Chun's emblemic palm from Hainan Island

I've featured a few plants from South China Botanical Gardens in recent weeks, and will probably return to a few more. Today's is the first plant you see on arrival at the botanic garden, depicted in the organisational logo.

What you see here, schematically, is a frond of Chuniophoenix hainanensis, only found naturally on Hainan Island, the 35,000 square kilometre island almost equidistant from Guangzhou (the location of the botanic garden in China) and Hanoi, in Vietnam.

The plant is featured in the botanic garden landscape, just inside the front gate and as you enter its famous Palm Garden.

It is one of the 'clustering palmate palms', meaning the typical plant consists of multiple stems topped by fan-shaped (rather than elongate fern-like) fronds.

I only noticed small plants, with small fronds, but I gather a mature plant can be up to eight metres high and wide, with leaves having 20 to 28 segments. As in this picture also taken in South China Botanical Garden.

The genus Chuniophoenix was named in 1937, after Professor Chun Woon-Young, then Director of the Botanical Institute in Guangzhou and founder of the South China Botanical Garden, and its resemblance to the well-known palm genus Phoenix. A single collection had been made a couple of year earlier, from Hainan Island. During the second world war, the main specimen (the holotype) was destroyed in the Berlin herbarium but a couple of replicates survived elsewhere.

A second species, from Vietnam, was named 40 years after, and later discovered in Hainan Island (where it was at first described as new, and has occasionally been treated as such since). Then in 2015, a third (accepted by all) species was found in Vietnam.

Chuniophoenix hainanensis is now known in nature from only one mountain range on Hainan Island, where habitat loss threatens its survival. None of the three species are common in cultivation but the South China Botanical Garden recommends is highly as a garden plant.

There are another 300 or so species in the three hectare Palm Garden, including the beautifully grey fronded Bismarckia nobilis from Madagascar.

While this is a small selection of the world's 2,400 palm species, I gather you will find most of China's 73 native species. None of course as treasured as Professor Chun's rare palm from Hainan Island.

Images: All from South China Botanical Garden, with all but the mature plant taken by me in December 2019. That other one, from Palmpedia.

Postscript: From Facebook, 17 March 2020: Joe Bai 琼棕. It has been a house plant for 50 years in China but now more people buy Dypsis lutescens 散尾葵.