Pinanga growing

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I have been attracted to this particular genus for some ten years. I hold them in very high esteem, especially from the horticultural point of view, with some of the species being the nicest of all palms. Perhaps a very subjective opinion.

Unfortunately, there is very little information available pertaining to this genus, most information being scattered through different publications.

By now there are over 150 spp of known, but not always named Pinanga. Due to the geographic distribution of the genus (from the hills of South India and South China, through the Islands of the Malay Archipelago, and from the Philippines to New Guinea) many of the species have had their names duplicated. This in itself doesn't do anything but to add further to incorrect information and confusion. A classic example of this is the "Ivory Crown" Pinanga. There are at least five separate species lumped together sharing this name.

Whatever the name is, Pinangas are delightful, decorative palms either single stemmed, or clumping, and relatively easily adapting to cultivation. Being a rainforest, understory palm, Pinangas thrive in relatively dark warm, moist locations sheltered from wind. Some species will, however, adapt to cooler, and more exposed conditions.

Identification of Pinangas is difficult. This identification is made even more difficult by variations in appearance within the same species. Often the leaf blade can be undivided except for the cleft apex, or divided into a few broad leaflets, or even a larger number of narrow leaflets. This variability in the leaves is also responsible for the awarding of several different names to the one species.

Very broadly speaking Pinangas can be divided into three basic groups.

Here in Australia the most common mistakes in naming that I have come across are:

P. merrillii = Probably P. philippinensis P. maculata = either P. copelandii or P. barnesii True P. maculata are very, very rare.

Foliage variegation is rather common among younger plants, however, it generally does not persist to maturity. There are a few notable exceptions, with P. densiflora being one of the most striking. Another remarkable feature of this genus is the range of colour of the crownshaft. It can range from green to almost white, ivory, yellow orange, red and black The colours are greatly affected by the chemical com- position of the soil.

Given some protection, and plenty of water, most Pinangas are relatively easy to grow in the tropics of Australia. Fresh seed will usually germinate within 2-3 weeks, and a well drained growing medium is a must. The Pinangas are relatively fast growing, with some of the smaller faster growing palms reaching the fruiting stage within 3-4 years.

Contributed by:

Dusan Balint (from Palms & Cycads No. 16, July-Sept 1987)

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