Adonidia merrillii

Common name

Christmas palm, Manila palm

Description

Stems: Solitary, upright, gray stems to 7 m tall and 25-30 cm in diameter, ringed with crowded leaf scars that may fade with age, usually bulging at the base. Leaves: Pinnate, with a short tomentose petiole and stiffly arching rachis; leaf sheaths forming a bright green crown shaft with whitish-gray scales. Leaflets, held in a decidedly V-shaped angle, grow in several planes from the base to about the midpoint of the leaf; then toward the apex, in a single plane. The midrib and marginal veins are prominent. Leaflet tips are irregularly jagged. The abaxial (under) surface of the leaflets is covered with tiny brown scales, with easily visible dark brown ramenta along the midrib toward the base of the leaflet. Reins are commonly seen persisting on open leaves. Flowers and fruits: Inflorescences (about 60 cm long) are borne below the crown shaft and are branched to three or four orders at the base with fewer branches toward the tip. Flowers are small, creamy white and unisexual. Fruits are ovoid, 3 - 3.5 cm, at first pale green, then scarlet when ripe. Most fruit ripen simultaneously to produce a striking bright red cluster in December, leading to the common name, "Christmas Palm."

Diagnostic features

Field: Erect, solitary palms with close leaf scar rings on the slender gray stem; leaflets held in a stiff V-shape and grow in several planes toward the leaf base. If ripe fruits are present, the entire infructescence holds scarlet red fruits, rather than a mix of green and red.

Lab: Tiny brown scales, fringed with white, covering the underside of the leaflets, with obvious dark brown ramenta along the base of the midrib; secondary veins prominent.

May be confused with

Veitchia species: Adonidia has been included in this genus, and the species remaining in the genus can be difficult to separate. They may also hybridize, adding to the possible confusion. In the field, Adonidia merrillii can be distinguished by the V-shape in which leaflets are held; Veitchia spp. have pendant leaflets. In the lab, minute abaxial scales might help in identification: those of Adonidia are brown while those of Veitchia spp. are silvery white with brown centers, shiny red, or absent.

Distribution

Veitchia species: Adonidia has been included in this genus, and the species remaining in the genus can be difficult to separate. They may also hybridize, adding to the possible confusion. In the field, Adonidia merrillii can be distinguished by the V-shape in which leaflets are held; Veitchia spp. have pendant leaflets. In the lab, minute abaxial scales might help in identification: those of Adonidia are brown while those of Veitchia spp. are silvery white with brown centers, shiny red, or absent.

Additional comments

This species is commonly found as a potted palm in interior spaces such as shopping malls, as well as outdoors in warm areas. Unfortunately, it is quite susceptible to lethal yellowing.

Scientific name

Adonidia merrillii (Becc.) Becc.

Family

Arecaceae/Palmae

Synonyms

Normanbya merrillii Becc.

Veitchia merrillii (Becc.) H.E.Moore

Last Updated May 2014

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