Rhapis excelsa

Common name

lady palm, miniature fan palm

Description

Stems: Densely clustering, upright, very slender, like reeds or bamboo, to 2.5 m tall and 2.5-5 cm in diameter, covered with fiber and old leaf bases, with tan ring scars on older stems. Leaves: Palmate, induplicate, to 75 cm across, with no spines or teeth, and divided from three-fourths to the entire length of the blade by wide, green, multi-ribbed, jagged-tipped segments. The segments split between the folds. Flowers and fruit: Inflorescence to 30 cm long, with staminate (branched to three orders) and pistillate (branched to one or two orders) on separate plants (bisexual flowers are seen occasionally). The fleshy flowers are white; the ripe fruit is also white or sometimes maroon.

Diagnostic features

Field: Densely clustering, unarmed, upright, very slender stems covered with fibers and old leaf bases; palmate leaves with wide, green, multi-ribbed, jagged-tipped segments split between the folds.

May be confused with

Perhaps Serenoa repens or Licuala grandis, but both these palmate leaved species have spines on the petiole, unlike Rhapis excelsa which is unarmed.

Distribution

Native to southern China

Additional comments

This dwarf palm is commonly cultivated as a short hedge or as an indoor ornamental. A variegated leaf form is available from time to time.

Scientific name

Rhapis excelsa (Thunb.) Henry

Family

Arecaceae/Palmae

Synonyms

Chamaerops excelsa Thunb.

Rhapis flabelliformis L'Hér. ex Aiton

Trachycarpus excelsus (Thunb.) H. Wendl.

Last Updated May 2014

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