Adonidia merrillii

Family : Arecaceae

Text © Pietro Puccio


English translation by Mario Beltramini



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With its flaming fruits and elegant compact foliage, Filipino Adonidia merrillii gets its name from the mythological Adonis, known for his beauty © Giuseppe Mazza

The Adonidia merrillii (Becc.) Becc. (1919) is native to Philippines (in particular the island of Palawan), where it grows in the humid forests at low altitudes.

The name of the genus comes from the Latin “Adonis, nidis” = Adonis, known in various mythologies because of his beauty; the species was honoured to the American botanist Elmer D. Merrill (1876-1956), scholar of the flora of the Philippines.

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The fruits, here with a green Anolis below, ripe by Christmas, hence the vulgar name of Christmas Palm © Giuseppe Mazza

It is commonly known as: “palma di Manila” (Italian); “Christmas palm”, “kerpis palm”, “Manila palm” (English), “Weihnachtspalme”, “Manila- palme” (German); “palma de Manilla”, “chaguaramo enano”, “palma de Navidad” (Spanish); “palmier de Noël”, “palmier nain royal”, “palmier des Philippines” (French).

Plant with single trunk, greyish, tall up to 10 metres with a diameter of 15 cm, enlarged at the base, on which are just visible the rings left by the foliar bases fallen off.

The leaves are pinnate, strongly arched, of about 1,5 metres of length on a short petiole, with the foliar base wrapping the trunk for a length of 40-60 cm.

The leaflets are of a semi-glossy intense green colour, long 60 cm in the median part and wide even 5 cm, cut obliquely and indented at the apex, inserted on the rachis to form a V.

The inflorescence, short and ramified, develops under the leaves and carries flowers of both sexes.

The fruits, ovoid, are about 30 cm long, very evident, of bright red colour and ripen in winter (from which one of the most diffused common names of “Christmas palm”).

The Adonidia merrillii reproduces easily by seed which germinates in about two months.

This palm is cultivated in all the tropical and subtropical countries due to the elegance and the firmness of the foliage, the fruits particularly ornamental and the speed of growth.

The reduced dimensions render it ideal for small tropical and subtropical gardens. It is rather sensitive to the cold, temperatures of a few grades over the 0 °C, even if for a short period, are generally deadly. The Adonidia merrillii is also cultivated in pot for the decoration of indoor spaces.

Synonyms : Normanbya merrillii Becc. (1909); Veitchia merrillii (Becc.) H.E.Moore (1957).


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