Ravenea musicalis Beentje, Principes 37: 199 (1993)

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  • The only true Madagascar water palm, and possibly the only palm in the world of which the seeds sprout under water; fruit and seed are adapted to dispersal by water. The fruits float, but open at the slightest bump; the liberated seed has already sprouted within the fruit, so that when it sinks to the river bottom it can quickly establish itself. The curved scale leaves might even help it to catch onto protuberances, so it would not be washed away easily. The name refers to the musical sound caused by seeds of various sizes dropping from various heights into the river. (J. Dransfield & H. Beentje, 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
S Madagascar, only known from one site. (J. Dransfield & H. Beentje, Palms of Madagascar. 1995)A


  • Differs from all other species of Ravenea in its habitat and habit, its extraordinary floating fruit with its spongy mesocarp, splitting at the slightest provocation and then exposing the already germinating seed, the number of its scale leaves on the seedling, and the lack of hard fibres in the outer wood. (J. Dransfield & H. Beentje, Palms of Madagascar. 1995)A

Biology And Ecology


  • Vulnerable. Occurs, as far as we know, only along a single river, where the population consists of some 450 trees. Rejuvenation at this site looks good, but as an aquatic species this is very vulnerable to habitat changes. (J. Dransfield & H. Beentje, Palms of Madagascar. 1995)A

Common Name



  • Small to medium-sized ventricose palm growing in 0.5-2.5 m deep water. TRUNK 2.5-8 m, ventricose with base (at water level) to 50 cm across, (above water) 30-40 cm diam., near the crown c. 11 cm across, internodes here 0.5 cm, nodal scars 0.5 cm; bark pale brown, soft, with internodes 1-2 cm; wood soft, cream-coloured, fibrous, without hard fibres. LEAVES 14-16, porrect to spreading, arching, held on edge in distal half, with stiff or arching leaflets; sheath 36-41 x 13-20 cm, adaxially orange, abaxially proximally orange, distally green, with thin grey tomentum; fibres few; petiole 15-19 cm long, proximally 3.5-5 x 1.5 across, distally 2.2-2.3 x 0.5-0.6 cm across, glabrous, keeled; rachis 1.3-1.8 m, in mid-leaf 1-1.5 cm across, with little abaxial tomentum; leaflets in one plane, stiff, 59-63 on each side of the rachis, the proximal 36-47 x 0.5-1.5 cm, median 42-53 x 1.6-2.4 cm (interval 2-2.5 cm), distal 10-30 x 0.4-1.3 cm, ramenta none or few, large, basal on midrib and outer main veins, main veins 4. STAMINATE INFLORESCENCE multiple in 5s, the individual inflorescences to 115 cm, branched to 1 order, pendulous in later stage; peduncle 36-38 cm, proximally c. 1 cm across, distally 0.6-0.7 cm across; prophyll 29-30 cm; peduncular bracts 38 cm, 64 cm (inserted at c. 2 cm from the base of the peduncle), 84 cm (inserted at c. 5 cm), 80 cm (inserted at c. 10 cm); rachis about 54 cm, with many dense rachillae; rachillae 7-24 cm, 1-1.5 mm across; flower scars distant. STAMINATE FLOWERS unknown. PISTILLATE INFLORESCENCE solitary, spreading, 105-125 cm, branched to 1 order, the axes green; peduncle 48-52 cm, proximally 3-5 x 2-2.5 cm, distally 2-3 x 1.3-2 cm; prophyll c. 10 x 4 cm; peduncular bracts 20-24 cm (inserted at 0 -2.5 cm from the base of the peduncle), 49-52 cm (inserted at 3-3.5 cm), 82-83 cm (inserted at 4-9 cm), 100-103 cm (inserted at 10-24 cm); rachis 39-55 cm, with 58-68 branches; rachillae 9-42 cm, the proximal spreading, the distal porrect, the base proximally flat, 0.6-1.5 x 1 cm, in fruit 3 -3.5 mm across; pedicels c. 0.5 mm. PISTILLATE FLOWERS with the calyx connate for 1 mm, 1.5 mm wide, free lobes 1.7-2.6 x 1.6-2 mm, ovate, acute; petals in fruit only present as fibre remnants, c. 2.5 mm long. FRUIT orange, 17-23 x 14-19 mm, one-seeded; stigmatic remnants subapical to lateral. SEED brown, 10-14 mm across, hard, seedcoat black, 0.2 mm thick. SEEDLING with 3-4 scale leaves, the first small, the second, third and fourth to 9 cm long and with curving tips; eophyll pinnate. (J. Dransfield & H. Beentje, Palms of Madagascar. 1995)A

Materials Examined

  • Belavenona, R. Andriambe, March 1992 (fr.), Beentje & Andriampaniry 4611 (Holotype K; isotypes BH, MO, P, TAN); idem (old stam.), Beentje & Andriampaniry 4612 (K, MO, TAN); idem, Dec. 1992 (y.fr.), Beentje 4756 (BH, K, MO, P, TAN). (J. Dransfield & H. Beentje, Palms of Madagascar. 1995)A