Dypsis forficifolia Noronha ex Mart., Hist. Nat. Palm. 3: 180 (1838)

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  • A slender solitary or clustered palm of the forest undergrowth. This is the commonest small palm of the forests of the northeast. It is very variable and, as can be seen from the list of synonyms, we are including within its range of variation species that have in the past been recognised as distinct. It appears to flower and fruit abundantly and so there should be little difficulty in obtaining seed. It would certainly make a very handsome ornamental. It could be confused with D. ambilaensis but differs in the position of the three stamens (see under D. ambilaensis). The species name is derived from the Latin for a pair of shears or scissors, presumably in reference to the forked leaves, reminiscent of an open pair of shears. (J. Dransfield & H. Beentje, The Palms of Madagascar. 1995)A


Map uses TDWG level 3 distributions (http://www.nhm.ac.uk/hosted_sites/tdwg/geogrphy.html)
Madagascarpresent (World Checklist of Arecaceae)B
NE Madagascar, apparently quite common. (J. Dransfield & H. Beentje, The Palms of Madagascar. 1995)A


  • Our interpretation of D. hirtula differs from that of Beccari (1910) and Jumelle and Perrier (1945). The holotype of D. hirtula is an unnumbered Poivre collection in the Jussieu Herbarium in Paris. Vegetatively this specimen fits within the range of variation of D. forficifolia. The inflorescence, however, is branched to three (very rarely four) orders and the rachillae are slender, bearing scattered dark brown laciniate scales and rather distant triads. Viewed in isolation the types of D. forficifolia and D. hirtula thus appear rather different and can be differentiated using the character of rachilla scaliness utilised by Beccari. However, with the wide range of material now available, illustrating considerable variation in D. forficifolia, it is no longer possible to make a clear distinction and we have concluded that D. hirtula represents one extreme of the variation of D. forficifolia. We have not been able to examine the Majastre collection illustrated by Beccari (1910) as D. hirtula but we suspect that this is D. viridis. Perrier 17466, cited in the Flore de Madagascar as D. hirtula and used as the basis of the illustration, is, we believe, D. viridis(q.v.). We have also included D. masoalensis in synonymy with D. forficifolia. Jumelle described the former as differing from the latter in the presence of laciniate rachilla bracts and hairs on the rachillae, and the presence of up to six leaflets on each side of the rachis. The leaf of D. masoalensis fits within the range of variation of D. forficifolia and the rachillae, similarly, in D. for ficifolia can vary from being glabrous to with very sparse caducous laciniate scales and the rachilla bracts from being entire to sparsely laciniate. D. littoralis fits within the range of variation of D. forficifolia and so is included here too. Plants from near Ambanizana, Masoala Peninsula, tend to have inflorescences branched to three rather than two orders with rather slender and very numerous more or less glabrous rachillae. Dypsis forficifolia var. reducta has staminate flowers with six stamens with didymous anthers, so clearly does not belong here (see under D. schatzii). (J. Dransfield & H. Beentje, The Palms of Madagascar. 1995)A

Biology And Ecology

  • Coastal lowlands and hill forest; 5-500 m. (J. Dransfield & H. Beentje, The Palms of Madagascar. 1995)A


  • So widespread in the northeast of the island as to be at present not threatened. (J. Dransfield & H. Beentje, The Palms of Madagascar. 1995)A

Common Name

  • Not recorded. (J. Dransfield & H. Beentje, The Palms of Madagascar. 1995)A


  • Not recorded. (J. Dransfield & H. Beentje, The Palms of Madagascar. 1995)A


  • Slender, solitary or clustered forest undergrowth palm. STEMS to 4 m tall, c. 7-10 mm diam., internodes 8-30 mm long, often striped when young, dark green near the nodes, pale green between, with scattered to dense caducous dark brown scales, c. 8 x 5 mm. LEAF with sheaths 7-9 cm long, 0.7-1.8 cm diam., pale green, rather densely covered in caducous brown scales, auricles usually well developed, triangular; petiole absent or to 12 cm long, 2.5-4 mm wide, abaxially rounded or angled, adaxially grooved or flat; rachis 16-32 cm; blade entire bifid, to 35 x 18 cm, split from one third to one half the length, or with 2-6 leaflets on each side of the rachis; leaflets generally rather broad, occasionally a few narrow leaflets also present, 6-30 x 0.7-8 cm, apical pair with shallow apical lobing, adaxially lamina glabrous, abaxially with scattered bands of caducous, chaffy brown scales, abundant minute punctiform brown scales and scattered large ramenta to 6 mm long; emerging leaf sometimes tinged pink. INFLORESCENCE interfoliar, branching to 2, rarely to 3 orders; peduncle 22-50 cm long, c. 2 mm diam. near tip; prophyll 9-25 x 0.4-0.8 cm, with scattered mid brown scales; peduncular bract similar to prophyll but exceeding it, 15- 40 x 0.4-0.8 cm; rachis 13-40 cm long, glabrous or sparsely scaly; rachillae from 30 to c. 200, usually diverging at a rather wide but acute angle, occasionally reflexed, 2-4.5 cm long (rarely to 12 cm), 0.5-0.7 mm diam., glabrescent and slightly angled on drying, occasionally with sparse laciniate scales, bearing at anthesis rather distant triads of flowers, c. 1-4 mm distant, each subtended by a smooth entire or shallowly to deeply laciniate rachilla bract c. 1 mm high. STAMINATE FLOWERS c. 1 mm diam. at anthesis; sepals c. 0.5 x 0.5 mm, rounded, keeled, somewhat erose margined, shining; petals c. 1 x 0.8 mm, striate; stamens 3, antesepalous, filaments connate in a low ring c. 0.15 mm high, anthers c. 0.25 mm, staminodes absent; pistillode low, conical. PISTILLATE FLOWERS c. 1 mm diam., globose; sepals 0.5 x 0.5 mm, broadly imbricate; petals c. 1 x 0.8 mm, striate; staminodes 3 minute; ovary c. 0.8 mm diam. Mature FRUIT red, turning black, to c. 15 x 9 mm, ellipsoid. SEED 14 x 6 mm, endosperm homogeneous, embryo lateral near the base. (J. Dransfield & H. Beentje, The Palms of Madagascar. 1995)A

Materials Examined

  • Maroantsetra: Masoala, Aug. 1912 (buds), Perrier 12034 (Holotype of D. masoalensis Jum. P); idem, Aug. 1912 (buds), Perrier 12037 (P); Ambanizana, Oct. 1986 (fl.), Dransfield et al. JD6387 (BH, K, MO, P, TAN); Antalavia, Feb. 1988 (fr.), Dransfield et al. JD6470 (K, NY, MO, P, TAN); idem, Nov. 1989 (fr.), Dransfield et al. JD6746 (K, TAN); Andronabe, Feb. 1992 (fr.), Zjhra & Hutcheon 139 (K, MO, TAN); Andranofotsy River, Sahavary, Feb. 1988 (fr.), Dransfield et al. JD6450 (K, MO, NY, P, TAN); idem, Feb. 1988 (fr.), Dransfield et al. JD6456 (K, MO, NY, P, TAN); Bay of Antongil, Fananehana, Aug. 1912 (fl.), Perrier 12091 (P). Mananara Avaratra: Mananara, littoral forest, Aug. 1912 (fl.), Perrier 12056 (Holotype of Dypsis littoralis Jum., P); 10 km west of Antanambe, April 1992 (fl.), Beentje et al. 4624 (K, TAN); 5 km south of Antanambe, April 1992 (fl., fr.), Beentje et al. 4633 (BH, K, MO, P, TAN); idem, April 1992 (fl.), Beentje et al. 4637 (K, TAN). Soanierana-Ivongo: Soanierana-Ivongo, Feb. 1969 (fl.), Guillaumet 2406 (P). Î;le Sainte Marie: Tafondrou, March 1847 (fl.), Boivin 1704 (FI, P); Forêt de Kalalao, Nov. 1994 (fl., fr.), Dransfield JD7525 (K, P, TAN). Without locality: Du Petit Thouars s.n. (Holotype P); Poivre s.n. (Holotype of D. hirtulaMart. P). (J. Dransfield & H. Beentje, The Palms of Madagascar. 1995)A


A. J. Dransfield & H. Beentje, The Palms of Madagascar. 1995
B. World Checklist of Arecaceae