Selected Trees and Shrubs
Rhapis excelsa; Synonyms: R. flabelliformis, Common name: Lady Palm, Bamboo Palm
Description: Very attractive ornamental palm; hardy and easily grown; indoors: grown singly or in small multi-stemmed clumps, large clumps outdoors; outdoor clumps often having a diameter as wide as plant is tall; plant slender, relatively short and slow growing; stems up to 14 ft tall (4.3 m) and to 1.25 in. diameter (3 cm), clothed in coarse, brown, fibrous material; leaves dark, glossy-green, fan-shaped, divided into 5-12 or more broad, ribbed, radiating segments, 10-14 in. long (26-36 cm) and 1-3 in. wide (2.5-8 cm), joined at base, and to slender petiole up to 18 in. long (45 cm); flowers borne in small, normally green inflorescence, 4-6 in. long (10-15 cm), at top of plant; fruit small, white, fleshy one-seeded round drupe, 0.25-0.4 in. diameter (7-10 mm); apart from popular, standard variety, several dwarf variegated varieties have been developed in Asia.
Plant Family: Belongs to the Arecaceae or Palm family, which includes the Coconut Palm (Cocos nucifera), the imposing Century Palm (Corypha umbraculifera), and the stately West Indian Royal Palm (Roystonea oleracea).
Natural Habitat: Tropical and subtropical; however, not known in wild, with all known plants coming from ancient cultivated groups in S. China.
Origin and Distribution: Apparently native to S. China; adapts to a wide range of climates, soils, and environments; now distributed worldwide; in Dominica Botanic Gardens, two large clumps flank southern entrance to cricket field at end of Palm Alley; propagation primarily through prolific rhizome production, though viable seed also produced.
Uses: Primarily ornamental because of its dark green, lush appearance, dense foliage and ease of maintenance; found in homes and gardens throughout the world, with its dwarf and variegated varieties making Rhapis particularly attractive; stems also used for walking-sticks.
Indigenous Legends and Anecdotes: The Japanese first began collecting Rhapis palms from China in the 17th century for the Imperial palaces of the highest nobles as their exclusive possessions; they have gone on to breed, select and name numerous varieties of dwarf and variegated Rhapis palms; and Rhapis excelsa is the only ornamental palm species with named green and variegated varieties.
Robert A. DeFilipps. Useful Plants of the Commonwealth of Dominica, West Indies. Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. 1998
Lynn McKamey: The Aristocratic Lady Palm: Rhapis excelsa. Rhapis Gardens, Gregory TX, nd.
Heinz-Dieter Froehlingsdorf. Palms: Rhapis excelsa, PALMS & CYCADS No 39. Apr-Jun 1993.
Anon. [Joseph Jones?]. Official Guide to the Botanic Gardens, Dominica. Kew Gardens, London 1924?
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