Coccothrinax moaensis

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Figure 1. C. moaensis in habitat, Quemado del Negro.

''Coccothrinax moaensis (Borhidi & O.Muñiz) O.Muñiz



Coccothrinax yuraguana subsp. moaensis Borhidi & O. Muñiz, Acta Bot. Acad. Sci. Hung. 17: 1 (1971 publ. 1972).


This small palm was described in 1971 by the Hungarian and Cuban botanists A. Borhidi and O. Muñiz and it was one of the first of many species described by these men in Eastern Cuba. It was originally considered a subspecies of Coccothrinax yuraguana but later, in 1981 Muñiz, decided to give it specific rank and called it C. moaensis.

Distribution & Habitat:

Coccothrinax moaensis is native to Cuba, where it occurs only in the region of Moa in S.E. Cuba. "The land of Moa" as it is called by some naturalists, is a very peculiar area from a botanical point of view. Its soils are derived from very old serpentine rocks, and they are "extreme" in that they are naturally loaded with lots of metals and unusual elements. This palm is mainly found at lower elevations and even not too far from the coastline. Its distribution extends south to Maguana (Prov. of Guantánamo) and also inland, while the species clearly follows the patches of serpentine soils. The area is rainy (1.500-2.200 mm/year) and hot (27-28°C as average annual temperature). According to the different localities, Coccothrinax moaensis can be found growing together with other endemic palms, such as Bactris cubensis, Thrinax rivularis, Copernicia rigida and others.


Coccothrinax moaensis is a solitary, medium sized Coccothrinax, spineless in all its parts. The especially thick leaves are orbicular and 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, so the deeply divided segments form an eye-catching pinwheel. The fibre sheaths are often swollen in the middle, giving the trunk a pleasant "bumpy" appearance. Inflorescences and infructescences are short, curved and they eventually hang with fleshy purple fruits.


Little is known on its culture and few plants are surely cultivated in Cuba, Florida and the Canary Islands. It is not a difficult plant and I can mention no specific requirements, but it is one of the slow ones and it will need six or more years in the nursery before getting passed to the ground. Even though the species if from an area with little or no dry spells, the plants in cultivation performed well during a few droughts. It is not likely to be cold resistant and the plants grown in the Canary Islands slow down considerably in the non-hot months. As for most Coccothrinax I recommend to use pots larger than one may think and also to use more bottom drainage than one may think.


The pictures here are from 2 separate populations, 50km apart; Quemado del Negro and Maguana.

Figure 2. C. moaensis in habitat, Maguana.
Figure 3. C. moaensis in habitat, Quemado del Negro.
Figure 4. C. moaensis leaf detail, Quemado del Negro.
Figure 5. C. moaensis trunk detail, Maguana.

Contributed by:

Carlo Morici (Text and Figure 1,2,3,4&5)

External Links:

Kew, PalmWeb, JSTOR, Trebrown

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