Bottle palm (Hyophorbe lagenicaulis)

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Bottles palms in habitat
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Bottle palm fact file

Bottle palm description

KingdomPlantae
PhylumTracheophyta
ClassLiliopsida
OrderArecales
FamilyPalmae
GenusHyophorbe (1)

The swollen, smooth, grey trunk of this palm species is bulbous at the bottom, resembling a bottle when young. As the tree matures, the width of the trunk evens out, appearing slightly conical in the oldest individuals. Emerging from the top of the trunk are between four and eight long fronds (leaves). Each frond arches upwards and curves down splendidly. The fronds are feather-like with leaflets splaying out from each side of a central midrib (leaf vein). Numerous white flowers grow on stalks at the crown of the tree, and following the flowering, small, round fruits appear, changing from green to black as they age (2).

Also known as
Pig nut palm.
Synonyms
Hyophorbe revaughnii.
French
Palmiste Gargoulette.
Size
Height: 3.1 – 3.7 m (2)
Leaf length: 3.1 m (2)
Leaflet length: 0.6 m (2)
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Bottle palm biology

From the Greek for ‘pig’ and ‘food’, Hyophorbe species are so called as their fruits are said to be eaten by pigs. The specific name lagenicaulis means ‘bottle stalk’ in Latin. The bottle palm is a monoecious plant, bearing both sexes on each plant. As the female flowers die, they are followed by fleshy fruits (2).

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Bottle palm range

Endemic to Round Island; part of the Mascarene Island group in the Indian Ocean, 20 km off the northern coast of Mauritius (2).

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Bottle palm habitat

Found amongst lowland palm savanna (1).

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Bottle palm status

The bottle palm is classified as Critically Endangered (CR D) on the IUCN Red List 2004 (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Critically Endangered

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Bottle palm threats

The palm savannah habitat still found on Round Island was once characteristic of the northern plain of Mauritius, but this is now lost to development. As one of the few islands still free from introduced rats, Round Island has a high conservation value. It supports many breeding seabirds as well as eight species of native reptile. It suffered following the introduction of goats and rabbits in the 19th century, as their zealous over-grazing caused extreme soil erosion. In the 1970s the goats were successfully eradicated, but the rabbits were more difficult to remove. As the destruction caused by the rabbits continued to increase into the 1980s, Jersey Wildlife Preservation Trust funded three scientists who were challenged to exterminate the rabbits on Round Island. In just two months, these scientists were able to poison every rabbit on the island, and a year later in 1987 it was declared rabbit-free. Invasive weeds were also removed, and native vegetation was found to be growing prolifically (3).

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Bottle palm conservation

As one of the most successful and exemplary cases of conservation in the world, Round Island is a managed reserve and is now preparing for the introduction of carefully chosen critically endangered animals and plants from Mauritius (3). Regeneration of the bottle palm will benefit immeasurably from the removal of goats and rabbits (1).

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Glossary

Endemic
A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
Monoecious
A flowering plant with unisexual flowers, but with both sexes on each plant.
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References

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Image credit

Bottles palms in habitat  
Bottles palms in habitat

© Michael Brooke / gettyimages.com

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101 Bayham Street
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