Cocos palm, Kokos palm (Syagrus romanzoffiana)
Common name: Cocos palm or Kokos palm
Size: Trunk is 10-15m tall and 40cm or more in diameter.
Habitat: Woodlands, often together with Syagrus oleracea.
Distribution: Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, Bolivia, Brazil.
The Cocos palm (Syagrus romanzoffiana) has been transferred from the genus Arecastrum. There are about 32 species distributed in South America, from Venezuela to Argentina, and one in the Lesser Antilles. Most species inhabit the dry regions of Brazil and Paraguay, in open grasslands or scrub forests, sometimes dominating the vegetation in huge colonies. Some species grow on the more humid coastal woodlands, in rainforests or in rocky areas along streams.
The Cocos palm is small to tall in size, may be solitary or clustering. Sometimes they have no apparent stem or the stem may be very short. Leaf bases tend to adhere to the stem for some distance below the crown and break down into an interwoven fibrous mass, eventually falling and leaving a clean, ringed trunk. The leaves are pinnate, leaflets are regularly or irregularly arranged, often arising in different planes, giving a plumose appearance.
Petioles of the palm are about 40cm long with fibrous margins. Rachis is about 3m long, with around 150 pairs of leaflets arranged in groups and arising in different planes, giving a plumose appearance. Inflorescences arise among the leaves, are simple-branched to one order. A large, usually woody, bract encloses the inflorescence in bud, then splits open lengthwise and persists well after flowering has occurred. The fruit of the Kokos palm are small to relatively large, ovoid or ellipsoidal and usually single seeded, though occasionally two-seeded. The palm has a wide introduced range due to its popularity as an ornamental garden tree.
Named after Nikolay Rumantsev who was Russia’s foreign Minister, the Syagrus romanzoffiana is a popular palm, found in most sub-tropical areas and is much used in landscaping. Its waves and infloresences are used as a cattle fodder, especially for milking cows. The fruits are edible, being sought by birds as well as by mammals including some wild canids such as pampas, fox and crab-eating foxes.