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Sommieria leucophylla (Elegans)
The genus Sommieria used to contain three species, all native to northwestern New Guinea. In 2002, however, botanist Charlie Heatubun joined the three into a single species, Sommieria leucophylla. It is a variable, smallish undergrowth palm native to wet lowland rainforests. It grows with an underground or shortly emergent, solitary trunk, about 3 cm (1 in.) in diameter. The crown holds numerous, usually entire, deeply bifid leaves that are dark green above and silvery white to golden below. It is closely related to Pelagodoxa, with which shares the same curious, warty, albeit much smaller fruits. In cultivation it is still very rare. It is slow growing and requires a protected spot in the tropical garden with ample moisture. Even though under botanical criteria, the reduction to a single species makes sense, horticulturally the three original species are somewhat distinct. The form offered here, once known as Sommieria elegans, comes from Western New Guinea (formerly Irian Jaya) and differs through its larger stature, to about 3 m (10 ft.) tall and a light golden leaf underside. It is said to have a clustering or forking trunk but this is in some doubt.