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Origin and Habitat: Torricelli Mountains, West Sepik Province, Papua New Guinea. (Irian Jaya) (Indonesia)
Type locality: Jayapura, Cyclops Mt. Nature Reserve, Doyo Village, 1050 m, Papua New Guinea.
Altitude: Up to 1500 m above sea level.
Habitat: It is an understory palm that grows in dense rainforests.
- Caryota zebrina Hambali, Maturb., Heatubun & J.Dransf.
ENGLISH: Zebra Fishtail Palm, Striped Fishtail Palm, Zebral Palm
INDONESIAN (Bahasa Indonesia): Palem Belang, Palem Tokek
Description: Caryota zebrina is a very attractive medium-sized slow growing tree palm with spectacular, zebra striping on the petioles. This species is monocarpic.
Trunk: solitary 5,5-25 m tall, 15 cm in diameter, internodes 30-40 cm long.
Crown: Open, usually with only three to five fronds at a time, but does seem to hold more in cultivation than in habitat.
Leaves: Pinnate (not bipinnate like in other menber of the genus) 1-2(-5) m long, a quit thick and are a little more rounded compared to most of the other Caryota species. Petiole 90-180 cm long thick, leathery, with unusual zebra striping. Pinnae (leaflets) thick, leathery, blackish/green leaflets are at differing angles, and in irregular clusters along the frond, giving the leaf a generally disorganised appearance.
Remarks: Caryota zebrina shares several unusual features with Caryota ophiopellis (another "stripped" Caryota), these include homogeneous endosperm, inflorescences branched to more than one order, pistillate flowers with large petals.
Notes: This is the only Caryota, that is not bipinnate.
Cultivation and Propagation: Caryota zebrina is an excellent palm, but very slow-growing and quite difficult in cultivation. This is a very attractive species that should have a place in every collection or garden. It is very popular among tropical palm collectors.
Soil requirements: It prefers fertile, organic, moist, well drained soils except those that are constantly moist. However it is adaptable including those that are neutral, acidic, clayey and slightly alkaline, provided they are free-draining.
Watering: Caryota prefers very copious waterings (less if well mulched) and should be watered before the soil completely dries. Help soil conserving its humidity with heavy ground-cover mulch , which affords a rich decaying organic base. However once established it seems to be quite drought tolerant. Caryota roots are shallow, and spreading, so it loves to explore and insinuate themselves into this rich mulch, which must be constantly wet. Don't let sit in water. Indoor, potted Caryota should not be over-watered.
Light: Outside in dappled light to deep shade when mature, it grows well also on an eastern exposure, featuring filtered morning sun. Young specimens need protection from direct sunlight and grow best in shady locations. When growing as a patio palm, it would be a good idea to remember that they should not be grown in direct sun.
Fertilization: Need a perfect low-release fertilizer (e.g., 18-18-18) diet including all micro nutrients and trace elements, for enhanced vigour of top growth (a deeper green), but any specific palm Fertiliser would be fine, along with occasional Mg & Mn Sulphate soil "drenches".
Aerosol salt tolerance: Not tolerant, so beachside planting would not be a good idea.
Hardiness: (USDA hardiness zones 10b-12) This palm is considered in cultivation a strictly tropical species, however it comes from Papua New Guinea, quite high in the mountains, so it is probably quite cold tolerant, and mature, established specimens can tolerate temperatures ranging from 0° C to 40° C (though some plants have tolerated a winter minimum temperature of -2 C for a short time). Best above 10° C.
Wind hardiness: Protect it from air movement, and keep some air humidity around it It cannot tolerate at all sweltering heat and windy conditions, remember, this is an understory rainforest tree!
Maintenance: It will rarely need pruning only removal of browned-out fronds or leaves. Remove spent flowering spikes to avoid harbouring pests such as mealy bugs.
Use: It is grown in open air, in the tropical and subtropical zones, in garden likes a well mulched garden bed and should be planted in a prominent area to appreciate the true beauty of its leaves. It is the ideal plant in a partly shaded to shaded location and regularly watered. It is may also be used as indoor plant, for its adaptability to conditions of scarce luminosity. When young it is well suited for table decoration.
Disease & Pests: Generally, it’s free of serious diseases and pests. Protect from frost.
Propagation: By fresh seeds that germinate in 3-4 months.
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