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Palm Valley at Central Core

August 30, 2011

Palm Valley is home to the Palm Collection of the Singapore Botanic Gardens with more than 115 genera and over 220 species. They are arranged in a herring bone pattern with islands representing the major plant group. All six sub-families of palms – Arecoideae, Coryphoideae, Calamoideae, Ceroxyloideae, Phytelephantoideae and Nypoideae are represented in the collection.

Arecoideae are the “feather” palms with leaves that are usually pinate. The stems are either solitary or multiple and are usually smooth, ringed and rarely with spines. There are 124 genera and over 1400 species in this sub-family. Some of the palms belonging to Arecoideae found in Palm Valley include the Jelly palm (Butia capitata), Sealing Wax palm (Cyrtostachys renda), Fishtail palm (Caryota species), Betel-nut (Areca catechu), Sugar palm (Arenga pinnata), Foxtail palm (Wodyetia bifurcata) and the Black palm (Normanbya normanbyi).

Coryphoideae is represented by 39 genera and about 400 species. With few exceptions, members of Coryphoideae is characterised by their large fan-shaped leaves. Some of these found in Palm Valley are the Talipot palm (Corypha umbraculifera), Double Coconut (Lodoicea maldivica), Fiji Fan palm (Pritchardia pacifica), Chinese Fan palm (Livistona chinensis), and Petticoat palm (Washingtonia filifera).

Calamoideae has 22 genera and about 650 species and is mainly distributed in the eastern tropics. The largest in this group is the Calamus, which are climbing feather palms of the rainforest with slender stems which are when young are covered in leaf sheaths and often very prickly. Calamus and closely related genera are the rattans of commerce. You can also find in this sub-family the Sago Palm (Metroxylon sagu), Wanga palm (Pigafetta filaris), and Salak (Salacca zalacca).

Ceroxyloideae is represented by 11 genera and 30 species. Members are mainly deciduous feather palms, often very tall with solitary, smooth ringed trunks. Some of them in our collection are the Majestic palm (Ravenea rivularis), Good Luck palm (Chamaedorea elegans) and Bottle palm (Hyophorbe lagenicaulis).

Nypoideae contains only one genus which is distinguished by its unique erect inflorescences, which bears a terminal head of female flowers and lateral spikes of male flowers. Nypa, the only genus in this sub-family, is also a monotypic genus (this means it has only one species). Its single representative Nypa fruticans, commonly known as Nipah and Mangrove Palm, can be found in Palm Valley as well.

Phytelephantoideae, characterized by having large female flowers borne in a head on a short peduncle, is represented by 3 genera and 13 species. Found in Palm Valley is the Ivory Palm (Phytelephas aequatorialis).

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