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Origin and Habitat: Johannesteijsmannia altifrons occurs in Southeast Asia, Malaysia (Common and locally abundant in Taman Negara National Park, East Johor, and very local the Bake National Park in West Sarawak), Indonesia (Langkat Nature Reserve, Sumatra), Thailand and Borneo.
Habitat & Ecology: It is found scattered or as pure stands in the undergrowth in humid primary rain-forest on ridge-tops and hillsides on well-drained soils, mostly above 300-500 m. It is never found in secondary regrowth forests, and it rarely survives any clear-felling of trees, but often sustains considerable damage from falling trees and scorching when exposed to direct sunlight.
ENGLISH: Joey Palm, Diamond Joey Palm, Diamond Joey, Umbrella leaf palm, Litter collecting palm
CHINESE (中文): Yue han zong, Tai shi lü, 泰氏榈属
FRENCH (Français): Palmier fougère
MALAY (بهاس ملاي /Bahasa Melayu ): Daun payung sal, Sal
THAI (ภาษาไทย): Bang soon
Description: The stemless Joey palm (Johannesteijsmannia altifrons) is a very spectacular undergrowth palm with immense undivided leaves rising gracefully from the base.
Stem: Underground and creeping.
Crown: With of about 20-30 very large, erect, diamond-shaped fronds emerging right from the ground. Spread 3-6 m tall and 3-4,5 m wide.
Leaves: Large, undivided, up to 6 m high; Petiole up to 2,5 m long armed with short thorns; lamina up to 3,5 long and 1,8 m wide, slightly lobed on the 2 upper edges and with prominent veins parallel to the 2 lower edges. The extraordinary leaves of Johannesteijsmannia are diamond shaped and resemble a cantilevered shell structure with doubly curved surface and folds extending from the central spine. Such a combination of shell surface and folds contribute to the ability of the leaves to extend to a span of up to 6 metres. Moreover, the folds add an aesthetic element to the natural surface due to interplay of shadows caused by the folds.
Inflorescence: Insignificant borne in the leaf axils, at first erect becoming pendulous, surrounded towards the base by 5-6 sheathing lanceolate spathes 10-20 cm long from which emerges the much branched panicle which is up to 100 cm long and divided into 20-100 branchlets, densely covered in small flowers; petals fleshy, creamy white, up to 4 cm long. It is hermaphrodite: a single specimen produces viable seed.
Fruit: Woody, approximately 4 cm long, more or less spherical in outline but covered by numerous, more or less conical protuberances nearly 1 cm high.
Bibliography: Major references and further lectures
1) H.E.Moore, “Johannesteijsmannia - A New Name for the Palm Genus Teysmannia” Principes 5: 116 (1961)
2) Dransfield, J. (1972). “The Genus Johannesteijsmannia H.E. Moore Jr.” Gdns' Bull., Singapore 26: 63-83.
3) Palm, B.T. Jochems, S.C.J. (1924). “De sang-palm van Sumatra.” Trop. Natuur 13: 9-12.
4) Whitmore, T.C., (1973). “Palms of Malaya.” Oxford University Press. Pp. 108-111. (as Teysmannia altifrons.)
5) Zollinger, H. “Uber ein neues Palmengeschlecht von der Insel Sumatra.” Linnaea 28: 657-660. (1858), (as Teyssmania altifrons).
6) Gren Lucas, Hugh Synge “The IUCN Plant Red Data Book: Comprising Red Data Sheets on 250 Selected Plants Threatened on a World Scale” IUCN, 1978. Page 397.
7) John Dransfield, Natalie W. Uhl, Conny B. Asmussen, William J. Baker, Madeline M. Harley, Carl E. Lewis: “Genera Palmarum. The Evolution and Classification of Palms”. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew 2008
8) A.Razzack, S., Choong, K. K., and A.Majid, T., “A Study on Shell Surface with Folds - A Nature Inspired Idea from Leaves of Johannesteijsmannia altifrons”, Journal ofthe International Association for Shell and Spatial Structures: lASS. Vol. 47 (2006) n. 150.
Cultivation and Propagation: Johannesteijsmannia altifrons is a spectacular garden plant that has the fame to be temperamental and often attempts to introduce it into cultivation are not successful, it is also very difficult to obtain ripe seed and care of the seedlings is problematical. Despite all these consideration this rare palm is really beautiful and , even if it is quite expensive, well worth the money.
Growth Rate: Slow to Moderate.
Soil requirements: It is adaptable to soil types although neutral to slightly acid soils with good drainage and organic matter is recommended for best results. Avoid soils that are constantly soggy.
Watering: This plant does not tolerate drought and seems to need its roots wet all the time or it does not look good. However it is very easy to overwater it so make sure to provide good drainage. It benefits from regular watering, especially during the dry seasons and should be watered before the soil completely dries, but don't let sit in water. The result of overwatering is stunted growth, a yellowing of the leaves, and ultimately, death. Indoor, potted Johannesteijsmannia altifrons should not be over-watered. They may contract the fungus Phytophthora, if over-watered. The better the quality of water applied the better your plants will grow in the long run, particularly plants grown in containers. Plants held indoors benefit by being taken outside when it is raining or being placed under a sprinkler for a period of time.
Light: This species cannot tolerate full sun, particularly in arid climates. Outside they grow best in half-shade to shade. Young specimens need protection from direct sunlight and grow best in shady locations so for best results a shaded spot under trees or a pergola is ideal. If home-grown, they look their best in bright diffuse light.
Fertilization: Need a perfect low-release fertilizer (e.g., 18-18-18) diet including all micro nutrients and trace elements twice a year during growing season. It is subject to magnesium and potassium deficiency. Good quality fertilizer can accelerate the growth.
Hardiness: It grow well in tropical and subtropical climates, however it tolerates temperatures as low as -4° C (USDA Zones 9b to 11) and it is quite cold hardy, particularly when grown under shelter, but for safe cultivation normal temperatures should not go below 5°. (USDA hardiness zones: 10B through 11) The root system is very sensitive to the cold and should be protected if temperatures drop below freezing. Where not hardy, grow as an indoor palm in containers.
Wind tolerance: This particular palm can be severely damaged by windy sites. Keep out of drying and cold winds, needs high atmospheric humidity.
Salt aerosol tolerance: It must be protected from salt.
Maintenance: Remove dried fronds.
Garden uses: This is one of the most spectacular shade tropical palms and popular because of the uniqueness of its architecture. It will be excellent for landscaping. As an indoor plant Johannesteijsmannia altifronshas no palm rival. Needs a lot of light indoors, and dislikes air-conditioning and heating.
Traditional uses: The foliage is an excellent thatch for huts and shelters, and a single leaf makes a good umbrella; the young endosperm is said to be edible.
Disease & Pests: Protect against spider mites, scale insects and mealybug. Brown or black fungal spot is usually caused by poor cultural practices. They may require regular fertilization to prevent yellowing caused by potassium deficiencies; Brown leaf tips are often caused by an excessive accumulation of fertiliser salts in the potting mix. Protect from frost.
Propagation: It is propagated by seed that germinate in about 3 months. Before sowing soak the seeds for 1 day in tepid water, then sow in light mix at 35 °C during the day, 25 °C during the night. The seedlings are very attractive.
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