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Origin and Habitat: North-East Queensland from just north of Iron Range south to Mt Elliot (Australia)
Altitude: 0-1500 m above sea level.
Habitat: It is a t climbing palm, growing in small groups or scattered individuals in primary more seasonald rier rain-forest, moist scleniphyll forest, vine forests, littoral forest, monsoon forest and also in wet rainforest.
ENGLISH: Fishtail Lawyer Vine, Cane, Fishtail Lawyer Cane, Fishtail Lawyer, Fishtail wait-a-while, Rattan palm, Climbing palm, Fishtail rattan
GERMAN (Deutsch): Rotangpalme, Rattanpalm
Description: Calamus caryotoides is a very attractive, spiny, slender vine palm with indeterminate monopodial growth habit up to 15 m tall and 5 m in spread, but not exceeding a stem diameter of 20 mm. It clumps to form 3 to10 dominant stems with small spines and fishtail foliage similar to those in the genus Caryota (hence the species name). It was once recorded as the longest vining palm in the world.
Trunk: Clustering, very thin, flexible, smooth, glassy, green to brown, climbing to 15 m long , 10-20 mm in diameter; intemodes to 20 cm long. The stems (or more correctly the compound leaf sheaths)are densely clothed in long dark irritant spiny hairs.
Leaves: Pinnate up to 40 cm long, horizontal, not terminating in a cirrus (whip-like extension armed with spines). Pinnae (leaflets) 2-12 per side to up to 25 cm long, to 6 cm wide, dark green above, slightly grey-green below, more or less regularly arranged, glossy, without spines on upper surface veins, fish-tail shaped , margins spiny, apices praemorse, with more or less leaf-opposed very thin hooked flagellae up to 4 m long attached to the sheathing base of the compound leaf petiole that act as hooked whips to attach itself onto surrounding vegetation. Terminal leaflet blade deeply bilobed about 13 cm long and 9 cm wide. Sheath green, glabrous with dense, needle-like, green, spines up to 10 mm long in small horizontal rows; knee to 10 mm long with small spines similar to those on the leafsheath; petiole 0-12 cm long, sparsely spiny, with broad-based spines; rachis grooved below, spiny, rounded to angled above, with single or paired hooks; midrib not very prominent with several parallel veinlets.
Inflorescences: Small spikes sparsely branched, to 2.5 m long; Male flowers: Inflorescence a slender, pendulous, much-branched panicle. Flowers borne in two-ranked spikes, the individual flowers arranged in a single plane. Female flowers: Inflorescence borne on the sheathing base opposite the compound leaf petiole.
Blooming season: Flowering (and fruiting) all months.
Fruit: With one (or two) seed, roundish, approximately 10-20 mm diameter, 8-15 mm wide; epicarp clothed in numerous slightly overlapping shield-like or diamond-shaped scales arranged in a neat regular pattern, cream-yellow to pale brown; mesocarp less than one millimetre thick; sarcotesta 1-2 mm thick; flower remnants not persistent on fruit.
Seed: Approx. 7 mm long and 5 mm wide, surrounded by an acidic slightly astringent pulp, smooth with a shallow depression on the long side; endosperm homogeneous.
Bibliography: Major references
1) Jesse Russell, Ronald Cohn "Calamus Caryotoides" Book on Demand, 2012
2) John Leslie Dowe “Australian Palms: Biogeography, Ecology and Systematics” Csiro Publishing, 30/giu/2010 Page 64
3) Keith Boyer, Palm & Cycad Societies of Australia “Palms and cycads beyond the tropics: a guide to growing cold-hardy species” Publication Fund, Palm & Cycad Societies of Australia, 1992. Page 57
4) Cairns Botanical Gardens “Aboriginal Plant Use Garden: Cairns Rainforest Region” Cairns Botanical Gardens. Cairns.
Cultivation and Propagation: This one of the the most hardy and easy to grow of the Calamus species and the preferd one for cultivation. It is shade-loving palm adapt to tropical and warm temperate climates. It can be grown as a self-supporting palm without the need for draping it all over the yard and is very attractive.It is slow growing during its first few years. It begins to climb after three years of age.
Soil requirements: It has a fibrous root system and benefits from deep fertile, organic, moist, well drained soils except those that are constantly soggy. However it is widely adaptable including those that are neutral, acidic, clayey and slightly alkaline, provided they are free-draining.
Waterlogged, highly lateritic, extremely, stony or peaty soils should be avoided.
Watering: Water regularly; do not overwater. During the summer or warmer months, water frequently to keep the soil from drying out.
Light: Will grow better in full shade and resent full sun, or even partial afternoon or midday sun, but tolerates morning sun. Seedlings like a more sheltered area.
Fertilization: Need a perfect fertilizer diet including all micro nutrients and trace elements.
Aerosol salt tolerance: Not known.
Wind tolerance: It tends to brown-tip badly if exposed to winds. It needs wind protection.
Hardiness: It is suited for tropical or subtropical climate, but shows a surprising hardiness for a rattan growing exceptionally well in zone 9b (some rattans, such as Plectocomia himalayana are even more cold hardy, but most are not). It can tolerate temps down to -5° C without too much leaf damage.
Maintenance: It can be trimmed to a managable height and if you want to keep it 'safe' and neat looking. However if allowed to grow unpruned, it will not develop into a massive palm, as it usually grows only to 2 or more metres tall. Trimmed trunk stops to grow and dies, but new suckers are constantly being produced at the base. This is one of the few species that makes a nice clump which can support its own weight if kept pruned low.
Traditional uses: The slender canes of this species have been used for making furniture, baskets and other woven items.
Medicinal uses: This plant was used medicinally by Aborigines, young shoots eaten to cure headaches.
Garden uses: It is rarely cultivated, but is a very tropical looking excellent palm. It is grown in open air, in the sub tropical and warm-temperate zones, for the decoration of gardens, in a partly shaded to shaded location and regularly watered. It is ideal where garden space is limited and a small plant is required. It is a great collector's palm.
Hazard: It has long, hooked tendrils (flagella) that can be very dangerous for passersby. The plant itself is moderately armed with spines, but it's the whips and tendrils that are the most troublesome. If the tendrils are not cut away, this can be an extremely hazardous palm, these modified leaf parts are very thin, hard to see but have a sharp hook at the end that will grab your skin or clothing as you brush against them. Carefull. Most palm enthusiasts growing this species keep it pruned and hack off all the tendrils.
Propagation: Seeds or division.
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