The Genus Licuala (Arecaceae, Coryphoideae) in Thailand
Licuala is a species-rich genus f fan palms, making it a striking component in the understorey of tropical rainforests in Southeast Asia. It reaches from eastern regions of India all the way to the Soloman Islands. Scholars have studied the genus licuala as it holds much information into the natural world.
In Thailand, researchers found that Licuala comprises 13 species which crop up in mainly the south of the Isthmus of Khra. Representatives arise in many types of habitats varing from the understorey of pristine rain forest (Licuala triphylla) to peat swamp forest (L. paludosa) and even in light-open, disturbed habitats (L. spinosa). In recent years, the scholar Donald R. Hodel described seven new species from Thailand.
In Thailand, the Licuala range for small, rosette plants such as L. triphyllat o medium tall palm trees such as L. paludosa. They generally have a 2-7cm thick stem and have circular, tubular leaf sheaths. As the leaf expands, the sheath will dry out and partially disintegrates into a fibrous mesh. “They are often extended in a caducous, slender ligule opposite the petiole base or rarely extended in a ocrea above the petiole base as seen in L. distans. The petiole is armed basally along the edges of the abaxial face. The spines are evenly to irregularly sized, straight or recurved, the average in-between distance and size decreasing gradually towards the unarmed distal part. The abaxial face usually changes from being furrowed basally to flat or rounded above the middle. The leaf is palmate, divided to the base into a number of wedge-shaped segments; unsplit only in L. peltata var. sumawongii”.
There are many species of Licuala in Thailand. The Licuala peltata Roxb is a distinctive plant, with open flowers and filaments above the basal cuplike fusion of androecium and corolla. The flowers produce nectar and are bee-pollinated.
The Licuala distans: The solitary palm are three to five meters tall with 120 – 130cm leaf sheaths. These are dark brown in colour, glabrous, which expand about 70 cm above petiole insertion in a chartaceous, light brown, glabrous ocrea.
Licuala peltata is generally less than two meters tall with a stem diameter of 10cm and covered in old, black spinelike leaf bases.
The Licuala glabra is a solitary palm, which is also generally less than two meters tall. The leaf sheaths are “12 – 15 cm long on older leaves, brown, with scattered ferruginous ramenta on petiole keel, ligule up to 15 cm long in young leaves, caduceus”.