A massive feather palm, 20 m tall, closely resembling a coconut palm; Leaves, 5 m long, with 70 stiff, waxy green leaflets on each side of the petiole.
Thought perhaps to have been the ancestor of the coconut palm, Cocos nucifera. This adds evidence to the hypothesis that the Cocoseae tribe originated in Gondwana or South America and rafted on the Indian continent 120 mya north into South East Asia. Has the largest number of chromosomes in its cells, around 600, highest for any monocotyledon. This suggests an ancient lineage. Only 15 mature individuals of Voanioala gerardii have been found in the three known sites to the northeast of Madagascar, where it is endemic, and occurs in only three areas around the Bay of Antongil. These are remote and difficult to access and mostly protected; despite this it is subject to selective exploitation and the population is declining. Based on the small population size this species qualifies for a Critically Endangered IUCN listing, though, given its range it ought to perhaps be listed simply as Endangered. Protected in Masoala National Park. Occurs in primary lowland forest rich in palms in swampy valley bottoms and on gentle slopes. Recorded from 200 to 700 m.
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