Pemba palm (Dypsis pembana)

Immature Pemba palm
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Pemba palm fact file

Pemba palm description

GenusDypsis (1)

This attractive medium sized palm is only found on the tiny island of Pemba off the east coast of Africa (1) (3) (4). The smooth, slender trunks of the Pemba palm are strongly ringed, and are usually clustered in clumps but may also grow singularly. The elegant, feathering leaves are dark green, with close, evenly arranged leaflets (2) (4). The fruit are just over one centimetre in length and are dark red at maturity (4) (5) (6).

Height: up to 12 m (2)

Pemba palm biology

The Pemba palm is a fast growing species that favours sunny, moist environments (2) (4).


Pemba palm range

Endemic to the island of Pemba, 50 kilometres off the coast of Tanzania in Eastern Africa (1) (3) (4). It occurs in only two localities on the island: Ngezi Forest and Msitu Msenu forest, 80 kilometres east of Ngezi (1).


Pemba palm habitat

The Pemba palm occurs in moist, coastal forests (1).


Pemba palm status

Classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Vulnerable


Pemba palm threats

Owing to a relatively large human population, there is considerable pressure on natural resources on the island of Pemba, and a large proportion of the island’s forest has been destroyed or severely degraded (3). The primary threats to the remaining forest include fires, logging and exploitation, agricultural conversion, the spread of the invasive plant Maesopsis eminii, and the expansion of tourist infrastructure. The Pemba palm has a small population, estimated at less than 3,000 individuals, comprising one main subpopulation occurring within the Ngezi Nature Reserve and two other smaller subpopulations (1) (3). The highly restricted range and small size of the Pemba palm’s population means that the species is vulnerable to even relatively small impacts.


Pemba palm conservation

The Global Trees Campaign is involved in a project that began in early 2009 with the central aim of conserving the Pemba palm. As so little is known about this species, one of the main priorities it to conduct further surveys and research, which will be used to inform future conservation management plans. The management of fires, the removal of Maesopsis eminii, and awareness raising amongst the local community are also seen as being especially important measures. In addition, plans are in place to develop tree nurseries, which will provide Pemba palm seedlings to reinforce the wild population, whilst also giving local people the opportunity to grow fruit and timber trees in order to reduce the pressure on wild resources (3).


Find out more

To find out more about the conservation of the Pemba palm, visit:



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A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.


  1. IUCN Red List (February, 2010)
  2. Palm and Cycad Societies of Australia (PACSOA) (February, 2010)
  3. The Global Trees Campaign (February, 2010)
  4. Ellison, D. and Ellison, A. (2001) Cultivated Palms of the World. UNSW Press, Sydney.
  5. Dransfield, J. (1986) Palmae. In: Polhill, R.M. (Ed) Flora of Tropical East Africa. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew..
  6. Essig, F.B. (2008) A systematic histological study of palm fruits. VIII. Subtribe Dypsidinae (Arecaceae). Brittonia, 60(1): 82-92.

Image credit

Immature Pemba palm  
Immature Pemba palm

© David Stang /

David Stang


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