Family : Arecaceae
Text © Pietro Puccio
English translation by Mario Beltramini
The name of the genus comes from the combination of the Greek wordings "hys, hyos" = pig and "phorbe" = food, with obvious signification; the name of the species, from the combination of the Latin "lagoena" = bottle, flask, and "caulis" = trunk, with reference to the shape of the trunk.
The Hyophorbe lagenicaulis (L.H.Bailey) H.E.Moore (1976) is an endemic plant of an islet, the Ile Ronde (Mauritius), where it is at very high risk of extinction, as there are no more than 10 adult specimen alive; the spontaneous reproduction has recently increased thanks to the institution of a natural reserve.
It is known locally (Mauritius), as "palmier bonbonne", elsewhere as "palma bottiglia" (Italian); "bottle palm", "pig nut palm" (English); "palmier bouteille" (French); "Flaschenpalme" (German); "palmera botella", "palma botella", "mascarena" (Spanish); "palmeira-garrafa" (Portuguese).
It shows a solitary greyish trunk, on which are visible the rings left by the fallen-off leaves, with the typical shape of a bottle, tall up to 4 metres, with a diameter of 50-70 cm in the median part, much narrower, 10-30 cm of diameter, at the apex. The leaves, no more than 8, pinnate, are arched, about 2-3 m long, on a short petiole (10-15 cm of length). The leaflets are of a glossy dark green colour and are inserted on the rachis, to form a V, turned upwards.
The inflorescence, about 80 cm long and very ramified, develops under the leaves and carries cream coloured flowers of both sexes. The fruits are oblong, 2-3 cm long, of orange colour, turning to the black when ripe. It reproduces by seed, which takes 4-6 months to germinate.
Slow-growth plant, is suitable only for tropical climates where it prefers sunny locations; when cultivated in pot, it has a limited utilization for indoor decoration.
Synonyms: Mascarena lagenicaulis L.H.Bailey (1942); Mascarena revaughanii L.H.Bailey (1942).
The photographic file of Giuseppe Mazza