Licuala malajana

Family : Arecaceae

Text © Pietro Puccio


English translation by Mario Beltramini


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Still diffused, despite the increasing anthropization and oil palm cultivations, in Peninsular Malaysia and in southern Thailand, the Licuala malajana would deserve a better horticultural diffusion © Giuseppe Mazza

The species is native to Peninsular Malaysia and South Thailand where it grows in the pluvial forests between the 300 and the 1500 m of altitude.

The generic name comes from the native one “leko wala” given to this genus of palms in the Moluccas Islands; the specific name is the Latin adjective “malajanus, a, um” = of Malaya (Peninsular Malaysia), with reference to one of its places of origin.

Common names: kaya pa pia (Malaysia); kra pho khao (Thailand).

The Licuala malajana Becc. (1889) is a monoecious species solitary or caespitose with one-two predominant stems, acaulous or with stems up to 2 m tall and of 3-7 cm of diameter. The leaves, on a 1-2,5 m long petiole provided at the base, for about half of its length, of curved black thorns 0,5 cm long, are peltate-digitate, almost circular of 0,5-1 m of diameter, subdivided up to the petiole in 10-25 plicate segments and dentate at the apex, 25-60 cm long and 3-12 cm broad; the central segment is at times broader than the lateral ones and attached to the petiole through a sort of extension of the same. Inflorescences, on a 15-35 cm long peduncle, among the leaves (interfoliar), shorter than the same, 0,5-1,3 m long, formed by a main axis with 5-8 secondary ramified inflorescences, up to about 20 cm long, bearing hermaphroditic sessile flowers finely pubescent externally. Globose fruits of about 1 cm of diameter, initially pale green, then orange when ripe, containing only one globose seed of about 0,8 cm of diameter. One variety is recognized, the Licuala malajana var. humilis, acaulous, and with narrower segments, endemic to the Sultanate of Terengganu in the Peninsular Malaysia.

It reproduces by seed, previously cleaned from the pulp and kept in lukewarm water for two days, in aerated and draining loam rich of organic substance maintained humid at the temperature of 26-28 °C.

Species relatively diffused in nature in spite of the increasing anthropization and extension of the cultivations, in particular that of the oil palm Elaeis guineensis Jacq., but still rare in cultivation.

Due to the remarkable ornamental characteristics and the relatively contained dimensions, that render it suitable also to gardens of limited extension, it would deserve a greater diffusion in the humid tropical climate regions and marginally in the subtropical one, where temperatures of less than +10 °C are exceptional events and of very short duration. It requires a shady position sheltered from strong winds, high temperatures and atmospheric humidity and draining loams rich of humus, maintained constantly humid. Thanks to the reduced dimensions and the ornamental leaves is also an excellent candidate to be cultivated in pot for the decoration of open spaces, where the climate allows it, or of greenhouses and winter gardens with lowest night temperatures over the 16 °C and ambient humidity of more than 70%. For the fertilizations, from spring to autumn, can be utilized hydrosoluble balanced products, with microelements, at half the dosage suggested on the package.


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