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Sub tropical to tropical.
Distribution & Habitat:
Rainforests of central eastern Australian coast. East coast of Australia from Durras Mountain in southern New South Wales [35° 10'S] to Eungella Range near Mackay [21° 05'S] in Central Queensland. Confined to rainforest or other moist forest from sea-level to 1000 m altitude.
This is a very similar palm to Archontophoenix alexandrae in both appearance and size (it gets to about 25 metres (80 feet) tall with a spread of about 2 - 2.5 metres (10 - 15 feet)).
The leaves, which have paler stalks, are bright green above and below, although there can also be brown scales underneath. They are much heavier looking than A. alexandrae, and consequently are more likely to be damaged by heavy winds. Thus they are often better suited to more sheltered areas, while A. alexandrae can take more exposed positions.
The base of the petioles form a greenish-yellow to brown crown-shaft that the leaves rarely droop below. The trunk is smooth and ringed with noticeable leaf scars, although thinner and with more widely spaced rings than A. alexandrae. It can get to about 1/3 metre (one foot) in diameter. Flowers are formed below the crown-shaft with the creamy flower stalks holding mauve flowers. The round green fruit, about 12 mm (1/2 inch) in diameter, turn bright red at maturity. There is often a noticeable bulge in the crown-shaft before the flowers emerge which gives the tree a "pregnant" look. Palm to 30 m tall, trunk to 30 cm in diameter, usually not greatly expanded at the base. The leaves are 4-4.5 m long and have the pinnae orientated in a vertical plane toward the leaf apex; the crown-shaft is dark green, red to purple; the pinnae tend to become lax with age due to the lack of strong secondary ribs. Pinnae are green beneath with ramenta to about 5 cm long on the midrib below. Inflorescence branches are white/cream; the rachillae pendulous. Flowers are lilac/purple. Staminate flowers have 9-18 stamens and the filaments are deflexed. Fruit is bright red at maturity, 10-15 cm long. Fibres in the mesocarp are thick, flat and usually loosen in the dried state.
There is considerable variation in the colour of the crown-shaft and the thickness of the lamina in the bangalow palm. Interestingly, variation merges in adjacent populations and demarcation of potential varieties or even species has been impossible to determine. New leaves of the bangalow palm are often in pink/red tones. The name bangalow is aboriginal for 'water carrying basket'; the crown-shaft can be fashioned, with a few deft folds and tucks into a watertight vessel, the petiole used as the handle.
These are also very popular palms in Australia, and more cold-tolerant than A. alexandrae.
These palms can be grown in full sun (if the water is kept up to them), or in the shade. They do like more water than most palms, with some even thriving in poorly drained areas. In their native habitat, they can often be seen growing next to and even in creek beds. It is quite a fast grower, averaging about 1/3 - 1 metre (1-3 feet) per year. In southern NSW (Nowra) it takes about 20 years for plants to mature and produce seed. Plants in deep shade within rainforest have significantly reduced growth rates. The seeds are eaten and dispersed by Topknot pigeons. Seedlings are eaten by Swamp Wallaby and Wombats.
A. cunninghamiana in habitat, Mt Tambourine, SE Queensland
Daryl O'Connor (Figure 1&2)
Ian Edwards (Figure 4)