An Eco-sustainable World
ArborealSpecies Plant

Livistona benthamii

Livistona benthamii

The Bentham’s fan palm or Benthams’s fountain palm, swamp cabbage palm (Livistona benthamii F.M.Bailey 1902) is an arboreal species belonging to the Arecaceae family.

Systematic –
From a systematic point of view it belongs to:
Eukaryota domain,
Kingdom Plantae,
Division Magnoliophyta,
Class Liliopsida,
Subclass Arecidae,
Order Arecales,
Arecaceae family,
Subfamily Coryphoideae,
Tribe Livistoneae,
Subtribe Livistoninae,
Livistona genre,
Species L. benthamii.
The terms are synonymous:
– Livistona holtzei Becc.;
– Livistona melanocarpa Burret.

Etymology –
The term Livistona was given in honor of Patrick Murray, Baron of Livingston, who in 1670 dedicated his collection and his garden to a botanical garden, which later became the current Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh.
The specific epithet benthamii is in honor of the English botanist George Bentham (1800-1884) who was called by Duane Isely “The first systematic botanist of the nineteenth century”.

Geographic Distribution and Habitat –
Livistona benthamii is a palm with natural distribution ranging from Cape York to the Archer River in Queensland, the Northern Territory and New Guinea.
In detail it is present in Australia in the Northern Territory, from Daly R. through the Top End to eastern Arnhem Land, and in Queensland from Moa Is. in the Torres Strait through Cape York to McIlwraith Ra. In Papua New Guinea it is present in the western and central provinces, and in Indonesia in Papua, Merauke Division.
Its habitat is that of swamp forests, on floodplains, on the leeward side of mangroves and in wet or humid areas in monsoon thickets and gallery forests at low altitudes, 0-100 m alt.

Description –
Livistona benthamii is a monoecious palm, with hermaphroditic flowers, solitary, with an erect stem, 16-20 m tall. At the base the stem measures 30-40 cm in diameter and gradually reduces to 14-18 cm in diameter about 3 m above the ground. The stem is vertically fissured, light brown in color with ring-shaped traces of leaf scars. At the base of the stem, for a height of 4-6 m, the stumps of the petioles remain for a long time, up to 50-60 cm long, arranged almost horizontally.
The leaves are costapalmate, wavy, almost circular, 0.8-1.5 m long, of an intense green color and shiny above, slightly lighter below, divided into 60-80 segments, 2.5-3 cm wide, joined to the base for approximately 1/3-1/4 of their length, the free part is in turn divided up to approximately the middle into two linear-lanceolate segments with slightly divergent and hanging acute apex.
The petioles are 1.4-2 m long and 1-2 cm wide; they are light green in color except near the base where they have reddish brown shades, they are equipped in the lower half with irregularly arranged and variously curved blackish brown spines, of variable length up to 1 cm, almost defenseless in the remaining part; the leaf base largely disintegrates into a fibrous mass that surrounds the stem.
The inflorescences are interfoliar and have a length less than or equal to that of the petioles, of a creamy white to yellowish colour, with second-order ramifications and numerous rachillae, of various lengths up to about 12 cm, with tiny, hermaphroditic, sessile, solitary or in groups of 2-3, with 6 stamens united at the base and 3 free carpels at the base and united at the apex to form a single style with a three-lobed stigma.
The populations that grow in the natural state have fruiting plants and others that do not, even if no differences are found between the flowers, this would suggest a certain “de facto” dioecious behavior worthy of further investigation.
The fruits are obovoid to pyriform in shape, 0.9-1.1 cm in length and about 1 cm in diameter, blackish in color when ripe.
Inside there is a single globular seed, about 0.8 cm in diameter, dark brown in colour.
Phenology: flowers from September to January; fruit November-April.

Cultivation –
Livistona benthamii is a palm which, despite coming from humid tropical areas, has proven adaptable to warm temperate climates such as the Mediterranean type, where it can resist, as an adult, temperatures down to around -3 °C, if exceptional and short term.
For its cultivation it requires partial shade in the youthful phase, then also full sun, and adapts to different types of soil, from slightly acidic to slightly alkaline, even if it prefers those rich in organic substance kept almost constantly humid.
This palm is moderately tolerant of salt aerosols and short periods of drought, but benefits from regular watering in climates with long, hot, dry summers. The young plants have deeply incised leaves with thin segments, which are particularly attractive, and are an excellent subject to grow in pots for decorating bright environments.
Reproduction occurs by seed. Very small round black seeds are rubbed and placed in shallow trays.
The seed must be kept in water for three days beforehand, in draining organic soil kept humid at a temperature of 26-28 °C, with germination times of 1 to 4 months.
With standard horticultural practice you will have a 200mm potted plant with many deeply cut leaves, ready for a shady spot in the garden. Good air circulation in the growing area is necessary to prevent fungal attack. These palms grow quite quickly if they receive plenty of water and fertilizer.

Customs and Traditions –
Livistona benthamii is a palm known by some common names; among these we remember: Bentham’s fan palm, Benthams’s fountain palm, swamp cabbage palm (English).
It is a palm similar in appearance to the more well-known and widespread Livistona australis and Livistona decora, but with smaller dimensions; the foliage is thicker and has the characteristic long residues of the petioles in the lower part of the stem, unless they are shortened in nature by cyclones or fire and manually in cultivation for safety reasons due to the thorns.
It can have a fair use as an ornamental plant in climates suitable for its cultivation.
The vegetative apex of this palm is edible (but its removal involves the death of the plant) and, above all, at one time, it was consumed by the aborigines as a vegetable.

Preparation Method –
Livistona benthamii is a palm that was once used for food by removing its vegetative apex.
Today it can be used as an ornamental plant.

Guido Bissanti

– Acta Plantarum – Flora of the Italian Regions.
– Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
– GBIF, the Global Biodiversity Information Facility.
– Useful Tropical Plants Database.
– Conti F., Abbate G., Alessandrini A., Blasi C. (ed.), 2005. An annotated checklist of the Italian vascular flora, Palombi Editore.
– Pignatti S., 1982. Flora d’Italia, Edagricole, Bologna.
– Treben M., 2000. Health from the Lord’s Pharmacy, Advice and experiences with medicinal herbs, Ennsthaler Editore.

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Attention: Pharmaceutical applications and food uses are indicated for informational purposes only, they do not represent in any way a medical prescription; we therefore decline any responsibility for their use for healing, aesthetic or food purposes.

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