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Johannesteijsmannia magnifica J. Dransf.
by Chan Yoke Mui

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Johannesteijsmannia magnifica J. Dransf.

by Chan Yoke Mui

Johannesteijsmannia magnifica is one of the most magnificent and elegant palms in our Malaysian rainforests. The palm is considered acaulescent, meaning that it forms a hidden, below-ground stem or trunk, is 2-4 metres tall and has big rhomboid/diamond leaves with greyish hairy undersides. ‘Orang asli’ (indigenous people) collect the leaves to make ‘atap’ (roof thatch) which can last for several years. The flowers are creamy yellow with a sweet-sourish smell. The fruits are dull orange-brown with small warts, about 4 cm in diameter and look like ‘lychees’ (Litchi chinensis) but have very hard seeds (while the endosperm of most palms is technically edible when young, the eating of J. magnifica endosperm has not been documented).

The palm is endemic to Peninsular Malaysia, and is currently listed as threatened and endangered in the IUCN Red List, 1997. Conversion of forests and over-collection of the palm or its seed for the ornamental plant trade are likely causes of the decline of these majestic palms. The palm is distributed in small pockets of Bukit Kinta, Serendah, Sungai Lalang and Berembun forest reserves.

While the other three species in the genus Johannesteijsmannia may flower two or more times a year, J. magnifica flowers & fruits just once a year. Flowering occurs from March to April while fruits are produced from April to October.

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