Saturday, 17 January 2009

Rhopalostylis sapida

Curtis's Botanical Magazine
vol. 85, Nº5139 (1859)

Rhopalostylis sapida H. Wendl. & Drude
Les Palmiers 255

"The generic name Rhopalostylis was proposed by H. Wendland and Oscar Drude for the two palms of the Southern Hemisphere known by the old names of Areca sapida and A. Baueri. Rhopalostylis sapida from New Zealand and R. Baueri from Norfolk Island are two palms very well characterized and distinct, but have a some-what uncertain synonymy, and have been frequently confounded, or considered as representing one species only. Martius himself has apparently, in his description of Areca sapida, cumulated the characteristics of the palm of New Zealand with those of the Norfolk Island palm; but the fine plates 151 and 152 of his Historia naturalis Palmarum, reproduced from Bauer's drawings, represent only Areca (Rhopalostylis) Baueri.

The name of Areca sapida Solander appears for the first time, I believe, in the work of Georg Forster, De Plantis esculentis insularum Oceani australis Commentatio botanica, 1786, p. 66, n. 35; but apparently Solander has never given a description of that palm, and Forster evidently considers the New Zealand palm the same as that growing in Norfolk Island, as he writes of A. sapida, “Reperitur spontanea in Nova Zelandia usque ad aestuarium Charlottae reginae, et frequens in Norfolciae insula deserta.”

H. Wendland, in the “Enumeration of all Known Palms,” published in the work of Oswald de Kerchove de Denterghem, Les Palmiers, considers as Rhopalostylis sapida Wendl. et Drude only that which goes by the horticultural name of Kentia sapida, figured in the Botanical Magazine in plate 5139, under the name of Areca sapida. To Rhopalostylis Baueri he refers A Baueri Hook, of the Botanical Magazine (plate 5735), Areca sapida Sol., Kentia sapida Mart., A. Banksiia A. Cunn., and Seaforthia robusta Hort." (Odoardo Beccari)

Cunningham saw this palm in flower at Wangaroa, New Zealand (where he alsao discovered Persoonia tora A. Cunningham). By his observation of the flower structure he called into question the inclusion of this palm in the genus Areca. His stay at Wangaroa was shortened on account of a quarrel among the natives. (W. J. Hooker - Journal of Botany)

The family of the Palmae is represented in New Zealand by the Areca sapida. In the deepest recesses of the forest the traveller enjoys the sight of this garceful tree, which grows throughout the island, and often to the height of 40 feet, and a foot in diameter. It is a useful tree to the natives, who call it nikau, and use its pinnate leaves for roofing their houses. The undeveloped plaited leaves, or the heart, are also eaten by them. Travels in New Zealand, Ernst Dieffenbach, 1843. Apparently they taste rather of coconut. In 1847 George French Angas saw so many palms destroyed for their cabbage that he feared for the survival of the species., The flowers are also eaten.

Cultivated history
Flowered in the Palm House at Kew, 1859. The Magazine of Horticulture, Botany and all useful discoveries in 1868 considered the species to be a fine plant, but dear [expensive] and scarce, "it does not require much heat, but demands plenty of light." Suzanne Treseder gives notice of a shipment of 20 plants from Sydney, Australia to Helford, Cornwall in 1890 at the price of five pounds a pot (half the price of Howea belmoreana or an Araucaria).

There are at least two specimens at Monserrate, one near the palacio and another near the stable block (mentioned in Walter Oate's 1923 guide to the gardens).

Areca sapida
Kentia sapida (hort.)

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