Thatch palm (Coccothrinax inaguensis)

KingdomPlantae
PhylumTracheophyta
ClassLiliopsida
OrderArecales
FamilyPalmae
GenusCoccothrinax (1)
SizeHeight: up to 6 m (2)

The thatch palm is classified as Data Deficient (DD) on the IUCN Red List (1).

The thatch palm (Coccothrinax inaguensis) is a relatively rare coastal species which is restricted to just a few islands in the Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos. It has a slender, smooth grey trunk and bears palmate leaves on long slim stems. (2) (3). The leaves are generally very stiff, with umbrella-shaped leaf blades which are shiny green above and silvery below (2) (4). A two-layered leaf sheath is closely woven with fine fibrous strands, forming an extension above the petiole (the small leaf stalk that joins the leaf to the stem) (2) (4).

The inflorescence of the thatch palm hangs down in clusters from the leaf sheath, curving down below the leaves (2) (3) (4). The outer petals and specialised leaves of the flower are yellow or straw-coloured, and the ovaries are yellowish-green (2). The small, round, berry-like fruits are borne on small stalks, and are red, purplish or blackish when ripe (2) (3) (4).

The thatch palm is native to the Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands (1). It may possibly also be present on Cuba (4) (5).

The thatch palm is a relatively rare species that is primarily found in coastal areas with sandy or limestone soils (1) (2) (3). It is often found in areas of palm-shrub or dense coppice, and may occasionally be found in rocky coastal thickets (2).

There is very little information available on the biology of the thatch palm. The flowers are known to be bisexual, with male and female reproductive structures on the same flower, and are wind pollinated (6). The fruits of the thatch palm are thought to be particularly attractive to certain bird species within the thrush family (Turdidae) (3).

The thatch palm is becoming an increasingly threatened species as it grows almost exclusively in coastal areas that are also prime development locations. It is also relatively difficult to transplant this species, and although it is possible to grow from seed, the thatch palm is extremely slow-growing and takes a long time to regenerate (3).

As the thatch palm is a relatively understudied species, it requires taxonomic research and ecological studies on its conservation status, regeneration rates, timing of flowering and fruiting, reproductive biology, dispersal, and response to deforestation and other potential threats (5). This species should be given high priority for more detailed fieldwork and subsequent conservation assessment (7).

Find out more about palms:

Find out more about conservation in the Turks and Caicos Islands and other UK Overseas Territories:

Find out more about plant conservation:

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

  1. IUCN Red List (February, 2011)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org/
  2. Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden - Coccothrinax inauguensis (February, 2011)
    http://palmguide.org/vh.php?family=ARECACEAE&genus=Coccothrinax
  3. Turks and Caicos Sporting Club - Inagua silver palm (Coccothrinax inauguensis) (February, 2011)
    http://www.tcsportingclub.com/adventures/field_guide/plants/inagua_silver_palm/
  4. Henderson, A., Galeano, G. and Bernal, R. (1997) Field Guide to the Palms of the Americas. The University Press Group Ltd, New Jersey.
  5. Johnson, D. (1996) Palms: Their Conservation and Sustained Utilization. Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan. IUCN/SSC Palm Specialist Group, IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK.
  6. Flora of North America - Coccothrinax (February, 2011)
    http://www.efloras.org/florataxon.aspx?flora_id=1&taxon_id=107474
  7. Zona, S., Verdecia, R., Sánchez, A.L., Lewis, C.E. and Maunder, M. (2007) The conservation status of West Indian palms (Arecaceae). Oryx, 41: 300-305.