Family : Arecaceae
Text © Pietro Puccio
English translation by Mario Beltramini
The species is native to the northern regions of the Moluccas and Sulawesi where it grows in the underwood of the humid forests on volcanic soils, up to about 1400 m of altitude.
The generic name if the Latinization of the local name, areek, used in the Indian region of Malabar, of a species belonging to the genus; the specific name is the Latin adjective “vestiarius, a, um” = related to clothing, with reference to the use done by the local populations of the thin white fibres, gotten from the outer layer of the stem, for making clothes.
Common names: orange crownshaft palm, red pinang, sunset palm (English); pinang merah, pinang yaki (Indonesian); areca anaranjada (Spanish).
The Areca vestiaria Giseke (1792) is an unarmed monoecious species, very variable, usually cespitose, solitary at times, with thin stems, erect, 3-10 m tall and of 8-10 cm of diameter, of green colour in the youngest part, greyish in the oldest one, on which are visible, spaced of 10-20 cm, the rings trace of the junction of the fallen leaves; at times are present at the base robust aerial stilt roots. The leaves, on a 5-40 cm long petiole, are pinnate, 1,5-2,5 m long, with 10-16 pinnules quite irregularly arranged on both sides of the rachis, wide, pleated, truncated and toothed at the apex, the central ones are about 1 m long and 10-15 cm broad, usually of dark green colour; there are individuals with the young leaves of reddish brown colour. Petiole and rachis are of an intense yellow to orange colour and the foliar base wraps entirely the trunk, for a height of 1-1,4 m, forming a sort of tubular capitulum of colour varying from orange yellow to orange red, to bright red, depending also on the altitude (the colours are more intense in the plants at higher altitudes). Ramified inflorescence under the leaves (infrafoliar), initially enclosed on an orange spathe, with rachis and rachillae of the same colour and flowers of both sexes, yellow to orange, arranged in the characteristic triad (a female flower amid two male ones). The inflorescence presents the phenomenon of the proterandry, the male flowers do ripe before the female ones, this fosters the crossed fecundation. The fuits are ellipsoid fibrous drupes of orange red to bright red colour, 2-2,8 cm long and of 1-1,4 cm of diameter, containing one ovoid seed about 1,4 cm long and of 1 cm of diameter.
It reproduces by seeds, that has a short germinability, in draining organic loam at the temperature of 24-28 °C, with germination times of 4-8 weeks.
One of the most ornamental palms in absolute, but fairly rare in cultivation, cultivable in the tropical and humid subtropical climate zones, where it can stand drops of temperature, only if exceptional and short-lasting, up to about +5 °C, but not averagely low temperatures for long periods. It requires a semi-shady position and well drained soils, preferably sandy, rich of organic substance, from slightly acidic to neutral, maintained constantly humid. Young plants may be cultivated in pot for the decoration of greenhouses, winter gardens and bright and spacious interiors, utilizing a loam rich of organic substance with addition of a 30% of coarse siliceous sand or agri perlite, with lowest temperatures preferably over the 16 °C. The waterings must be regular, but without stagnations, and the fertilizations are to be done preferably with slow-release balanced products, with microelements.
Synonyms: Pinanga vestiaria (Giseke) Blume (1839); Seaforthia vestiaria (Giseke) Mart. (1849); Ptychosperma vestiarium (Giseke) Miq. (1855); Drymophloeus vestiarius Miq. (1868); Ptychosperma paniculatum Miq. (1868); Areca paniculata (Miq.) Scheff. (1871); Mischophloeus paniculatus (Miq.) Scheff. (1876); Mischophloeus vestiarius (Giseke) Merr. (1917); Areca henrici Furtado (1933); Areca leptopetala Burret (1936); Areca langloisiana Potztal (1960).
The photographic file of Giuseppe Mazza