Johannesteijsmannia lanceolata J. Dransf.
by Mr. Tan Kok Kiat
Johannesteijsmannia lanceolata J. Dransf.
by Mr. Tan Kok Kiat

Do you know that there are more than 400 species of palms that are native to Malaysia (Tan, 2014)? Malaysia has an estimated 28 genera of palms and Johannesteijsmannia is one of the most magnificent. Only four species of this genus exist in the world and all of them can be found in Peninsular Malaysia, viz. J. altifrons, J. lanceolata, J. magnifica and J. perakensis.

Johannesteijsmannia lanceolata is an endemic species and is known locally in Selangor and Negeri Sembilan as Slender Joey Palm or chica in Malay (Chan & Saw, 2009). The epithet for the genus honours the Dutch gardener and botanist, Johannes Elias Teijsmann (1808-1882), while the species epithet is derived from a Latin word, lanceolate denoting a lance head-like shape, referring to the shape of the leaf (Dransfield, 1972).

The Slender Joey Palm is a solitary, stemless, small to medium-sized understorey palm, up to 3.5 m tall. Compared to other species in the same genus, the leaves of this species are narrower, 30 cm wide and up to 2.4 m long. The inflorescence has three to six thick branches. The flowers are creamy white with broad, papillate petals. The broadly triangular petals can grow up to 1 mm long, and are very thick. The flowers are sweetly scented and attract certain insects such as flies, black ants, and stingless bees (Chan, 2009). The fruits are reddish-brown, globular with short warts, and can grow up to 3.4 cm in diameter (Dransfield, 1972). The reproductive cycle from flowering to fruiting takes about 14-15 months (Chan, 2009) which is longer than the human gestation period. There is a high possibility of self-pollination or autogamy in the Slender Joey Palm and this may be facilitated by some pollinators, such as flies (family Phoridae and Cecidomyiidae), black ants, and stingless bees (Trigona sp.) (Chan, 2009).

The distribution of this palm is very restricted; it is only found in Pahang, Selangor and Negeri Sembilan. Seeds of J. lanceolata are harder to find compared to other Johannesteijsmannia species because it produces few seeds. It thrives in river valleys, but only on well-drained sites. Some individuals have been found growing in logged forest near rivers (Dransfield, 1972).

The leaves of this palm are used by the local indigenous people for making roof thatch. However, this is quite rare now and only occurs during a celebration feast (Chan & Saw, 2009). In the meantime, this plant is being sold as an ornamental and decorative plant for homes and landscaping.

Johannesteijsmannia lanceolata is listed as Endangered according to the IUCN Red List Category and Criteria ver 3.1 (2001) (Chan et al., 2011). This palm is categorised as Endangered due to its endemicity with restricted extent of occurrence (EOO) and small population size, which is less than 250 mature individuals in the largest subpopulation (Chan et al., 2011). Concurrently, this genus is banned from being exported overseas under the Customs (Prohibition of Export) Order 1998 (Chan & Saw, 2009). Collection of plants and seeds from the wild is allowed with permits from relevant authorities, but this is not encouraged. As a conservation measure, domestication of this palm is recommended as this will reduce the pressure of wild seed collection. To ensure the sustainability of the Slender Joey Palm, more ex-situ planting of the palm and preservation as well as protection of its existing populations and habitats should be done.


  1. Chan, Y.M. & Saw, L.G. (2009). The Uses of Johannesteijsmannia by Indigenous Communities and the Current Ornamental Trade in the Genus. Palms 53 (3), 147-152
  2. Chan, Y.M. (2009). The Reproductive Biology and Ecology of Johannesteijsmannia lanceolata J. Dransf. (Arecaceae). (Doctoral dissertation, University of Malaya).
  3. Chan, Y.M., Chua, L.S.L. & Saw, L.G. (2011). Towards the conservation of Malaysian Johannesteijsmannia (Palmae). Gardens' Bulletin Singapore: Proceedings of the 8th Flora Malesiana Symposium 63 (1 & 2), 425-432
  4. Dransfield, J. (1972). The genus Johannesteijsmannia H.E. Moore, Jr. Gardens' Bulletin Singapore 26 (1), 63-83
  5. Tan, C.L. "Wild about palms". Retrieved September 30, 2019 from
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