Cuban Bottle Palm
In Cuba, this unique and easily recognized palm is referred to as palma barrigona, which means potbellied palm and aptly describes the grotesque swelling in the trunk of this palm a meter or more above the ground. It is probably the only palm shedding its bark, which is dark brown and rough and often entirely clothed in the fibrous leaf sheaths, but reveals a smooth, gray trunk underneath when it falls off as the palm ages and passes its juvenile stage, after its "belly" is formed. Colpothrinax is related to Pritchardia and indeed, apart from the curious bulge in its trunk, is quite reminiscent of certain Hawaiian Pritchardia. The leaves are dark green above and silvery below, the leaf tips finely drawn out and pendulous. It is still common in western Cuba where it grows in savannas that have now mostly been converted for agriculture, effectively preventing any rejuvenation of the aged populations. The leaves are locally popular as thatch, the trunks as building material the fruits as pig fodder (can you imagine!?!). It adapts well to cultivation in tropical and some warm temperate climates but is still very rarely seen, as seeds are hardly ever available. Growth is slow at first but reasonable once the plant is established, about 25 cm (10 in.) per year.