Acanthophoenix rubra

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Figure 1. A. rubra


Conservation Status:

[[www.iucnredlist.orgappsredlistdetails381810" Critically endangered due to habitat loss, and harvesting of plants for food (the locals eat the palm hearts like cabbage).

Common Names:

Red palm,
Palmiste rouge,
Barbel palm

Distribution & Habitat:

Acanthophoenix rubra is indigenous to lowland rainforest on the islands of Reunion and Mauritius.


A tall, solitary, palm to between 15 and 20 metres (50 - 65 feet) tall. Young plants have spines on the trunk. It has pinnate leaves to about 3 metres (9 feet) long, with the rhachis covered in strong black spines, to 2-3 cm, (1 inch) long, and a spiny crownshaft. The petiole is bright red, as is the trunk on young plants. This fades to dark brown as the plant matures. The stem base splays out like an elephant"s foot, more obvious on the older plants.


Figure 1 was photographed in the Royal Botanic Gardens, Pamplemousses, Mauritius. Of all the palm-lined pathways in this historic gardens the avenues of Acanthophoenix are the most colourful and graceful. The A. crinita in the Jardin Botanique de Curepipe, Mauritius, appear more robust and less colourful than the A. rubra. In 1804 this species was placed in the genus Areca and by another author described as a Calamus.


A five year old specimen in the ground at Bardon, Brisbane, is slow growing but healthy, unmarked by cold or winds and is just starting to show the distinctive colouring in the leaf-bases.

Figure 2. A. rubra in habitat.

Contributed by:

David Tanswell (from Palms & Cycads No. 49, Oct-Dec 1995) (Figure 1)
Hery (Figure 2)

External Links:

Kew, PalmWeb, IUCN, JSTOR, Trebrown

Google, Google Images, Flickr, PACSOA Forums, PalmTalk