Physokentia thurstonii

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Physokentia (fy-soh-kehn-TEE-ah)
thurstonii (toors-TOHN-ee)
045.Physokentia thurstonii.JPG
Savusavu, Vanua Levu and Taveuni Islands, Fiji. Photo by Jim Valentine
Scientific Classification
Genus: Physokentia (fy-soh-kehn-TEE-ah)
thurstonii (toors-TOHN-ee)
None set.
Native Continent
Habit: Solitary
Leaf type: Pinnate
Survivability index
Common names
niu niu

Habitat and Distribution

Fiji, endemic to Taveuni and Vanua Levu.
Savusavu, Vanua Levu and Taveuni Islands, Fiji. Photo by Jim Valentine
In rain forest at 250-1000 m, but usually found in montane forests above 500 m. elev.


Trunk erect, to 7 m tall, 10 cm diam., green with prominent leaf scars, with brown stilt roots. Leaves pinnate, 8-10 in crown, spreading, forming an olive to dark-green crownshaft to 55 cm long with brown floccose scales; petiole to 40 cm long; pinnae 25-30 per side, 20-70 X 3-8 cm; margins decurved; minor ribs visible below. Inflorescence infrafoliar, to 50 cm long, branched to two orders; rachillae stiff, white in flower becoming green in fruit; triads spirally arranged on rachillae, on the proximal half only of rachillae; staminate flowers to 6 mm high, pinkish white in color; stamens 6; pistillode angled; pistillate flowers 4.5 mm high, with narrow membranous bracteoles. Fruit subglobose, to 2.5 cm long, 2.1 cm diam., black at maturity, with apical stigmatic remains; endocarp with four sharp ridges, two lateral and an upper and lower keel. Seed similar to fruit in shape (subglobose), to 1.7 X 1.3 cm, with thick ra-phe branches radiating from the upper keel. Eophyll unknown. (D. Fuller. 1999)/Palmweb. Editing by edric.


"This palm is not known in cultivation but may do well in subtropical to temperate regions that do not experience frost. It will also require a lot of water and filtered light."(Jim Valentine) Cold Hardiness Zone: 10b

Comments and Curiosities

Etymology: Named after Sir John Thurston, who collected the type specimen (consisting only of fruits). Thurston was Colonial Secretary and Governor of Fiji in the 1880s, and Thurston Gardens in Suva is named after him. (D. Fuller. 1999)/Palmweb.

Phenology: Known to fruit and flower April-May.

Uses: The leaves are reportedly used in "a decoction to treat heart trouble" (Cambie & Ash, 1994). (D. Fuller. 1999)/Palmweb.

Conservation: A proper assessment of the numbers of P. thurstonii in the wild needs to be undertaken, but on the basis of collection records and current threats presented by commercial logging in associated habitats, this taxon should also be considered rare. Dick Phillips (pers. comm.) has had no success cultivating this species in Fiji, and I have no information regarding cultivation of P. thurstonii outside of Fiji. (D. Fuller. 1999)/Palmweb.

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).

D. Fuller, The lost palm of Fiji – a resolution of Goniocladus and a preliminary cladistic analysis of Physokentia. 1999. 1999. The lost palm of Fiji – a resolution of Goniocladus and a preliminary cladistic analysis of Physokentia. Pages 203-213 in Andrew Henderson and Finn Borchsenius (eds.). Evolution, variation and classification of palms. Memoirs of The New York Botanical Garden. Vol 83.

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

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