|Wodyetia (woo-dye-EH-shuh) bifurcata (by-foor-KAH-tuh)|
Pana'ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Hilo, Hawaii.
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Habitat and Distribution
The foxtail palm is endemic to a remote area in Queensland, Australia on the Cape York Peninsula where they grow in rocky and flooded scrubland. Usually found in sandy, acidic soils, they grow from sea level to 400 m in elevation.
Queensland, Australia, N.E. Queensland, confined to the southwest, south and southeast sides of Melville Range, latitude 14˚ 17' S, longitude 144˚ 28' E.
Biology And Ecology: Wodyetia occurs in open woodland communities consisting of rain forest elements in coarse, loose granite sand, among huge granite boulders, with the main canopy being the palms themselves. Other tree species associated with it are low forms of Ficus obliqua, F. benjamina (semi-creeping), Buchanania arborescens, Polyalthia nitidissima, Myristica insipida, Diospyros reticulata var. ferrea, Cryptocarya bidwilli, and vines Capparis sp., Cissus sp. It extends 1-2 km, downstream, along open forest creeks at the foot of the granite boulder hills. Here it may be found amongst Eucalyptus polycarpa, E. drepanophylla, Cochlospermum gillvrayei and Bombax ceiba forest. It appears to be absent from dense closed forest communities in the area. In these communities the palm Archontophoenix alexandrae is a prolific upper canopy species. Altitude range is 60-400 m a.s.l. Climatic conditions have a strong seasonally dry component, with drought stress likely to be significant for six months of the year. Annual rainfall is reckoned to be about 1400-1600 mm, confined mainly to 3-4 months of the year, DecemberMarch (Summer Wet). Mature fruit is present in October-December, open flowers are likely to be found in DecemberFebruary. Seed germinates in 2-3 months, coinciding with the wet season, but sporadic germination continues for at least 14 months. (Irvine, A. 1983)
Stem light grey, slightly bottle-shaped, 6-15 m tall, 20-25 cm in diam. Leaves 6-10 in the crown, 2.6-3.2 m long; petiole and rachis greenish, adaxially with greyish white, mostly brownish lacerate-peltate scales, abaxially mostly with fringed scales, chaf-like ramenta and some lacerate-peltate scales; young leaves densely covered with scales; leaf sheath tubular, 80-120 cm long, light green with greyish white bloom; petiole 29-42 cm long, 5.0-5.6 cm wide, 2.5-3.5 cm deep, adaxially f1attish distally, slightly concave proximally, abaxially convex, primary pinnae regularly arranged, 90-107, in patterns each side of rachis such as 50/49,53/54,44/ 46, 50-1 terminal-48, mostly divided into numerous secondary segments, parallel to long axis of the pinnae; segments in 2 leaves from different collections numbered 765 and 950, arranged in patterns of 387-1-377 and 480-470 each side of rachis; proximal 1-4 primary pinnae sometimes entire or divided into 1-4 segments; number of segments increasing towards mid-rachis, the primary pinnae nos. 18-24, divided into 11-17 segments, primary pinnae 25-30 divided into 14-11 segments, segments reduced distally with near-terminal pinnae having 31 divisions; lamina glossy light green above, paler flat green with faint whitish sheen below; larger pinnae 45-70 cm long, 2.0-4.8 cm wide (midpart); terminal pinnae 12-24 cm long, 2.4-4.0 cm wide at apex, single or paired, slightly cuneate. Inflorescence 75-112 cm long, with 4 orders of branching, 26-31 main laterals plus terminal; rachis light green, scales not conspicuous, but small scattered clusters of flat brown scales occur around bases of buds; peduncle 8-13 cm long, 4.0-4.5 cm wide, 2.0-2.5 cm deep, with 5-6 caducous bracts subtending the first lateral; prophyll about 60 cm long immediately prior to splitting, peduncular bract 1 about 58 cm long, peduncular bract 2, 1.4 cm long, 3.5 cm wide at base, 1.1 cm wide at shoulder, with short acute apex 2 mm long; other peduncular bracts very small, 1-3 mm long, 3.0-3.2 cm wide; rameal bracts extremely small, either acute or wrinkled wavy tissue. Staminate buds 11 mm long at two-thirds maturity, sepals 56 x 3-4 mm; petals cream-green, 9.810 x 5 mm; anthers 5.5-6.0 mm long; pistillode lageniform, 8 mm long, base rugose, stylode 5 mm long. Pistillate buds, with sepals 5-6 x 3-4 mm in Y3-Y2 mature buds; staminodes 6, small, deltoid with very short filaments at base of pistil; stigmas 3 virtually sessile, apices slightly rounded. Infructescence (mature fruit stage) 75-115 cm long, peduncle 8-13 cm long, 4.8-6.6 cm wide, 2.5-3.0 cm deep, light green. Fruit 49-57 x 27-37 mm, excluding calyx but including remnant stigma, 8-10 mm long (which merges gradually into body of fruit), 60-65 mm long with calyx; mesocarp, 2.5-3.0 mm thick. Seed terete, about 32 X 22 mm, embryo 5 mm long at maturity. Eophyll simple bilobed, light glossy green above, pale flat green below, apices oblique truncate- acute. Seedlings 40-60 cm tall, with simple and pinnate leaves, primary pinnae undivided, arranged in patterns of 2/2, 3/2, 3/3 each side of rachis; larger simple bilobed leaflets 17 cm long, lobes 2.12.2 cm wide (midlobe), 3.2 cm wide through base of V, apices oblique praemorse; pinnate leaves 36-44 cm long, terminal pinnae 12.5-13.5 X 2.2-2.4 cm (midlobe), apices oblique praemorse; lateral pinnae about 14.0 X 1.7 cm (midpart), apices aristate and/or oblique praemorse; proximal pinnae 11.5-15.7 X 1.1-2.3 cm, apices aristate; pinnae glossy light green above, flat pale green with faint white sheen below. Seedlings around 1 m tall, with most primary pinnae each divided into 3 cuneate secondary pinnae, apices praemorse or obliquely praemorse, with distal edge extended into a point 1-2 cm beyond apex; leaves 71-80 cm long, petiole 18-21 cm long, roundish in cross section, with a thin longitudinal groove adaxially, green with slight grey bloom and widely scattered grey-brown scales, which are dense on young leaves; primary pinnae arranged in patterns of 9/9 each side of rachis; proximal pinnae nos. 1-3 divided into 1-3 segments, mid primary pinnae each divided into 3 segments, distal pinnae reduced to 1, terminal pinnae paired; larger secondary pinnae 10.0-11.5 X 5.0-5.7 cm (midpart), 8.3-8.5 cm wide across apex. Seedlings around 2.5 m tall, with most primary pinnae each divided into around 8 cuneate segments; leaves 1.7-1.75 m long, petiole 40-50 X 1.61.7 cm, 1.4-1.5 cm deep, flattish, adaxially slightly channeled, abaxially convex, white bloom on both surfaces, with greybrown scales denser abaxially; primary pinnae in patterns each side of rachis, 251- 26 and 26-1-26 (terminal pinna single), hence 52 and 53 primary pinnae in all; proximal primary pinnae nos. 1-3 each divided into 1-7 segments, mid primary pinnae each divided into 7-8 segments, distal primary pinnae divided into 3-1 segments; larger segments 21-22 X 2.23.0 cm wide (midpart). (Irvine, A. 1983) Editing by edric.
Key Characters of Wodyetia bifurcata Irvine: Stem slightly bottle shaped, primary pinnae regularly arranged, divided into as many as 11-17 segments. Margins of segments ribbed. Stamens 60-71, filaments and stylodes lacking scales. Mature fruit orange-red, ovoid-globose, 49-57 mm long, 27-37 mm wide, excluding calyx, but including remnant stigma 8-10 mm long. Mesocarp flesh orange-yellow when ripe. Outer endocarp with strongly forking, flattened, tough black fibers. Seed terete, around 32 mm long, 22 mm wide. Seed "shell" covered with wavy, slightly depressed, longitudinally tending fibrous lines, some forking. Endosperm homogeneous. (Irvine, A. 1983).
Wodyetyias have proven highly adaptable, and are grown in suitable climates all over the world, in places as varied as Miami, Los Angeles, Bermuda, Durban, Honolulu, Sydney, Auckland, Cape Town and Corsica.
SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA In Southern California, Wodyetias are best started in the ground from relatively large plants, the bigger the better. Little baby plants will survive, but often disappoint. Full sun is best, plus well-drained soil. No ph issues known. Once established will grow fast, though not as fast as in more humid climates.
Comments and Curiosities
Wodyetia is a monotypic genus of palm tree named for 'Wodyeti', the Australian aborigine who introduced the plants to cultivators and the epithet for its only species bifurcata is Latin for 'twice-divided'. They are endangered in their natural habitat and collecting the seeds is prohibited.
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Phonetic spelling of Latin names by edric.
Special thanks to Geoff Stein, (Palmbob) for his hundreds of photos, edric.
Special thanks to palmweb.org, Dr. John Dransfield, Dr. Bill Baker & team, for their volumes of information and photos, edric.