Cyrtostachys renda Blume
by Ms. Sara Eisya Binti Mohamed Ghozali
Cyrtostachys renda Blume
by Ms. Sara Eisya Binti Mohamed Ghozali

Cyrtostachys renda is a popular ornamental plant attributed to its bright green stems and striking red to orange crownshaft. This species is only found to the west of the Wallace’s Line, occurring in the southern part of Thailand, the Malay Peninsula, Sumatra and Borneo. Naturally, C. renda grows in lowland peat swamp forests, especially in coastal areas (Heatubun et al., 2009).

The genus Cyrtostachys is named after its curved inflorescence (in Greek, kyrtos and stachys mean curved and spike, respectively) (NParks Flora & Fauna Web, 2020). The Malay vernacular name for this palm is pinang rajah, but it is more commonly known as sealing wax palm or lipstick palm (Heatubun et al., 2009).

Cyrtostachys renda is a slender and clustering palm with about 3 or more adult stems that can each grow up to 15-20 m high. The stems are about 6-10 cm in diameter with internodes of 15-25 cm long and green with greyish stripes or yellow with somewhat greenish and purplish stripes. Its crown assumes a shuttlecock appearance with 7-10 leaves. The fruits are ellipsoid to ovoid and turn from light green to black when ripe (Heatubun et al., 2009).

Commercially, Cyrtostachys renda is grown from seeds because growing from suckers is difficult and yields a low percentage of success (Kiew, 1991). There is a great horticultural demand for C. renda and due to its wide cultivation, several infraspecific taxa have been described based on different stem and crownshaft colours such as C. renda ‘Apple’, C. renda ‘Orange Crownshaft' and the cultivar C. renda ‘Theodora Buhler’ (Heatubun et al., 2009; Waddel, 2002). The number of cultivars may continue to grow in response to its popularity as an ornamental plant.

Interestingly, this palm is thought to be associated with ghosts by the Malay people who would either plant them at all corners of their gardens to ward off spirits or not plant any at all in fears of attracting them (Pearce, 1991). Despite this superstition, its stems and leaves are traditionally utilised to make flooring and thatch, respectively. The conservation status of Cyrtostachys renda is Vulnerable (Heatubun et al., 2009).


  1. Heatubun, C.D., Baker, W.J., Mogea, J.P., Harley, M.M., Tjitrosoedirdjo, S.S. & Dransfield, J. (2009). A Monograph of Cyrtostachys (Arecaceae). Kew Bulletin 64 (1): pp. 67-94
  2. Kiew, R. (1991). Palm utilization and conservation in Peninsular Malaysia. In Johnson, D. (Ed.), Palms for human needs in Asia: Palm Utilization and Conservation in India, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines. Balkema. pp. 78.
  3. NParks Flora & Fauna Web. (2020). Cyrtostachys renda Blume. Retrieved October 15, 2021, from
  4. Pearce, K.G. (1991). Palm utilization and conservation in Sarawak (Malaysia). In Johnson, D. (Ed.), Palms for human needs in Asia: Palm Utilization and Conservation in India, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines. Balkema. pp. 143.
  5. Waddell, H. (2002). A New Palm Cultivar: Cyrtostachys renda ‘Theodora Buhler'. Palms. 46 (2): pp. 70-72
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