Dypsis decaryi

triangle palm


Dypsis decaryi

(Jum.) Beentje & J.Dransf. 1995

pronounced: DIP-siss de-KAR-yee

(Arecaceae — the palm family)

synonym — Neodypsis decaryi

Jum. 1933

pronounced: NEE-oh-DIP-siss de-KAR-yee

common name: triangle palm

The etymology of  dypsis is obscure. Wikipedia suggests that it might be related to the Greek δυπτω (dypto), to dive, or  δυπτης (dyptis), a diver. In the synonym, Neodypsis means ‘new dypsis’ – Greek νεος (neos), new. Decaryi was named for Raymond Decary (1891 – 1973), French plant collector, who did much collecting in Madagascar. This palm, as well as most other members of the Dypsis genus, originates in the rainforests of that island. The Dypsis genus was named by Father Francisco Noronha (1748 – 1788), a Spanish physician and botanist who lived for some time in the Philippines, but also visited Madagascar. He spent a great deal of time organizing the Royal Botanic Garden in Manila, and built up its collection of valuable plants. The species was first named by J. Dransfield and H. Beentje in their book The Palms of Madagascar, 1995.

This palm can reach 15 m in height, although it is rarely found as tall as that outside its native habitat, due to its being relatively new to cultivation. It has a single smooth upright trunk, 20–35 cm in diameter, brownish grey, ringed by the scars from the fallen fronds.

The leaves are about 2.5 m long, arching almost upright from the trunk, and then arching gracefully about 1 m from the tip. The leaves are grey-green to bluish green in colour, pinnate, with a brown petiole covered in a whitish bloom. The leaf bases grow on three distinct sides of the plant, forming a triangle, which gives the palm its common name. Distinctive long straps, or reins, frequently hang down from above the short trunk.

Yellow and green flowers branch out from between the lower leaves on a petiole over 1 m long. The palm is monoecious. Round black inedible fruit about 2.5 cm in diameter are produced. The triangle palm can bloom at any time of the year.

It is easily propagated from seed, which usually germinates within a month of sowing.

This spectacular palm makes an excellent specimen plant, and should be grown in the open without anything to obscure its unusual shape – it needs its own space. It prefers full sun, and regular watering, but it can stand occasional dryness and semi-shade. Once it is established, it is a very fast grower. It is also a very good container plant for a patio or large courtyard. It is an excellent air purifier, removing both ethyl and methyl alcohol and acetone from the surrounding atmosphere, as well as formaldehyde and xylene.

It has rather a low salt tolerance, and should not be planted in areas close to the beach. Once it is well-established, its drought tolerance is quite high.


Photographs taken in Nelly Bay 2012
Page last updated 18th July 2019