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bifurcata is Latin for “twice divided,” in reference to the shape of both the fruit and the fish-tailed leaflets.
Distribution & Habitat:
It grows on exposed hill tops in sandy, granitic soils among enormous granite boulders on Cape Melville on Cape York, north Queensland. The climate is monsoonal, that is tropical with a prolonged dry season.
A tall (up to 10m tall with a grey trunk), solitary, very attractive palm with long (2-3m.) plumose leaves (hence the name 'Foxtail'). It produces large (about the size of a duck egg) orange fruit.
This spectacular palm was only discovered in the late 1970's and because of demand for seeds and it being endemic to only a very small area there developed a flourishing black market in its seed for several years. Even today, the Queensland Government still has the palm on its endangered species list, even tho there are now tens of thousands of the palms growing throughout the world, many of which are now fruiting.
In the early days of this palms commercial existance when seeds were still very valuable, there were several fruiting specimens in the Townsville Palmetum (it was one of the first places to get plants). When members of the Townsville branch of PACSOA saw the fruits ripening, they would spray paint them green, in an attempt to fool any would be thieves into thinking they were still unripe, and hence hopefully, leave them alone. This palm is very closely related to another north Queensland palm, Normanbya normanbyi]] , and it is expected that both will be put into the same genus when a revision is made of the two species.
Fast becoming one of the most popular landscaping palms in the tropics and sub-tropics. It is an extremely hardy palm, being able to take full sun from a very early age, drought tolerant, wind tolerant, and frost tolerant as well. Seed is very easy to germinate, taking 1-2 months if kept at about 30 ° C.
Michael Gray (Figure 1&2)
Daryl O'Connor (Figure 3&4)