Livistona nitida

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Livistona (lih-vis-TOH-nah)
nitida (nih-tih'-dah)
alm shadow, Carnarvon National Park, QLD., Australia. (Sep. 1979) Photo by Paul Meir
Scientific Classification
Genus: Livistona (lih-vis-TOH-nah)
nitida (nih-tih'-dah)
Livistona sp. 'Carnarvon Gorge'
Native Continent
Habit: Solitary
Leaf type: Costapalmate
Survivability index
Common names
Carnarvon Palm, Carnarvon Gorge Cabbage Palm, Dawson River Fan-Palm.

Habitat and Distribution

Australia. Queensland. In the catchments of the Dawson, Comet and Burnett Rivers, and Carnarvon Gorge. Abundant along the margins of streams and flood plains, but also associated with sandstone cliffs and gorges, 100-650 m alt. (Dowe, J.L.)/Palmweb.

Carnarvon National Park, QLD., Australia. (Sep. 1979) Photo by Paul Meir

"Carnarvon National Park in central Queensland, Australia. It is common in the Carnarvon and nearby Isla Gorges where it grows along stream banks and on rocky escarpments. eucalyptus forest areas at an elevation of about 3300 feet."


"A tall solitary fan palm to 30m (100ft), with bright green, deeply divided leaves, with long, drooping leaf tips, up to 4.5m (18ft) long, and which form an open crown. It has numerous glossy black fruits that are about 2cm (0.8in) in diameter."

Functionally dioecious palm. Trunk to 35 m tall, 25-40 cm in diameter breast high, leaf scars raised; internodes narrow, grey; petiole stubs persistent in the basal 1 m or so, otherwise deciduous. Leaves 35-50 in a globose crown; petiole 170- 200 cm long, 20-26 mm wide, adaxially ridged, margins distally smooth, proximally with single, curved, dark red spines; leaf-base fibres moderately prominent, coarse, disintegrating; lamina costapalmate, regularly segmented, ± circular in outline, 160-190 cm long, coriaceous, adaxially dark green, glossy, abaxially lighter green; lamina divided for 63-70% of its length, with 68-80 segments, depth of apical cleft 60-73% of the segment length, apical lobes pendulous; parallel veins about 7 each side of midrib; transverse veins thinner than parallel veins. Inflorescences unbranched at the base, not sexually dimorphic, 150-200 cm long, not extending beyond the limit of the crown, branched to 4 orders; partial inflorescences 8-12; peduncular bract(s) lacking; rachis bracts loosely sheathing, densely scaly; rachillae 5-20 cm long, glabrous to papillose. Flowers solitary or in clusters of 2-5, funnel-shaped, 2-3.2 mm long, cream to yellow; sepals triangular, about 1.5 mm long, fleshy, subacute; petals broadly ovate, 2.0-2.2 mm long, thick, fleshy, acute; stamens about 1.6 mm long. Fruit globose, 13-20 mm in diam., glossy jet black; epicarp with scattered lenticellular pores, suture line extends for about ½ the length of the fruit, marked with lip-like structures; mesocarp fibrous, dry; endocarp thin, brittle; pedicel to 0.5 mm long. Seed globose, 10-12 mm wide. Eophyll 5-ribbed. (Dowe, J.L.)/Palmweb. Editimg by edric.

Livistona nitida was described by Rodd (1998) based on Rodd 3055 collected from Delusion Ck near Cracow, Queensland, and named for its highly glossy jet black fruits. The taxon had previously been informally known as the "Carnarvon Gorge Fan Palm" and "Livistona sp. Carnarvon" (Irvine, 1984; Jones, 1996). An early account was provided by Leichhardt (1847) during his transcontinental expedition of 1845, when near the Dawson R., Queensland, he wrote in his diary: "...a creek with Corypha palms, growing to a height of 25 or 30 feet" and "several rocky gullies were passed, that were full of palm trees. The valley of Palm-tree Creek extends about nineteen miles from west to east" and "the Corypha-palm provided a good supply of cabbage". Livistona nitida is a large canopy palm to 35 m tall; leaves are large and regularly segmented; segment apices are pendulous, and with a bifurcate cleft to 73% of the segment length; the inflorescence is unbranched, not extending beyond the limit of the crown, and with up to 12 partial inflorescences; bracts are loosely sheathing; flowers are cream to yellow; fruit are globose to 20 mm in diam., and glossy jet black at maturity. (Dowe, J.L.)/Palmweb.


"L. nitida has done very well in Augusta, GA. Grows much faster with ample water, but does fine without it. Two winters in a row, it was covered in snow for several days. There was some leaf damage, but the palm grew like crazy the following Spring with no spear pull. Lows that it has endured are in the low 20's. The palm is 12' tall after six years from a 5-gal. container." (J. Levert)

Cold Hardiness Zone: 8a+

Comments and Curiosities

Phenology: Flowers Sep-Dec; fruits Nov-Mar.

Conservation: Lower risk, conservation dependent. (Dowe, J.L.)/Palmweb.

Fastest growing of the Livistona, as well as the most cold hardy.

"Have a lot of experience with this exceptionally hardy Livistona species, only it's not that unique looking - in fact as a seedling up to a young adult, it can look a lot like a Washingtonia. Is one of the fastest growing Livistona species, and as adult, looks similar to Livistona australis- droopy, somewhat wide, deeply split fan leaves. As seedling, though, leaves fairly stiff and like a small Washingtonia, only with a slightly more costapalmate look (division down the middle where the leaflets divide from). Hard to kill this palm off- likes water, but if doesn't get any, doesn' care. Very cold hardy." (Geoff Stein)

"About 14 yrs ago I obtained some Livistona nitida seed. I had seen seedlings surviving under canopy in the Canberra Botanic gardens. A self-addressed envelope to the ranger at Isla Gorge National Park soon provided a packet of seed - all of which germnated. Shortly after we built a new house on a bare 1/4 acre block. Growth rates varied remarkably. The biggest is now about 4 metres with a well formed trunk. Others which are beyond the irrigation zone or met stiff competition are still barely ankle high. Noteworthy is their tolerance of frost and potentially speedy growth in our harsh climate. We get down to -8°C in Canberra and even seedlings will survive in the open. Growth rates are also much better in the open. They do better in this climate than L. australis , although the latter is still quite frost tolerant. L. nitida does not like to be transplanted but will eventually come good. Be prepared for all the leaves to die back. (I suspect they are adapted to drier climates than L. australis and have a spreading root system). (Ian Knight)

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).

Dowe, J.L., A taxonomic account of Livistona R.Br. (Arecaceae). A taxonomic account of Livistona R.Br. (Arecaceae).

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

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