that were sold under a valid name, that later was found not to be valid for that particular palm. I've tried to list as many incorrect (whether fictitious or simply not valid) names as possible, not to be critical of anyone, but to make it possible to tie some of these names together at some point in the future when we have valid names for these palms.

Mystery #1 : In January 1997, I bought three palms from Floribunda Palms under the name D. ankaizinensis , and in July 1997 I bought an additional three from Kapoho Palms under the same name. All six were in 4-inch pots and were approximately 2 feet tall, and all were planted on the same day, July 27, 1997. Now, 7 years later, these six palms are all about 20-25 feet tall. Most have flowered a few times, but I have yet to find any viable seeds. According to The Palms of Madagascar , page 182-183, D. ankaizinensis is a solitary palm with the leaflets arranged in a fairly regular pattern. The six palms I have are all multi-trunked with about 85 leaflets on each side of the rachis, arranged in two planes in an irregular fashion, in groups of 2-4 leaflets, but the overwhelming majority with just 2 leaflets in each group. Each leaflet is about 2 cm wide and 50-55 cm long and there are about 5-7 cm between each group. The petiole is 35-40 cm long. The trunks are very smooth and an attractive whitish green (what I refer to as the typical Dypsis look). Each individual has 2-5 stems, with a base diameter of 12-30 cm. The trunk itself has a diameter of about 10 cm and the crownshaft is about 60 cm long. The palm resembles D. madagascariensis , and is just as fast growing, but it will produce inflorescences at a much younger age. It is always pushing a new spike that is red close to the base. In addition to the above, I also visited Kapoho Palms on a number of different occasions in 1998, and bought a few seedlings in "conetainers" under the name Dypsis . sp. H-95 as well as a Dypsis sp. "Neodypsis" in a 1 gallon pot. And, also in 1998, I bought two Dypsis sp. "Gunther" in 1 gallon pots from Floribunda Palms. All these palms seem to be identical to the initial six that were sold as D. ankaizinensis . The bottom line for all of these is that they cannot possibly be D. ankaizinensis !

Mystery #2 : This palm has been sold by Floribunda Palms under the name D. perrieri, and I bought a number of them between 1996 and 2000 in 4 inch and 1 gallon pots. However, D. perrieri is a solitary, massive, palm and that definitely doesn't seem to apply to the mystery palm, which typically has two or three stems (even though I do have a few that are solitary and one with six stems), and in all likelihood is not going to be massive! I've recently heard that it may, in fact, be D. dransfieldii , which on page 355 in The Palms of Madagascar is described as "curious rather than beautiful". I would go along with that description, because this is a palm that really doesn't look like any other Dypsis that I'm familiar with. It's definitely on the slow side, and my biggest specimens are no more than about 6 feet tall. It has petioles that are 35-40 cm long. There are about 20 leaflets on each side of the rachis, arranged in one plane in a regular fashion and with 5-7 cm intervals. The base of each stem is between 3 and 5 cm in diameter. These dimensions may change somewhat as the palm grows.

Mystery #3 : I bought a number of these in 1 gallon pots from Floribunda Palms between 1996 and 1998 under the name Dypsis sahanofensis . However, according to The Palms of Madagascar , page 289-290, D. sahanofensis is a clustering palm with stems that are 3-8 cm (1-3 inches) across. That most definitely doesn't apply to the palms I have, which are all solitary specimens. The largest one has a base diameter of about 30 cm, and is approximately 12-14 feet tall with about 110-115 leaflets on each side of the rachis in groups of 2-6, with 5-9 cm intervals. The leaflets are about 4-4.5 cm wide and 80 cm long and the petioles are 30-40 cm long. You can tell that this is going to be an impressive palm, and even though none of mine have begun to form a trunk yet, you can already detect some orange color between the petiole and the stem. In addition to the palms mentioned above, I also acquired a few 1 gallon plants from Hawaii Palm Company in 1996 under the name " Chrysalidocarpus fibrosus ", and these seem to be identical to the ones sold as D. sahanofensis . C. fibrosus is now known as Dypsis mananjarensis , and based on the descriptions available it's fairly obvious that the mystery palm is not D. mananjarensis . I believe Jeff Marcus is now referring to this mystery palm as Dypsis sp. "Jurassic Park"!

Mystery #4 : In 1998 I bought a number of   1 gallon plants from Floribunda Palms under the name Dypsis sp. "bef". Growth rate can best be described as moderate and the taller ones are now about 12 feet tall, and all except one (a quadruple) are currently doubles. They have about 3 feet of very glaucous trunk, which gives them a distinct and attractive look. Dean Ouer, who has visited me a number of times, believes that this may be the same palm that Mardy Darian calls "Slick Willy". In 1997 I also bought a few palms from Floribunda Palms under the name Dypsis onilahensis . They were in 1 gallon pots. This is of course a valid name, but what's interesting is that these palms today seem to be identical (both in size and appearance) to those that were sold as Dypsis sp. "bef". Comparing these palms to the one on page 207 in The Palms of Madagascar , the main difference is the color of the trunk (see above). The mystery palm holds about 5-6 fronds at any given time, with about 55 leaflets on each side of the rachis. The petiole is only 3-4 cm long and the leaflets are 2 cm wide and 60 cm long arranged in one plane in a regular fashion in intervals of 2.5-5.5 cm. The crownshaft is about 65 cm long and the fronds are about 2 metres long. The base of the trunk is 15-18 cm wide and the trunk itself has a diameter of about 10 cm.

Mystery #5 : This is a smaller, clustering, palm with a very attractive red crownshaft. It has been sold by Floribunda Palms as Dypsis sp. "florenceii". It is fairly similar to Dypsis faneva (see my other article!), with the main difference being that the mystery palm seems to have more red color on the crownshaft than D. faneva , and all the fronds tend to be entire. The half dozen or so that I have were all acquired in 1 gallon pots in 2000 and 2001, and are now about 10-12 feet tall, usually with about three stems each. Each stem has a diameter of about 8 cm at the base. The crownshaft is about 25 cm long. Each stem has about 10-11 fronds, each of which is 30-35 cm wide and about 90 cm long. The petiole is non-existent. This is a very beautiful palm.

Mystery #6 : Another small palm, but a solitary one. I don't think it has been available commercially here in Hawaii. I only have one, and I bought it in August 1998 from Floribunda Palms under the name Dypsis sp. "foxtail". It's planted in about 80% shade, and is definitely not a fast grower. Overall height is about 4 feet. It opens up with a distinct red new frond, and the leaflets are grouped in an irregular fashion. There are about 33 leaflets on each side of the rachis, in 9 separate groups. Each group has 3-5 leaflets, each of which is about 3.5-4 cm wide and 25 cm long. The interval between each group is 5-9 cm. The leaflets are curved similar to those of D. pinnatifrons . The base of the stem is only about 6-7 cm in diameter, and by all appearances this doesn't look like it's going to be a big palm. Jeff Marcus has one of these planted at his Floribunda Palms nursery, and it's already producing seeds. I believe it's about 6 feet tall, and Jeff refers to it as Dypsis marojejyi. This is a valid name (see The Palms of Madagascar , page 234-235), and if Jeff is correct, then this will eventually become a rather impressive palm. At this point, I have to admit, I remain rather skeptical of the name!

Mystery #7 : Again, I don't think this one has been available commercially. I only have one of these, and I bought it in a 1 gallon pot from Floribunda Palms in April 1998 as Dypsis sp. "laafa". "Laafa" is a general name for any palm in Madagascar ( The Palms of Madagascar , page 31). Today, after six years in the ground, it still does not have a trunk. It holds seven fronds, which are about 12-13 feet long. The petioles are a dark red, somewhat similar to the trunk on a D. lastelliana . Each petiole is only about 12 cm long. Leaflets are grouped in one plane and in a very regular fashion. Each leaflet is 5-6 cm wide and about 85 cm long and there is a 4-5 cm interval between each leaflet. By all appearances, this will remain a solitary palm.

Mystery #8 : Sold by Floribunda Palms under the name Dypsis sp. "mony mony", this is a solitary palm, and will probably over time become very large. I bought three of these between 1997 and 1999 in 4 inch and 1 gallon pots, and today these are all about 8 feet tall. Another specimen, acquired in a 5 gallon pot in 2001, is now about 14 feet tall. They only hold about 4 fronds, which are fairly erect, and the leaflets are grouped in an irregular fashion in groups of 2-5 leaflets. There are approx. 125 leaflets on each side of the rachis and each leaflet is 4 cm wide and 65 cm long. The interval between the groups is 2-12 cm. Close to the petiole the groups are quite far apart, and the further away from the petiole, the close the groups. The petiole is about 15 cm long and the base diameter of the stem is 23 cm (no trunk yet). Dean Ouer believes this may be the palm that Mardy Darian refers to as "Big Curly".

Mystery #9 : Another relatively small (but possibly medium size) palm. It's been sold by Floribunda Palms as "Neophloga pink crownshaft", and it's been available since late 2000. The new spike is always bright red, and even after it opens up it keeps this red color for a very long time. The palm is solitary with a fairly narrow trunk. Ken Foster planted two of these on his property here in Leilani Estates around 1998, and these two are the biggest ones I have seen. The property now belongs to Jerry and Cindy Andersen. Those two palms are now both about 15 feet tall, and can best be described as a shorter version of a D. pinnatifrons but with fronds that are longer. They may of course very well eventually turn out to be taller palms than D. pinnatifrons. With its red new fronds (that stay red!) this is definitely one of the more attractive smaller Dypsis . My biggest specimen is only about 6 feet tall, and has about 20 leaflets on each side of the rachis. Jerry and I took the measurements on one of his specimens and it has a base diameter of 18 cm with a trunk diameter of about 10-12 cm. The crownshaft is 40-45 cm long and a very colorful (but not solid) red. The petiole is pretty much non-existent and the rachis is 160-180 cm long with about 33 leaflets on each side. These are arranged in groups of 2-4 (most groups have 4), with intervals of about 12-14 cm between the groups. The largest leaflet is about 7 cm wide and 40 cm long, and all the leaflets end with a long pointed tip. The palm holds about 18-20 fronds at any given time. Ken Foster, who planted these two palms, probably around 1997, called them Dypsis sambiranensis . That sounds good, but as far as I know, it's not a valid name.

Mystery #10 : This palm was available in 1997 and 1998 from Floribunda Palms as Dypsis tsaratananensis and I bought a number of them in 1 gallon pots. Reading about this palm on page 225 and 226 in The Palms of Madagascar automatically sets off alarm bells, big time! D. tsaratananensis is described as a rare clustering palm that hasn't been seen for more than 70 years. And that was in 1995 (or before), so it must be 80 years by now! D. tsarantanensis has a petiole 12-46 cm long and 55-60 leaflets in groups of 1-4 with 3.5-8 cm intervals. The mystery palm has a petiole that's 130 cm long (!!), with about 50 leaflets on each side of the rachis, all arranged in one plane in a very regular fashion. Each leaflet is 6 cm wide and 80 cm long and there is a 2-4 cm interval between the leaflets. The petiole and the rachis is glaucous and dramatically white. When you buy a seedling in a 1 gallon pot, it's not always obvious if the palm is going to be solitary or clustering, but now that these palms have been in the ground for 6-7 years, and they all display the same characteristics, it's time to draw some conclusions. The first one is that this is definitely a solitary palm, and secondly, the leaflets are very regular. In other words, it cannot possibly be D. tsaratanensis . Mystery palm #10 only holds about 3-4 "good" fronds at any given time, and after a new frond opens up, it may be several weeks before you can even see the next spike. 1 gallon sized palms were available in 2001 from Kapoho Palms under the name Dypsis tsaratananensis , but these palms have irregularly grouped leaflets and they are definitely not the same as mystery palm #10. Mine are still too small to even begin to guess what they might be.

Anyone who may have additional information on any of these palms, please contact the editor, or Bo-Göran Lundkvist!

 

Published in Issue 178/Autumn 2004 of The Palm Journal (Palm Society of Southern California's quarterly journal)