This is a really special palm! A strange looking, multistemmed Arenga that grows to more than 6 m (20 ft.) tall and carries elegant, large, flat, evenly pinnate leaves with silvery white undersides. Growing up to an incredible 2000-2150 m (6500-7000 ft.) above sea level, it occasionally endures a light winter snow and freezes in its habitat in the foothills of the eastern Himalayas, and is certainly the most cool hardy in its genus. Arenga micrantha was described as recently as 1988 from Tibet (would you have thought that any palm grows there?) and has now also been found to occur in Bhutan and northeastern India. It is extraordinary how this comparatively large palm could have remained undetected in an area that has been well and truly botanized for a hundred years, yet this is what has happened. Following the initial discovery of a small group of plants in northeastern India, it was found to be growing in several other locations, in some numbers, and is used by the locals for thatching and for the manufacture of brooms. A cool-growing palm, it is best adapted to moist and mild or warm conditions in summer, and cold, dryish conditions in winter, however, in cultivation it has shown to be widely adaptable.
Here are some features and facts about Arenga micrantha:
1. **Appearance**: This palm typically grows with a cluster of stems, each reaching a height of about 3 to 6 meters. The leaves are pinnate, meaning they are feather-like in shape, and can be several meters long, with leaflets on each side of the central axis. The actual flowers are small and are encompassed within larger, complex branched inflorescences. The fruit is typically a drupe, containing one seed, and is covered in fibers.
2. **Habitat**: Arenga micrantha prefers subtropical and temperate climates and is often found in mountainous regions. It's typically seen in forests, in valleys, and along riverbanks at elevations of 1400–2500 meters.
3. **Uses**: The sap from the Arenga micrantha can be used to produce sugar, although it's not as commonly used for this purpose as its relative, the Arenga pinnata, also known as the sugar palm or gomuti palm. The sap must be boiled to produce a syrup or sugar. In some areas, the fruit is eaten, and the fibers covering the fruit are used for making ropes and other products.
4. **Conservation**: As of my last update in January 2022, there isn't specific information on the conservation status of Arenga micrantha. However, like many plant species, it could potentially be threatened by habitat destruction, climate change, and overharvesting. Efforts to protect its natural habitat and sustainable harvesting practices would be important for its conservation.
Here are general steps and conditions required for palm seed germination that can be applicable, with specific attention to conditions that might suit a species like Arenga micrantha:
1. **Seed Collection and Storage**: Fresh seeds tend to germinate better. Once collected, they shouldn't be allowed to dry out completely, and they should be planted as soon as possible. If you need to store them, do so in a cool, dark, and slightly moist environment.
2. **Soaking**: Soak the seeds in water for up to 24-48 hours before planting. This helps to soften the seed coat and can hasten germination.
3. **Cleaning and Scarification**: If the seeds are encased in a fibrous husk, this should be removed. Some growers use a process called scarification, which involves slightly abrading the seed surface to make it more permeable to water, though this isn't always necessary and must be done with caution to avoid damaging the seed.
4. **Sterilization**: It might be beneficial to lightly sterilize the seeds with a fungicide or a mild bleach solution to prevent fungal or bacterial infections during germination.
5. **Planting Medium**: Use a well-draining seed-starting mix. A common medium for palms is a mix of peat and perlite or peat and sand. The soil should be kept moist but not waterlogged.
6. **Depth**: Plant the seeds at a depth of about twice their diameter.
7. **Temperature and Humidity**: Palms generally germinate best in warm and humid conditions. A temperature range of 25-30 degrees Celsius (77-86 degrees Fahrenheit) is often ideal. You might need a heat mat to maintain this temperature consistently.
8. **Light**: While germinating, seeds don't require light, but after sprouting, seedlings need bright, indirect light.
9. **Water**: Keep the medium moist, but avoid overwatering as it can lead to rotting.
10. **Patience**: Palm seeds can be slow to germinate. While some might sprout in a few weeks, others can take several months.
Remember, these are general guidelines. Specific conditions can vary for Arenga micrantha, and success might involve some trial and error. It's also important to source seeds responsibly, especially if dealing with species that might be threatened or have restricted distributions.