Balaka samoensis Becc.
Family: Arecaceae
not available

Balaka samoensis Becc.

Webbia 4: 267. 1914


Synonyms: Balaka burretiana Christoph.; Vitiphoenix samoensis (Becc.) Burret.


Endemic to Samoa, where it is uncommon to occasional on Savai‘i and ‘Upolu in foothill to montane forest, reported from 280 to 800 m elevation.  The bast of species of this genus may have formerly been used to caulk the seams of large canoes and the frond midribs for house roofing.  Only people familiar with the forest would know this plant and its name.  Samoan Name: māniuniu (a generic name).

Small palm up to 5 m in height and ca. 5 cm dbh, with glabrous stems.  Leaves 68, alternate, pinnately compound; rachis striate, mottled with brownish scales; blade up to 1.5 m long, with 8–13 sessile, elongate and slightly sigmoid or falcate leaflets up to 40 × 2–7 (terminal ones –13) cm, broadly attenuate and sessile at the base, truncate to obliquely truncate and toothed at the tip, the terminal pair fused to form a deeply notched “fish-tail” shape; surfaces glabrous, veins of lower side prominent; sheath 25–30 cm long, with a triangular ligule ca. 2 cm long.  Inflorescence of 2–4, widely 1- or 2-branching, many-flowered axillary panicles up to 60 cm long arising from the trunk, the peduncle 25–35 cm long, enlarged at the base and sheathing the stem, with 7–15 somewhat zigzag rachillae 9–20 cm long; flowers unisexual, in clusters of 3, 2 apical males and 1 basal female.  Calyx of 3 rounded sepals ca. 3 mm long in flower; sessile.  Corolla of 3 elliptic, valvate, white petals 6–7 mm long, reflexed at maturity.  Ovary (pistillode) of female flowers superior, attenuate into a wavy, simple style about as long as the stamens; ovary vestigial in male flowers.  Stamens of male flowers many, white, with versatile anthers, reduced to staminodes in female flowers.  Fruit a red, ovoid to ellipsoid drupe 1.8–2.4 cm long, shortly beaked at the tip, irregularly several-ridged when dry, surrounded by the dry, cup-shaped perianth 5–8 mm long, less than 3x as long as the fruit.  Flowering and fruiting probably occur throughout the year. 

Distinguishable by its small palm habit; pinnately compound leaves with the leaflets truncate at the tip with the terminal pair forming a “fish-tail” shape; axillary panicles of white flowers; style about as long as the numerous stamens; and a red drupe 1.8–2.4 cm long with the dried perianth about third as long.