Carossier palm (Attalea crassispatha)

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Cultivated carossier palms
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Carossier palm fact file

Carossier palm description

KingdomPlantae
PhylumTracheophyta
ClassLiliopsida
OrderArecales
FamilyPalmae
GenusAttalea (1)

With a population teetering on the brink of extinction in the wild, Attalea crassipatha has become one of the rarest palms in the Americas (3) (4). Tall and attractive, it grows as a solitary palm, with a dense crown of pinnate leaves, each of which is up to five metres long (5). The inflorescences are comprised of densely clustered, individual male and female flowers, and are surrounded by thick, woody bracts. The mature egg-shaped fruit are around three centimetres long, orange and fibrous. Like a coconut, the seed has a hollow cavity with a soft, white, edible endosperm (5) (6).

Size
Hieght: up to 20 m (2)
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Carossier palm biology

Owing to the widespread loss of it natural habitat, very little is known about the natural history of A. crassispatha (5).

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Carossier palm range

Attalea crassipatha is restricted to the southwestern peninsula of Haiti on the island of Hispaniola in the Caribbean (1) (2) (3) (4). Its distribution is of particular interest to botanists as all other species of Attalea are confined to Central and South America (2) (3) (4).

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Carossier palm habitat

Occurs in degraded hilly areas, from sea level up to an altitude of 450 metres (3) (4) (5). Although its natural habitat is seasonally dry forest, much of the forest cover has been altered by grazing livestock, fire and farming. Fortunately, A. crassispatha does seem to be able to persist and reproduce in disturbed and highly modified habitats (5).

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Carossier palm status

Classified as Critically Endangered (CR) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Critically Endangered

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Carossier palm threats

The conversion of habitat for agriculture has had a severe impact on A. crassispatha, with slash and burn practices being especially unfavourable to natural regeneration (3) (4). In 1996, there were estimated to be less than 30 individuals remaining in the wild (1) (4) (5). Grazing by livestock on fruits and seedlings, and a reduction in the abundance of seed dispersal agents is now limiting its ability to recover. Furthermore, local people commonly harvest the immature seeds for food and cooking oil, and the durable and insect resistant trunks are occasionally used in construction (3) (4) (5). Given the small size of its population, A. crassispatha is also vulnerable to extreme natural events such as hurricanes (4) (5).

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Carossier palm conservation

Conservation efforts for A. crassispatha have largely concentrated on planting palms and collecting seeds from adult plants in the wild (4). Probably the largest collection of the species is maintained at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, Miami, Florida, USA. However, most of the palms in the collection are still too young to flower or fruit, and of the few reproductively mature plants, none have produced viable seed. As a result, further research is needed to determine the possible causes of reproductive failure (5). During the 1990s, numerous seedlings of A. crassispatha were also planted on the grounds of public buildings and private residences in Haiti in an effort to develop in-country ex-situ collections (4) (5). Unfortunately, an assessment of the status of these seedlings is long overdue.

In collaboration with Fauna and Flora International, a local NGO, the Fondation Botanique d'Haiti is undertaking a two-year project to investigate the distribution, ecology and conservation status of A. crassispatha. The project will conduct public awareness activities, propagate seedlings for out-planting, and carry out further surveys to determine the species’ full area of occupancy (5).

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Find out more

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Authentication

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:
arkive@wildscreen.org.uk

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Glossary

Endosperm
Tissue that provides nutrients to the developing embryo in flowering plants.
Inflorescences
The reproductive shoots of a plant, which bear groups or clusters of flowers.
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References

  1. IUCN Red List (March, 2010)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org/
  2. Henderson, A. and Balick, M. J. (1991) Attalea crassispatha, a rare and endemic Haitian palm. Brittonia, 43: 189-194.
  3. Johnson, D. (1996) Palms: Their Conservation and Sustained Utilization. IUCN/SSC Palm Specialist Group, IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK.
  4. Global Trees Campaign (March, 2010)
    http://www.globaltrees.org/tp_carossier.htm
  5. IUCN Palm Specialist Group (March, 2010)
    http://www.iucn.org/about/work/programmes/species/about_ssc/specialist_groups/directory_specialist_groups/directory_sg_plants/palm_sg
  6. Marshall Cavendish Corporation. (2001) Endangered Wildlife and Plants of the World. Marshall Cavendish Corporation, New York.
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Image credit

Cultivated carossier palms  
Cultivated carossier palms

© Ken Bergman

Ken Bergman
Professor of Biology
Keene State College
Keene
New Hampshire
United States of America
kbergman@keene.edu
http://www.flickr.com/photos/8561740@N08/

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