March 21
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Plant Genus of the family Arecaceae

Genus Description Cultivation
Acanthophoenix The sole species in this genus is a feather palm native to the Mascarene Islands, located east of Madagascar. It is an attractive plant that is seldom cultivated but which makes an interesting garden specimen. With its narrow trunk and crownshaft it resembles the more commonly grown bangalow palm (Archontophoenix cunninghamiana). However, this palm needs to be sited more carefully because until the trunk is tall enough to carry the fronds above head-height the vicious spines on the frond bases can be unpleasant if one strays too close. CULTIVATION: At home in any mild climate, from warm, frost-free temperate to tropical, Acanthophoenix is undemanding and will thrive in most well-drained soils that do not dry out entirely in summer. When young it benefits from light shade and protection from strong winds. Propagate from seed, which germinates more freely if it is soaked before sowing.
Acca This South American genus of the myrtle family consists of 6 species of evergreen shrubs and small trees that bear a guava-like fruit. The simple, smooth-edged leaves are usually paler on the underside, and attractive small flowers with fleshy petals and conspicuous stamens are borne singly among the foliage. Only one species, Acca sellowiana (syn. Feijoa sellowiana), is commonly cultivated, for its tasty fruit or for ornament, and is easily grown in the same kinds of warm-temperate climates that suit oranges. CULTIVATION: The feijoa likes a sunny position and well-drained soil of moderate fertility. It is very tolerant of exposure and even salt-laden winds near the sea, and can be clipped to form a dense hedge if desired. Mature plants will survive moderate winter frosts but in cooler climates will thrive better against a wall that traps the sun?s heat. Cross-pollination, preferably by another plant not of the same clone, is needed for good fruit production. Named varieties are propagated from cuttings or grafting, but seed-raised plants are just as ornamental, if lacking fruit quality, and are more reliable pollinators.
Acmena Fifteen species make up this genus of evergreen rainforest trees, native to eastern Australia and New Guinea. Like those of the closely related Syzygium, all Acmena species were once included in Eugenia, but that name is now restricted almost entirely to American species. Acmenas have simple smooth-edged leaves, and small white flowers are borne in panicles terminating the branches. They are followed by globular fruit with crisp watery flesh enclosing a harder but still fleshy seed. A cavity at the fruit apex has a sharp circular rim, from which the sepals are shed as the fruit matures, a feature that distinguishes the genus from Syzygium in which the sepals persist. Acmena fruits are edible but not very sweet, and have a slight tang from the essential oils present in most members of the myrtle family. CULTIVATION: Only the three most southerly Acmena species are widely cultivated, valued for their profuse display of fruit and glossy foliage. They prefer a mild humid climate, a sheltered but sunny position and deep, well-drained soil. In some situations the foliage may be disfigured by sooty mold, and if the tree is large it may not be practicable to control this. Propagation is normally from seed, but some selected forms of Acmena smithii are perpetuated from cuttings.
Acoelorrhaphe Only one species belongs to this genus of fan-leaved palms, allied to the saw palmettoes (Serenoa) but taller growing. It comes from the Caribbean region, including parts of the West Indies, Central America and the southern tip of Florida. In the wild it grows in fresh or brackish-water swamps but adapts readily to cultivation in better drained ground. Forming a large clump from a common rootstock, it has slender, fiber-covered stems ending in small crowns of graceful fronds, their stalks with sharp marginal teeth. Flowers are tiny, borne on long branched panicles, but the profuse fruit are more conspicuous. CULTIVATION: Easily grown in lowland tropical and subtropical regions, Acoelorrhaphe demands little more than a sunny open position and a plentiful supply of moisture to the roots. Like most palms its growth can be accelerated by feeding with a high-nitrogen fertilizer. Propagation is normally from seed, which germinates readily if sown fresh. It is also possible to divide large clumps, but this is not an easy job.
Acokanthera There are 7 species in this genus of evergreen shrubs and small trees, occurring in open forest and scrub from southeastern Africa to southern Arabia. It belongs to the oleander family and has similar poisonous properties?in fact an extract of the wood and bark was traditionally used as a highly effective arrow poison and for purposes of murder. Like oleander, however, Acokanthera has been widely cultivated for ornament, and cases of accidental poisoning have proved very rare. Leaves are smooth and leathery, borne in opposite pairs or whorls of three on the twigs; sweet-scented tubular white flowers appear in dense clusters at the leaf axils, followed by hard-stoned fruit the shape and size of olives. Fruit, leaves and bark all bleed a thick white sap when cut. CULTIVATION: These are tough plants adapted to exposed positions (including seashores) and fairly drought tolerant. In the garden they tolerate neglect as long as they are not too shaded by other trees or shrubs. Heavy pruning results in vigorous resprouting. Propagate from seed, which germinates readily in summer, or soft tip cuttings.
Acrocarpus A genus of a single species of tall leguminous tree allied to Caesalpinia, Acrocarpus comes from the mountain forests of tropical Asia, from southern India eastward. Deciduous in winter, it is notable for the large size of its bipinnate leaves, especially those on vigorous saplings. Colorful flowers appear before the new leaves, in dense cylindrical spikes forming large panicles. Acrocarpus is capable of extremely fast growth in cultivation and has shown promise as a plantation tree for the wet tropics, as well as making a fine ornamental tree. CULTIVATION: It does best in the cooler hill areas of the tropics, and also adapts well to warm-temperate climates, as long as they are almost frost free. In the lowland tropics it has often proved short-lived after rapid early growth. A deep moist soil is required, though it need not be highly fertile. Propagation is from seed, which should be rubbed with sandpaper and soaked in cold water to aid germination; plant out at an early stage.
Acrocomia While some authorities consider that this palm genus may include up to 26 distinct species, it is most often regarded as just one very variable species, found in Central and tropical South America as far south as northern Argentina. Its fine feathery fronds have very spiny bases and emerge from conspicuous blue-gray sheaths. It produces panicles of yellow flowers that develop into dark red fruit. This palm is viewed as a potential substitute for oil palm and coconut in areas that are too dry or cool for those species. CULTIVATION: While macaw palm is intolerant of frosts, it can be grown in warm-temperate areas, though it is really a plant of the subtropics and tropics. It thrives in moist, well-drained, humus-rich soil and is best sheltered from strong winds that might fray the fronds. Propagate from seed.
Actinostrobus Allied to Callitris, the 3 species in this genus are evergreen conifers native to Western Australia. Shrubby rather than tree-like and rarely over 15?ft (4.5?m) tall, they nevertheless develop a distinctive conical head or crown of foliage. They have the typical tiny, scale-like leaves of members of the cypress family, usually deep green to gray-green in color on olive green to brown stems. The round to oval female cones have sterile scales at their base that develop into a distinctive collar as they mature. CULTIVATION: Easily grown in any light, well-drained soil, most species withstand slight frosts and are drought tolerant once established. Trim to shape if necessary but do not cut back to bare wood as it is slow to sprout new foliage. Propagate from seed or half-hardened cuttings taken with a heel.
Aiphanes Some very beautiful palms belong to this tropical American genus, consisting of about 30 species from northern South America and a few from the West Indies. They are small to medium-sized feather-leafed palms of the rainforest undergrowth, and nearly all are armed with extremely sharp, needle-like black spines that project from the trunk, the frond stalks, and even from the leaflets. The other striking feature of Aiphanes is the way the leaflets widen toward their tips, which are truncated, but at the same time toothed and somewhat frilled. The leaflets are not always distributed evenly along the stalk but may be contracted into groups, with bare intervals between. The flowers are small and yellow or cream, in narrow panicles projecting from among the frond bases and are followed by globular fruit with thin flesh over a very hard, black stone containing a single seed. The fruits are bright red and very decorative. CULTIVATION: The 3 to 4 species usually found in palm collections are easily grown outdoors in the tropics and warmer subtropics, but to maintain the beauty of their foliage should be given a sheltered position in partial shade and watered liberally during dry periods. A fertile well-drained soil is desirable. In cooler climates they need a heated conservatory or greenhouse, and can be kept in pots or tubs for a number of years before growing too large. Propagate from seed after removing fruit flesh. Germination takes 1 to 2 months, more in some species, and growth of seedlings is slow for the first 2 years.
Archontophoenix Endemic to eastern Australia, this palm genus consists of 6 species, although before 1994 only 2 were recognized. They are elegant tall palms with a bare, ringed trunk topped by a crownshaft of tightly furled frond bases, from the top of which the feather-like frond blades arch gracefully outward. Each frond consists of numerous strap-like leaflets closely spaced in 2 regular rows along either side of the frond midrib; from base to tip the frond is usually twisted through 90 degrees so that near its outer end the leaflets stand almost vertically. A succession of flowering branches emerges from the trunk just below the crownshaft, each enclosed in a pair of large, smooth, interlocking bracts from which the mass of flowering branchlets burst out just before the flowers open. Numerous star-shaped cream to pale mauve flowers are strung along the pendulous branchlets, attracting insects. They are followed by globular red fruit with thin, dryish flesh enclosing a single round seed. During some seasons both flowering and fruiting branches may be present at once. CULTIVATION: These are popular ornamental palms for frost-free climates, favored by landscapers for their fast early growth and complete shedding of old fronds to give a clean trunk. Although fairly sun hardy (Archontophoenix alexandrae in particular), they are shallow rooted and like a well-mulched soil and plentiful watering in dry periods. It is better to wait for old fronds and flowering branches to be cast off than try to cut them off. Propagate from freshly fallen and cleaned seed, which should germinate in a month or two with sufficient warmth. Young plants are best screened from strong sun until their crown reaches its full spread.
Ardisia Over 250 species of evergreen shrubs and small trees make up this genus, occurring in the tropics and subtropics of all continents except Africa, and in Asia extending north to Japan. They occur mainly in high-rainfall mountain areas, often in rainforest understory. Many attractive species remain to be introduced to cultivation. Leaves are simple with margins sometimes toothed or crinkled, and tend to be crowded at the ends of branchlets (as in rhododendrons). A common feature is translucent brownish spots or streaks in the leaves, more easily seen in species with thinner leaves. The small flowers are mostly star-shaped, borne in stalked umbels among the outer leaves; the 5 petals are often patterned with tiny spots. Fruits are small one-seeded berries, often quite decorative. CULTIVATION: Most are shade-loving plants and prefer humid conditions protected from the wind. Soil should be well-drained, humus-rich and moisture-retentive. They do best where temperatures remain fairly even and soil is kept at constant moisture, and if too stressed may die back suddenly. Indoor plants should be kept away from hot sunny positions. Most ardisias are not easily shaped by pruning but may be cut back near the base, resulting in renewal by vigorous shoots. Propagation is usually from seed, which may take some time to germinate, though cuttings can also be used.
Areca From the region between southern India and New Guinea, this palm genus of about 60 species is strictly tropical, with greatest diversity in islands of the Malay Archipelago. They are attractive small to medium-sized palms, mostly found in rainforest undergrowth. They vary greatly in growth form with stems (trunks) either solitary or clustered from the base, and fronds from quite undivided or 2-pronged to large and feather-like; most larger species have a well-developed crownshaft of tightly furled frond bases terminating the trunk. The flowering branches emerge from the top of the trunk just beneath the crownshaft and are distinctive in the way the rather stiff branchlets radiate somewhat like a fan. The flowers are small, mostly cream or yellow, arranged on the branchlets in groups of 3 with a female flanked by 2 males, though with males only towards outer ends of branchlets. The one-seeded red or yellow fruits are mostly egg-shaped and up to the size of a large egg in some species, with a fibrous to juicy flesh. The seed kernel is hard and white but veined with flanges of darker seed-coat tissue. CULTIVATION: Most will thrive outdoors only in the wet tropics, though some of the species from higher altitudes may be grown in frost-free climates outside the tropics. They do best in sheltered situations with permanently moist soil. Larger species such as Areca catechu will tolerate strong sun but the smaller, more delicate ones need more protection. In cooler climates they require a greenhouse where high humidity is maintained. Propagate from fresh seed, from which the flesh has been stripped away.
Arenga An interesting genus of palms, Arenga consists of about 20 species from tropical and subtropical East Asia extending to northeastern Australia and the Solomon Islands. They vary in size from diminutive palms of rainforest undergrowth with pencil-thick stems, to massive solitary trees that emerge above the canopy. Some of the larger ones, notably Arenga pinnata, are a source of palm sugar, obtained by cutting off the immature flowering branches and catching the syrup that exudes from the stumps. Many have trunks sheathed in mats of blackish fibers that can be stiff enough to make brooms. The fronds vary from undivided blades in the smallest species to truly massive affairs of numerous leaflets, in form like a giant feather or plume. Flowering branches are produced in a curious fashion, the first appearing at the top of the fully grown trunk, followed by a succession of flowering branches down the trunk; after the lowest sets fruit the whole tree dies. This behavior is confined to the single-trunked species, the multi-stemmed ones producing flowers in succession up the trunk. The flowers are quite large for palms, mostly creamy yellow or orange and highly perfumed. Fruits contain 1 to 3 large seeds in a gelatinous flesh that is highly irritant to the skin and mouth. CULTIVATION: Arengas are vigorous palms that adapt well to cultivation, most of them able to survive in frost-free warm-temperate climates as well as in the tropics. They do best in sheltered but sunny situations with ample soil moisture. All the multi-stemmed species will grow readily in pots or tubs in a conservatory and take years to outgrow their containers. Propagate from seed, which may take months to germinate, or the clumping species may be divided.
Argyrocytisus This is a monotypic genus with its sole species being an evergreen shrub native to the Rif and Atlas Mountains of Morocco. The name Argyrocytisus is a combination of argyros (silver) and Cytisus (the genus in which the plant was previously included). It refers to the silvery foliage, which derives its coloration from its dense covering of fine silvery hairs that are somewhat reflective, giving the plant a metallic sheen. Spikes of bright golden yellow flowers open in late spring and early summer. CULTIVATION: Left alone, this species can become rather spindly, though it bushes up if trimmed regularly. An alternative is to grow it as an espalier. It is quite hardy and prefers a gritty, well-drained soil in full sun. Propagate by seed or half-hardened late summer and autumn cuttings.
Aristotelia Once thought to contain up to a dozen species, this genus has been revised down to just 5 species. Native to the southern temperate regions, they are large shrubs or small trees that, excepting Aristotelia serrata, are evergreen. Their flowers, while individually small, are massed in clusters and are followed by colorful berries. The plants are unisexual and both male and female must be grown for fruiting. Despite the common name, the fruit does not appear to have been used in wine making. The leaves are usually rather glossy with toothed edges and the new growth can be very attractive. CULTIVATION: Aristotelia adapts well to cultivation and poses no special problems. It does well in a sunny or semi-shaded position with moist, well-drained soil. All the species can withstand light to moderate frosts. Half-hardened cuttings are the preferred method of propagation. Plants can be raised from seed but the sex will be unknown until flowering.
Bactris Although comprised of well over 200 species, this genus of palms primarily from Central America is known in cultivation through just a few of its number. There are two main growth variations within the genus: relatively short, clump-forming palms with multiple trunks that develop from an underground rhizome, and those with just a few trunks or a single tall trunk which is ringed with the scars and scaly leaf bases of old fronds and often with spines too. The leaves are up to 10 ft (3 m) long and are pinnate, though not always finely divided into feather-like fronds. When divided, the leaflets (pinnae) may be on several planes along the stem (rachis) and the rachis is often spiny, as is the leaf stalk (petiole). Sprays of tiny cream to yellow flowers are followed by edible fruits that in some species are over 2 in (5 cm) long. CULTIVATION: Very much plants of the tropics, these palms need plenty of warmth and water. They thrive in well-drained, humus-rich soil and may be grown in sun or partial shade. Propagation is from seed, which usually germinates well and develops quickly, or, in the case of the clump-forming species, by division.
Borassus A genus of massive fan palms, Borassus consists of around 10 species ranging through tropical Africa and Asia as far east as New Guinea, growing mainly on open sandy plains and along river banks. Their thick, solitary trunks are generally covered in the remains of old frond stalks forming a criss-crossing pattern. This is due to the stalk bases each being split into a shape like an inverted Y, though on taller older specimens these tend to be shed, leaving a bare gray trunk. The fronds are divided into tapering segments that radiate rather stiffly or may droop somewhat. Male and female flowers are borne on different trees, the flowering branches half-hidden among the fronds and bearing the small flowers on catkin-like lateral branches. On the females large fruits develop, up to about 8 in (20 cm) in diameter, with a fibrous husk in which are embedded 1 to 3 large seeds each enclosed in a hard blackish ?stone?. Some Borassus species have a wide range of uses, most notably as sources of palm sugar, tapped from cut flowering branches, often fermented to make palm wine or spirits. CULTIVATION: Successful cultivation requires a tropical climate. They will tolerate a long dry season as long as the roots have access to groundwater, although they also thrive well enough in the wet tropics. Full sun is essential and a deep, porous, well-drained soil suits them best. Propagation is by seed only, which may take 3 months or more to germinate. As soon as seeds show signs of sprouting they should be planted in individual containers, 18 in (45 cm) or more deep, to accommodate the thick, downward-growing cotyledon from the tip of which arises both the erect growing shoot and the roots.

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