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Top 10 - 2009

A Palm that Flowers Itself to Death

(Tahina spectabilis, growing at its only known site in western Madagascar) Photos courtesy of John Dransfield

Name: Tahina spectabilis

Common Name: Tahina Palm

Family: Arecaceae

How it made the Top 10: A gigantic new species and genus of palm with fewer than 100 individuals found only in a small area of northwestern Madagascar.  This plant flowers itself to death, producing a huge, spectacular terminal inflorescence with countless flowers. After fruiting, the palm dies and collapses.  The new genus is unrelated to any other of the 170 plus palms of Madagascar and is most closely related to 3 genera: one each in Afghanistan and neighboring parts of Asia; south Thailand; and Vietnam and southern China. 

Soon after the publication of the species, seeds were disseminated throughout the palm grower community, raising money for its conservation by the local villagers, and it has become a highly prized ornamental.

Reference: Dransfield, J., M. Rakotoarinivo, W.J. Baker, R.P. Bayton, J.B. Fisher, J.W. Horn, B. Leroy & X. Metz. 2008. A new coryphoid palm genus from Madagascar. Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society 156: 79-91.

Type Material: "Madagascar. Mahajanga, Analalava, Antsanifera, Antsingilava, 14°45′01″S, 47°25′53″E, altitude 9 m, 19.i.2007. Rakotoarinivo et al. RMJ337 (holotypus K; isotypi BH, MO, P, TAN)."

Type Locality: The Analalava district of northwestern Madagascar.

Etymology: "Tahina – Malagasy for ‘blessed’ or ‘to be protected;’ also one of the given names of Anne-Tahina Metz, the daughter of the discoverer of the palm" and spectabilis from Latin, meaning notable or showy.

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