Balaka siliensis Christoph.
Family: Arecaceae
not available

Balaka siliensis Christoph.

Bishop Mus. Bull. 128: 34. 1935.


Endemic to Samoa, where it is uncommon in foothill forest in southeast Savai‘i, reported from 300 to 450 m elevation.  The bast of the species of the 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 its name.  Hodel (2010) reduced this to Balaka samoensis, but the fruits and flowers are much larger, and it seems to be restricted geographically to the Sili to Gataevai area of Savai‘i.  This species may include Drymophloeus whitmeeanus, which is known from a single specimen that lacks flowers, but has a fruit larger than any of the other Balaka or Solfia species in Samoa.  Samoan Name: māniuniu (a generic name). 

Small palm up to 5 m in height and ca. 5 cm dbh, with glabrous stems.  Leaves several, alternate, pinnately compound; rachis striate, mottled with brownish scales; blade up to over 1 m long, with ca. 8–13 sessile, elongate and slightly sigmoid or falcate leaflets up to 41 × 5–9 (–12 in the terminal ones) 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 length not known, but with a ligule at the top.  Inflorescence of a few widely 1- or 2-branching, many-flowered axillary panicles 30–60 cm long arising from the trunk, the peduncle 18–30 cm long, enlarged at the base and sheathing the stem, with 6–13 somewhat zigzag rachillae 10–30 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 11–14 mm long, reflexed at maturity.  Ovary (pistillode) of female flowers superior, attenuate into a wavy, simple style, about 1.5x 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 lanceolate in outline drupe 2.8–4.2 cm long, irregularly several-ridged when dry, surrounded by the dry, cup-shaped perianth 8–12 mm long, about 1/4 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; white petals 11–14 mm long; style about as long as the numerous stamens; and a red fruit 2.8–4.2 cm long enclosed in a the dry, cup-shaped perianth 8–12 mm long.