Voanioala gerardii

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Figure 1. A seedling of V. gerardii.


Common Names:

Forest Coconut

Distribution & Habitat:

Endemic to the Masoala Peninsula, Madagascar, and found in primary forest on gentle slopes at about 400 m.

Conservation Status:

Critically endangered, fewer than 10 trees are known to exist in the wild.


Massive feather palm, up to 20m tall, closely resembling a coconut palm. It has up to 70 stiff, waxy green leaflets on each side of the petiole. Leaves up to 5m long. It produces large bunches of reddish brown fruit. One feature of this palm is the large number of chromosomes its cells contain, at around 600 this is the largest number ever recorded for a monocotyledon.


This species is thought perhaps to have been the ancestor of the coconut that we know today. Even though the nut only measures about 5cm x 7cm and weighs approximately 100 - 120 grams, the close relationship with the modern coconut, Cocos nucifera, can be observed in the similarities of the arrangement of the inflorescences and in the physical structure of the fruits (nuts).


Warm, moist, well drained position. Seeds are expensive, difficult to germinate and very slow growing, but apart from that ...

Figure 2. Close-up of seedling.
Figure 3. And yet more.
Figure 4. V. gerardii in habitat, Madagascar.

Contributed by:

Rolf Kyburz (Figure 1)
Jason Young (Figures 2&3)
Jeff Searle (Figures 4)

External Links:

Kew, PalmWeb, eMonocot, JSTOR, Trebrown

Google, Google Images, Flickr, PACSOA Forums, PalmTalk