Beccariophoenix alfredii

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alfredii (ahl-fred'-ee)
Madagascar. Photo by Dr. Mijoro Rakotoarinivo/Palmweb.
Scientific Classification
Genus: Beccariophoenix
alfredii (ahl-fred'-ee)
None set.
Native Continent
Habit: solitary
Leaf type: pinnate
Height: 10 - 15 meters
Trunk diameter: 28-30 centimeters
Sun exposure: Full sun
Watering: moderate/humid
Soil type: tolerant
Survivability index
Common names
High Plateau Coconut Palm.

Habitat and distribution

Beccariophoenix alfredii occurs in the High Plateau of Madagascar at approximately 20 degrees south. The palm is found at an elevation of 1,050 meters (3,440 feet) growing along the sandy riverbeds. The surrounding vegetation is mainly composed of various grasses, and the area sees occasional fires. Due to the environment that B. alfredii is subjected to, it is hardy against frost and cold, fire, drought, full sun, and possibly hurricanes.

Davie, FL. Pete Balasky's place. Photo by Mike Evans.

Endemic to Madagascar. At the moment, the only scientifically proven and recorded locality for B. alfredii is Manalazina. This population is limited to the west by the Mania River. Individuals become abruptly very rare as soon as one approaches the Mania, the river into which the tributary lined with Beccariophoenix flows. Fewer than twenty individuals of B. alfredii grow on the banks of the Mania, possibly because of its depth, which is unfavorable to the dispersal and establishment of seedlings. As we climbed up another mountain chain in the hope of finding other populations in further localities, we saw not one palm on the horizon. Because of the extremely difficult access and the time we had already taken to reach Manalazina, we were unable to conduct further searches for the palm. Meanwhile, we are optimistic concerning the existence of more populations further away in the region. Justin Moat, GIS specialist at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, using satellite imagery, has looked for habitats similar to that at Manalazina. After analysing the very distinctive spectrum and relief seen in the satellite images at the exact coordinates of Manalazina, Justin was able to search for similar spectra and relief elsewhere in this part of the plateau. He found similar habitats but much further away from Manalazina. Other populations of B. alfred;i surely exist in the area - during our visit, we did not have the time to revisit Vilanitelo where the palms was first seen by Alfred's collectors, nor Marovato, the site of the large population mentioned by Alfred. (M. Rakotoarinivo, T. Ranarivelo and J. Dransfield. 2007)/Palmweb.


Beccariophoenix alfredii, also known as the High Plateau Coconut Palm, is a recently discovered species of Arecaceae (palms), endemic to Madagascar. It is in the genus Beccariophoenix, and is closely related to the genus Cocos. Beccariophoenix alfredii is very similar in appearance to the coconut palm, although somewhat cold hardy, making it a good look-alike for the coconut in cooler climates. They are hardy down to about 25°F (-3°C) when young, and likely colder when more mature. Editing by edic.


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Due to its overall hardiness, B. alfredii is a good candidate for cultivation in central and southern Florida, California and also locations such as Sydney Australia, Southern Spain, Portugal and Northern New Zealand. It is best grown in sandy loam soils, but is suitable to many other soil types. Besides B. alfredii, there are 2 other species of Beccariophoenix: B. madagascariensis, and Beccariophoenix sp. Windows. Beccariophoenix sp. Windows was known for its moderate growth speed, high nutrient requirements and cold sensitivity. Beccariophoenix madagascariensis was known for its cold hardiness and lack of nutritional problems, but had about one-fourth the growth rate of Beccariophoenix sp. Windows. Both species look remarkably similar to the coconut palm when mature, but with a much broader trunk. Beccariophoenix alfredii seems to combine the good characteristics of both, with the growth rate of Beccariophoenix sp. Windows and the cold hardiness and lack of nutritional problems of B. madagascariensis, but B. alfredii has a slimmer trunk, more like that of the coconut palm. All species appear resistant to lethal yellowing, so may be suitable for areas that have a high instance of the disease. Although relatively new to cultivation, B. alfredii is already becoming popular to palm collectors, and is being called the California Coconut of the future. It can be expected that after it is less new to cultivation, it may become extremely popular worldwide due to its coconut look-alike status, good growth rate, and cold hardiness. Although the trunk normally grows straight, it may develop a curve similar to that of the coconut palm if planted on its side when a few years old.

Comments and Curiosities

Beccariophoenix alfredii exhibits some window panes in the fronds as a juvenile, although not as many as the window pane version of Beccariophoenix. As a seedling, Beccariophoenix alfredii takes quite a long time to go from monofid leaves to bifid leaves, to bifid leaves with minimal windows to fully pinnate leaves, which is quite different than the "no windows" Beccariophoenix madagascariensis, which undergoes these changes relatively quickly. Therefore, although seedlings of Beccariophoenix alfredii exhibit some similarities to Beccariophoenix madagascariensis, it is quite distinct. Due to the recent discovery of Beccariophoenix alfredii, growth speeds aren't entirely known, but a few things can be gathered from the time it has been known. In tropical and subtropical climates, such as Hawaii or Florida, Beccariophoenix alfredii may be the fastest of the 3 species, but for Mediterranean climates, Beccariophoenix seems to only be marginally faster in growth than the "no windows" Beccariophoenix madagascariensis. These are just educated guesses however, and more time needs to be permitted to allow proper scrutinization on growth rate. Another curiosity is development of "twins" within a single seed. Both seeds can germinate, resulting in a double germinated seed. So far, this appears to be relatively common, but it isn't known whether or not the trait can be inherited.

Windows in Juvenile palms: The photos below, are showing 'windows' in alfredii seedlings. These will be watched as new leaves are produced.

"I can't say enough about this palm, it is absolutely wonderful! This will definitely be the coconut palm of the future for areas too cold to grow the real deal. As young plants, they are hardy to about 25 F but, as with most palms, they will likely gain more hardiness with age. They are as cold hardy as Beccariophoenix madagascariensis, but can grow faster than Beccariophoenix sp. windows given the correct culture. They also aren't plagued by the nutritional deficiencies like B. sp. windows. They are from the High Plateau in Madagascar, where they make up the majority of plant life, so they enjoy full sun. They will grow in shade, but will slow down considerably, so full sun is recommended. They grow along the water where they are from, so it is probably beneficial to provide them with lots of water during the growing months. They like sandy soil that most Floridians have, as that's what they grow in in their environment, but they will tolerate other soil conditions, such as those in California. Central and South Florida are probably the perfect places to grow them, as our conditions closely mimic those in it's habitat, but there has been success with them in Southern and Central California and in parts of Northern California as well. They are very new to cultivation, so no trunking individuals yet, but after they have been around for a while, they might become more common due to their good looks and tolerance of growing conditions. One last note, B. madagascariensis and B. sp. windows are quite thick trunked when adults, but B. alfredii is much slimmer, which makes it even more like a coconut. If planted on it's side when it begins to trunk, it will take on a curve, and be even more coconutty, so people will have a very hard time telling the difference! I recommend this palm to anyone in a 9b or warmer area, but it couldn't hurt to try out in a 9a! Protection on the chilly days might be able to make it survive, and you'll be the envy on the block by being the only one with a "coconut" in your area!" (Keith Zimmerman)

External links


Phonetic spelling of Latin names by edric.

Special thanks to Geoff Stein, (Palmbob) for his hundreds of photos.

Special thanks to, Dr. John Dransfield, Dr. Bill Baker & team, for their volumes of information and photos.

Glossary of Palm Terms; Based on the glossary in Dransfield, J., N.W. Uhl, C.B. Asmussen-Lange, W.J. Baker, M.M. Harley & C.E. Lewis. 2008. Genera Palmarum - Evolution and Classification of the Palms. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. All images copyright of the artists and photographers (see images for credits).

Rakotoarinivo, M. , Ranarivelo, T. & Dransfield, J. 2007. A new species of Beccariophenix from the High Plateau of Madagascar. Palms 51(2) 63-75.

Many Special Thanks to Ed Vaile for his long hours of tireless editing and numerous contributions.

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