Chambeyronia lepidota (Mid 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 neat crown of ascending to slightly arching, distinctly keeled leaves with thick, leathery, stiff, regularly arranged leaflets. A spectacular, thick, velvety brown crownshaft supports the crown. The mid elevation form grows in montane rainforests in east-central and northeastern New Caledonia mainly between about 600 and 800 m (2000 and 2600 ft.) but may be found as low as 400 m (1300 ft.). It is generally somewhat more slender than the high elevation form of this species and seems to have a darker, less 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 (about half) in the fruit that is not occupied by the endosperm. The endosperm thus has a somewhat hemispherical shape and occupies only a rather small fraction of the fruit. This can drastically be seen in a longitudinal section of the fruit and seed. In cultivation, Chambeyronia lepidota it is still extremely rare as seeds have been hard to come by, and thus experience with its requirements is somewhat limited. It is very easy to germinate but rather slow growing afterwards and would do well in humid tropical and many warm temperate climates.