Ravenea robustior Jum. & H.Perrier, Ann. Inst. Bot.-Géol. Colon. Marseille , III, 1: 49 (1913)

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  • Bitter, and not much liked); formerly used to make salt from the ash of the trunk (fide Perrier); young leaves used to make brooms; outer wood used for floor- One of the most majestic of Madagascar palms, with boards, tables and house walls. its slightly ventricose trunk reaching into the canopy. In the the Flora (Jumelle & Perrier 1945) this species was considered to occur in only two sites; our investigations and collecting have shown that it is in fact quite wide-spread, occurring from sea-level up to the mountains. (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
NW, E and SE Madagascar, from Manongarivo to Marojejy and south to Andohahela. (J. Dransfield & H. Beentje, The Palms of Madagascar. 1995)A


  • A population found near Sahasinaka growing in the open (Beentje 4677, 4717) may flower when trunks are as short as 6-8 m, but the only other differences with the rest of the populations are the cylindrical trunks, the rather long and wide leaflets (up to 7.5 cm wide, rather than up to 6 cm wide) and the rather long staminate rachillae, and the large seed (13-16 x 11-13 mm, rather than 9-13 x 6-11 mm). The more typical form of R. robustior was seen to grow in the same forest patch, and we feel uncertain about the taxonomic status of the form, which looks different, has a different local name, but in herbarium specimens is almost indistinguishable from typical robustior. Beentje 4686 from the Anjanaharibe Mts. is quite similar to the Sahasinaka population, and also grows in the open. (J. Dransfield & H. Beentje, The Palms of Madagascar. 1995)A

Biology And Ecology


  • Rare. Though widespread, the species is not common, and the continued cutting for palm-heart and construction wood might move it to the Vulnerable category in the near future. Protected populations are the ones in the Ranomafana National Park, Marojejy and Manongarivo Reserve and at Analamazaotra, though trees of this species are still being cut within the Reserves. (J. Dransfield & H. Beentje, The Palms of Madagascar. 1995)A

Common Name

  • Hovotravavy (Tsimihety); Manara, Tanave, Retanana (Betsimisaraka); Monimony, Loharanga at Analamazaotra, Anivona at Andasibe (fide Dransfield, Moore); Laafa at Ranomafana; Anivo, Lakabolavo at Amby; Bobokaomby at Manombo; Vakabe, Vakaky, Vakaboloka, ?Bokombio at Andohahela. (J. Dransfield & H. Beentje, The Palms of Madagascar. 1995)A


  • Palm-heart eaten (though the Chef de Poste at Analamazaotra informs us the palm-heart is rather bitter, and not much liked); formerly used to make salt from the ash of the trunk (fide Perrier); young leaves used to make brooms; outer wood used for floorboards, tables and house walls. (J. Dransfield & H. Beentje, The Palms of Madagascar. 1995)A


  • Majestic tree palm. TRUNK (6-) 12-30 m high, columnar or slightly ventricose, 20-60 cm diam. at breast height, increasing to 75 cm, decreasing to 16-40 cm near crown; base bulbous, 15-50 cm high, 47-100 cm across, with surface roots to 30 cm long, 6-12 mm across, with minute adventituous side roots; outer wood hard, heartwood white and soft; leaf scars obscure, 3-7 cm; internodes 7-25 cm (near crown 4-5 cm); bark pale brown, pale reddish or grey, closely fissured to smooth. Distal part of trunk usually with remnants of sheaths. Wood extremely hard on the outside, due to many black fibres; heartwood soft, white. LEAVES 11-25 in crown, spiral, porrect, held in shuttlecock, straight or nearly so, often held on edge in the distal part of the leaf; leaflets stiff or curved downwards in the proximal part of the leaf; sheath grading smoothly into the petiole, ligules present or absent, c. (38-) 50-112 cm, 16-45 cm wide, bulbous or not, abaxially densely white- to grey-brown tomentose, later glabrescent, adaxially pale orange, with some stiff reflexed marginal fibres 1.5-2.5 mm across; petiole 17-134 cm, proximally 8-17 x 2-4 cm, distally 3.8-8 x 1.3-4.5 cm, channelled with sharp edges or slightly convex adaxially, convex abaxially, thickly grey-brown tomentose, glabrescent; rachis 2.2-4 m, in mid-leaf 1-4.7 cm high, 1.7-3.3 cm wide, medially sharply keeled or flat (on same tree!), abaxially with grey indument but quickly glabrescent; leaflets regular, in one plane or those at opposite sides of the rachis at a slight (up to 140°) upwards angle, dark green, (40-) 50-105 on each side of the rachis, the proximal (19-) 45-120 x 1-4 cm, median 60-126 x 2.5-7.5 cm (interval 2-5 cm), distal 13-46 x 0.3-3.5 cm, top pair often connate for up to 5 cm, ramenta large, many in young leaves, a few proximal ones in older leaves, deciduous, 1-6 main veins. STAMINATE INFLORESCENCE solitary, erect, interfoliar or infrafoliar among dead leafbases, branching to 2 (-3 in Humbert 6232) orders; peduncle 50-60 cm, proximally 2.8-3.3 x 2.5 cm, distally 2.2-2.8 x 1.3-2 cm, densely pubescent; prophyll 13-47 cm; 1st peduncular bract 18-77 R AVENEA x 8 cm (inserted at 3-11 cm from the base of the peduncle), 2nd (39-) 109-160 x 10 cm (inserted at 5 cm), 3rd 166-209 x 15.5 cm (inserted at 13 cm), 4th 175-209 cm (inserted at ?), all bracts abaxially with thick pale or red-brown tomentum; non-tubular peduncular bract c. 19 x 1 cm; rachis 84-131 cm long, proximally pubescent, distally glabrous, yellowish; proximal rachis bract 4-19 x 0.8-2.4 cm; rachillae many (in the lowland population with 60-140 branched and 39 unbranched first order branches), distally densely packed, porrect, straw-yellow, straight or distally sinuous, (5-) 10-47 cm, 1.5-2 mm across; pedicels quite closely set, 0.2-3 mm long; bracteoles 0.7-1 mm long; calyx with connate part 0.8-1.8 mm long and 1.4-2.2 mm across, and free sepals 0.9-1.5 mm long and 1.2-1.8 mm wide, triangular, acute; petals ovate, acute, 1.4-5 x 1.2-2.2 mm, not connate or very briefly connate by the filaments; filaments of all 6 stamens equal, 0.5-1 mm, not or only slightly attached to the petals; anthers 1.5-2.8 x 0.7-1.3 mm; pistillode 0.6-0.8 mm. PISTILLATE INFLORESCENCE interfoliar, solitary, erect, spreading or pendulous in fruit, all axes orange in fruit, branched to 1 order (to 2 orders in Beentje 4600); peduncle 45-100 cm, proximally 3-4.5 x 2.3-2.5 cm, distally 1.2-3.5 x 0.9-2.8 cm, pale green, proximally densely grey-white pubescent, distally glabrescent; prophyll 16-22 x 9-10 cm; peduncular bracts 21-40 x 9 cm (inserted at 5-20 cm from the base of the peduncle), 50-70 x 5-6 cm (inserted at 10-24 cm), 90-120 x 5-6 cm (inserted at c. 27 cm), 70-150 x 5-6 cm (inserted at 30-70 cm), all grey-brown tomentose abaxially; rachis 55-80 cm, with 45-100 spreading or reflexed rachillae; proximal rachis bract c. 32 x 2.2 cm; rachillae pale waxy green to orange (in fruit), 9-81 cm, 3-4 mm across, distally sinuous, proximally with bulbous bases, 1.2-2.4 x 1.2-1.8 cm, glabrous; pedicels 1-28 mm; bracteole 0.7-1.2 x 0.5-0.6 mm, connate for 0.8-6 mm; calyx connate for 0.8-2.2 mm, 2-3.5 mm across, free lobes 1.5-2.2 x 1.4-2.5 mm; petals (1.6) 4-4.2 x 1.8-2.4 mm; staminodes 0.8 mm; ovary c. 3.5 mm. FRUIT orange, obovoid to ovoid-globose, 10-18 x 8-15 mm; usually one-seeded, then stigmatic remains subbasal; occasionally 2-3-seeded, then stigmatic remains terminal. SEED red-brown, hard, 9-16 x 6-13 mm; seedcoat brown, 0.2 mm thick. EOPHYLL bifid. (J. Dransfield & H. Beentje, The Palms of Madagascar. 1995)A

Materials Examined

  • Ambanja: Manongarivo, Bekolosi, Feb. 1992 (old stam.), Beentje 4569 (BH, K, MO, P, TAN); idem, Feb. 1992 (green fr.), Beentje 4576 (BH, K, MO, P, TAN); Tsaratanana, 2000 m, April 1924 (stam., pist.), Perrier 16069 (type of var. kouna; holotype P). Andapa: Marojejy E, N of Mandena, Nov. 1986 (old pist.), Dransfield et al. JD6767 (K, TAN); idem (y. fr.), Dransfield et al. JD6768 (K, TAN); Anjanaharibe: Beamalona, June 1992 (stam.), Beentje & Andriampaniry 4686 (K, TAN). Maroantsetra: Hiaraka, Oct. 1986 (stam.), Dransfield et al. JD6379 (K, P, TAN); idem (old stam.), Dransfield et al. JD6381 (K, TAN); idem (old pist.), Dransfield et al. JD6380 (K, P, TAN). Sainte-Marie: Kalalao forest, Nov. 1994 (pist.), Dransfield et al. JD7518 (K, TA) and (stam.) Dransfield et al. JD7520 (K, TAN). Moramanga: Rahobevava to Andasibe, March 1951 (fr.), Cours 4384 (K, P, TAN); Analamazaotra, no date (stam., pist.), Perrier 11975 (Holotype P); idem, Nov. 1986, (stam.), Dransfield et al. JD6422 (K, P, TAN); idem, March 1988 (fr.), Dransfield et al. JD6491 (K, TAN); idem, Nov. 1963 (stam.), Moore & Lefevre 9029 (BH, TAN). Ifanadiana: Ranomafana, Ambatolahy, March 1991 (fr.), Beentje 4419 (BH, K, MO, P, TAN). Manakara: Amby, May 1992 (old stam.), Beentje & Andriampaniry 4662 (K, TAN), 4665 (K); idem, May 1992 (sd.), Beentje & Andriampaniry 4660 (K); idem, May 1992 (fr.), Beentje & Andriampaniry 4677 (BH, K, MO, P, TAN); idem, July 1992 (old stam.), Beentje & Andriampaniry 4717 (BH, K, MO, P, TAN). Farafangana: Manombo, Jan. 1993 (old stam.), Beentje & Andriampaniry 4789 (K, TAN). Midongy Atsimo: 24 km S of Midongy, May 1992 (yfr.), Beentje & Andriampaniry 4668 (K, TAN). Tolanaro: Andohahela, Ranohela valley, Oct. 1928 (stam.), Humbert 6232 (P); Manampanihy valley, W of Eminyminy, Feb. 1934 (yfr.), Humbert 14031 (P); Andohahela south, Dec. 1989 (old stam.), Dransfield et al. JD6780 (K, TAN); idem, March 1992 (fr.), Beentje 4600 (BH, K, MO, P, TAN) and (dead stam.) Beentje 4604 (K). (J. Dransfield & H. Beentje, The Palms of Madagascar. 1995)A