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Distribution & Habitat:
These palms are only found a small area at around 650m altitude on Reunion Island, on the outskirts of the town of Tampon (not far from Hyophorbe indica). It has only been found on land owned by a Mr Roussel, hence the name.
A tall, solitary, palm to between 15 and 20 metres (50 - 65 feet) tall. 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 conspicuious crownshaft. The stem base splays out like an elephant"s foot, more obvious on the older plants.
It basically resembles A rubra except for some subtle differences, such as seed size, leaf style etc, and of course altitude. A rubra is typically lowland, A roussellii is transitional lowland/highland, A crinita is highland to 2000m altitude and is white in the crown not red or brown.
Likes a sunny, moist, but well drained position in the tropics/sub tropics. Seed needs to be very fresh to germinate, and the plants are very slow growing.
I took these pictures of Acanthophoenix rousselii a few years ago. This species of about fifty palms are greatly threatened, they survive in an agricultural area between 600 and 900 meters in the south of Reunion Island. About fifteen years ago, some palm accustomed eyes were first puzzled by the seeds size - around four times bigger than the two other iAcanthophoenix - and then by the abundance of the crown shaft.
A. rousselii seeds they have the same look as A. crinita or A. rubra but four times bigger, i.e same shape and this characteristic bump in front of the seed. Seedlings of A. rousselii look like A. rubra without this reddish color on the leaves and no tomentum under, with leaflets that is not the case of A. crinita which has big not divide leaves for the first sprouts.
Hery (Figure 1&2)