Rare palm species that flowers underground discovered in Borneo

In a new study, researchers at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and partners have described the only known member of the palm family (Arecaceae) to flower and fruit almost entirely underground. Owing to this unusual characteristic, the scientists have named the species Pinanga subterranea, with its species name derived from the Latin word for underground. The work was published in the journal PALMS with added commentary in Plants, People, Planet.

Native to the tropical island of Borneo in Southeast Asia, the plant is well-known to locals who like to snack on its bright-red fruit—a sweet and juicy delicacy consumed in some parts of the island. However, until now, the plant has remained unnoticed by scientists who, to date, have described around 300 different species of palm on the island. Pinanga subterranea joins more than 2,500 species of palm known to science, up to half of which may be threatened with extinction.

According to the international team of researchers, P. subterranea can be found scattered across the primary rainforests of western Borneo, crossing state lines from Sarawak in Malaysia to Kalimantan in Indonesia. Prior to its scientific description, the plant was known in at least three Bornean languages under the names Pinang Tanah, Pinang Pipit, Muring Pelandok, and Tudong Pelandok.

Read more at phys.org

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