Caryota sp. 'Elvis'

Synonymy: Unknown Distribution: Sarawak
Common names: Unknown Conservation status: Unknown

Photos copyright 2000, William Shannon, Hollywood, FL.

A brief history of Caryota sp. 'Elvis'
by Paul Craft

Around 1991, I received seed from Sarawak of Arenga sp. 'Elvis'. This is the only collection of this species ever done to my knowledge. Inge Hoffmann also received some of the seed. It was an undescribed species and was apparently named after the collector who collected the seed (Elvis apparently is not dead).

After sprouting the seed, I ended up with two different things. One had the usual first leaf of an Arenga and the other the typical first leaf of a Caryota. Now I have germinated a bunch of different Arenga species and I have had some sprout with that typical bifid leaf instead of the usual simple leaf so I am not so sure the whole story can be explained from that first leaf. I began growing them as Arenga as I had no reason to think otherwise.

Eventually the majority began showing the bi-pinnate leaves of a Caryota. Only a very small handful were obviously true Arenga and appeared later to be some form of A. engleri. I always wondered if perhaps some seed from another community pot had got mixed in with the C. sp. 'Elvis' seed. I changed the name of the ones with bi-pinnate leaves to Caryota sp. 'Elvis'. They grew very vigorously and had much larger leaflets and a somewhat more rounded shape than C. mitis. The seed had also been quite a bit larger than C. mitis.

Whether this is a unique species or just a form of C. mitis remains to be seen. Dr. William Hahn is doing a monograph on Caryota but it is nowhere near completed. He believes there is more than one species of clumping Caryota, but he has not seen or done any work on this C. sp. 'Elvis'. If any of you have some seed, fruit, male and female flowers, and perhaps leaflets you can send to him, he may be interested in them.

Note: Dr. Hahn can be reached by e-mail at Columbia University using the following address:  WH55@columbia.edu.

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