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This small palm was described in 2006 by Carlo Morici and Raùl Verdecia. Its specific epithet refers to the torrid environment in which the palm lives, which is one of the hottest and driest areas of the Caribbean basin. The description has been accepted in Brittonia, the journal of the New York Botanical Garden, and will be published in June 2006 in issue 2/2006.
Distribution & Habitat:
Coccothrinax torrida is native to Cuba, where it occurs only on one isolated karst limestone mountain, located on South-eastern coast of the Guantánamo province. The climate is semidesertic, with 9 to 10 dry months. Records for a close by area report 28° C annual average temperature and 412 mm of rainfall. It is restricted to the steep limestone cliffs that are virtually soil-less. The vegetation surrounding the palm is a xeromorphic open scrub, rich in low spiny shrubs, succulents and lianas. According to IUCN categories, the new taxon is vulnerable. The habitat shows little sign of alteration, but population size is small, the species is known from only one location, and the area of occupancy is very restricted.
Coccothrinax torrida is one of the smallest species in the genus in terms of trunk and leaf size. The leaves are semi-orbicular, with a wedge-shaped outline and have an uneven coating of white wax on the upper surface. The palman (the undivided part of a palmate leaf between the petiole and segments of the blade, of particular pertinence to leaves of fan palms) is characteristic in being small, and brightly colored, with thick yellow ribs on the adaxial side, ending in a thicker sinus with a brown scar. The palman is also irregular, as the central two segments are often more deeply divided than the others. The fibre sheaths and inflorescences are similar to C. pauciramosa, which we consider the most closely related species. The inflorescences are long, emergent and little-branched. They change colour as fruits and flowers mature (yellow-green-white). The flowers are creamy-white and scented at anthesis. The fruits are small, with smooth, creamy-white epicarps. The seeds are small and have few grooves.
Little is known on its culture. Seeds germinated in 5-6 months and produced four leaves in their first year. The habitat suggest warm-subtropical to tropical conditions, a highly draining substrate and full sun since an early age. It is probably slow and surely suited to hot, coastal conditions.
Carlo Morici (Text and Figure 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9&10)