Ravenea musicalis

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Figure 1. R. musicalis in habitat.


Conservation Status:

[[www.iucnredlist.orgdetailsfull386750" Critically Endangered There is a population of about 450 trees in a single river to the north of Taolagnaro, in the extreme southeast of Madagascar, in an area of less than 4 km". The population is slowly decreasing - plants and seeds are collected for the horticultural trade while the trunks are sometimes cut down to make canoes (known as pirogues)and the river banks are slowly being cleared for farmland. An area near here has been marked for large-scale titanium oxide mining, and if this goes ahead it could have very serious consequences for the population.

Common Names:

Torendriky (local name which means submerged trunk)

Distribution & Habitat:

It grows in slowly flowing water in a lowland river (10 to 50m asl), 0.50 to 2.50m deep. The seedlings germinate under the water and have flaccid foliage until the stem emerges and then the leaves become rigid.


It is a solitary, dioecious, medium sized palm in which the trunk is relatively short and swollen, particularly at the base, and it has between 14 to 16 arching, pinnate leaves. It has orange fruit and a single hard black seed.

Figure 2. R. musicalis


The species name musicalis was given to this palm by a Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew botanist because of the musical sounds made by the palm fruits dropping into the river below. R. musicalis is one of the few palms in the world that germinates under water, and it is well adapted to this unusual habitat. When the fruits fall in the river, they float, but they split open with the slightest bump and release the seed, which has already germinated while still on the tree. The seed sinks and the seedling becomes established and grows on the sandy river bottom. The initial leaves grown by the seedling are hook-like and it is thought that these help the seedling anchor itself to the river bottom.


Seeds are hard to come by, and the plant is very difficult to grow, with few plants surviving past the small seedling stage. It needs non-stagnant water, and is very cold sensitive.

Figure 3. R. musicalis
Figure 4. R. musicalis
Figure 5. R. musicalis
Figure 6. R. musicalis inflorescence.
Figure 7. R. musicalis trunks.
Figure 8. R. musicalis habitat.

Contributed by:

Philip Arrowsmith (Figure 1,2,3,4,5,6,&8)

External Links:

Kew, PalmWeb, eMonocot, JSTOR, Trebrown

Google, Google Images, Flickr, PACSOA Forums, PalmTalk