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The Leaf

Lodoicea maldivica Pers. ex Wendl. ((Botanical Garden in Victoria, Seychelles Islands. Photo W. Randone)


The leaves of tree palms arise from a closely packed whorl at the top of the stem forming an apical crown; those of shrub and climbing palms are alternately arranged along the stem. Their size may vary from a few decimetres in Chamaedorea to 8-10 m in Roystonea, up to 19-22 m in Raphia taedigera. Their conspicuous growth entails remarkable stem suppleness and root strength, mainly to resist wind gusts.

The leaves consist of a stout, woody, at times spine-like petiole, known as rachis, whose base envelops the stem, in some cases forming (e.g. in Archontophoenix) a tubular pillar known as crownshaft, then of a lamina, at first entire, then split into rigid and parallel-ribbed segments known as pinnae.