Chambeyronia lepidota (High Elevation)
Highland Red Leaf Palm
This rare and little-known cousin of the Red Leaf Palm is a moderately large palm to 15 m (50 ft.) tall, with a slender, smooth trunk and a very neat, compact crown of ascending to slightly arching, distinctly keeled leaves with thick, leathery, stiff, very regularly arranged leaflets. A spectacular, thick, velvety reddish brown crownshaft supports the crown. Overall it resembles such palms as Rhopalostylis, Hedyscepe and Ceroxylon parvifrons. The high elevation form grows in cloudforests in east-central and northeastern New Caledonia mainly between about 900 and 1500 m (3000 and 4900 ft.). It looks generally somewhat more robust than the mid elevation form of this species and seems to have a more reddish crownshaft, but these differences in appearance may be due to the different habitats of montane and cloud forest and whether the plants are emergent above the forest canopy or not. One consistent and surprising difference, however, are the fruits: The fruit of the mid elevation form is partly filled with a strange, gelatinous substance that seems to have no function other than filling the space in the fruit that is not occupied by the endosperm. The fruit of the high elevation form, however, has a regularly developed endosperm. In cultivation, Chambeyronia lepidota is still extremely rare. Seeds of the high elevation form are particularly difficult to obtain as they are heavily predated upon by introduced rats. The seeds are very easy to germinate (no heat please), but rather slow growing afterwards. The high elevation form would do particularly well in cool tropical and many warm temperate climates, especially those where palms such as Rhopalostylis, Hedyscepe or Howea are known to succeed.