Family : Arecaceae
Text © Pietro Puccio
English translation by Mario Beltramini
The Roystonea regia (Kunth) O. F. Cook (1900) is native to USA (Florida), Mexico, Belize, Honduras, Cuba, Bahamas and Cayman Islands, where it grows both in the wet forests and in the savannas, in usually swampy areas. It is the national tree of Cuba.
The genus takes the name from the general of the US army Roy Stone (1836-1905), who worked as engineer in Puerto Rico; the Latin name of the species "regia" = royal, majestic, is very much appropriate for describing this palm.
The names with which is commonly known is: "palma reale" (Italian); "Cuban royal palm", "royal palm" (English); "palmier royal" (French); "Königspalme" (German); "chaguaramo", "yagua", "palma criolla", "palma real" (Spanish); "palmeira-real", "palmeira-imperial-de-Cuba" (Portuguese).
It shows a single stem, smooth, impressing, with a slightly irregular outline, and enlarged at the base, of whitish colour, it reaches a maximum height of about 25 m with a diameter up to 70 cm; the foliar base, smooth and of a glossy pale green colour, wraps up completely the stem for a height of 1,5-2 m, forming a sort of elegant capital. The leaves are pinnate, long about 4 m, with green leaflets, of glossy dark green, inserted on the rachis on two different angles, long up to 1 metre.
The inflorescences, very ramified, develop under the leaves inside a spathe long up to 1,5 m and carry small whitish flowers of both sexes. The fruits are globose, of about 1 cm of diameter, of brown red colour. The seeds germinate in about 2 months.
It is one of the most ornamental palms due to its impressiveness and elegance and is one of the most cultivated in the tropical and subtropical countries, where it is often utilized as tree on the sides of avenues and alleys. The cultivation can be tried also in warm temperate zones, in full sun, as it resists to temperatures just under the zero for short periods, where, however, it shows a less thick crown and a speed of growth much inferior. Locally, the fruits (palmiche), produced in huge quantity, are utilized as nourishment for animals.
Synonyms: Oreodoxa regia Kunth (1816); Oenocarpus regius (Kunth) Spreng. (1825); Palma elata W.Bartram (1791); Roystonea floridana O.F.Cook (1901); Euterpe jenmanii C.H.Wright (1906); Euterpe ventricosa C.H.Wright (1906); Roystonea jenmanii (C.H.Wright) Burret (1929); Roystonea elata (W.Bartram) F.Harper (1946); Roystonea ventricosa (C.H.Wright) L.H.Bailey (1949); Roystonea regia var. hondurensis P.H.Allen (1952).
The photographic file of Giuseppe Mazza