Balaka (Balaka streptostachys)

Balaka (Balaka streptostachys)

This palm is the stoutest of all Balaka (Balaka streptostachys) growing to a height of 4-7 m with a trunk up to 10cm in diameter.

Also known as:

Local Names:

Description

This palm is the stoutest of all Balaka growing to a height of 4-7 m with a trunk up to 10cm in diameter. It is also distinguished by the unique twists of 40o-60 o in the rachilla (inflorescence stem) with the sections between the twists otherwise straight.

This is a character not observed in other Balaka species. The trunk is green but turns grey with age; the nodes are conspicuous, light green-brown in colour.

The crown comprises 8-10 fronds that can reach up to 3 m in length, they are held erect, with regular quite closely spaced leaflets which are mid green in colour; the crown shaft is green-light brown. The inflorescence emerges between the leaves in young palms and beneath the crown shaft as they get older.

The inflorescence is branched to three orders with the characteristic twists described above. The fruit are orange-red at maturity, averaging 22 mm long and 11 mm wide in size.

Distribution

Balaka streptostachys is known only from a single population in Vanua Levu on the northern foothills of Mt Sorolevu.

 Balaka (Balaka streptostachys)

Balaka (Balaka streptostachys)

 Balaka (Balaka streptostachys) map

Balaka (Balaka streptostachys) map

Habitat Ecology and Behaviour

This palm is an understorey palm in the wet, lower montane forest from which the sole population is known.

This is a small restricted site above the Matani Creek where the rainfall is over 3000 mm of rain a year. Other than observations on its location and description of the palm, no other research into its ecology, habitat requirements and even into searching for more populations have been conducted. Threats

The only known population of this palm comprises about 50 adult trees, although a thorough search of the surrounding area has yet to be made. This small population is vulnerable to the on-going logging activities in the general area and the reported plans for conversion to mahogany plantation could mean the extinction of this palm at its only known location.

Conservation Status

This is a critically endangered palm, and, there are currently no measures to protect it in the sole location where it is currently known.

Remarks and Cultural Significance

This is a critically endangered palm, and, there are currently no measures to protect it in the sole location where it is currently known.

References

Dowe (1989);
Watling (2005);
Fuller and Dowe (1999).

Front Page Photo: Dick Watling