Alexandra palm

posted in: Plants | 5

The Alexandra palm (Archontophoenix alexandrae) is named in honour of Princess Alexandra of Denmark, who later became the Queen of England when her husband ascended the throne as Edward VII. The generic name comes from the Greek words archon and phoenix, meaning majestic and date palm. The palm is indeed majestic, with a slender upright stem ringed with the scars of the old fronds and topped with a crown of elegant fronds (above).

This palm, considered one of the most graceful in cultivation, originated from the rainforest of Eastern Australia. It was introduced during the early 20th century and is now commonly grown in many urban gardens and along roadsides. It bears large bunches of red fruits throughout the year, attracting small flocks of Asian Glossy Starling (Aplonis panayensis) that descend on the fruiting branches (above).

The fruit has a large seed and a thin covering of pulp, as shown in the cross-section above.

The starlings are attractive in their all black plumage that appears glossy blackish-green or even slightly bluish-tinged under certain light conditions and of course their bright red eyes. The juveniles are less attractive (above). These birds swallow the fruits whole to later regurgitate the seeds.

Asian Koel (Eudynamys scolopacea) (female, above) similarly eat the fruits, arriving stealthily to also swallow and regurgitate the seeds.

Javan Myna (Acridotheres javanicus) and Yellow-vented Bulbul (Pycnonotus goiavier) can also be seen, feeding singly or in pairs and pecking on the fruits (above).

The stunningly beautiful but extremely shy Black-naped Oriole (Oriolus chinensis) has also been seen around (above). And just recently three noisy Hill Mynas (Gracula religiosa) suddenly arrived to feast on the fruits. I have also observed Straw-headed Bulbul (Pycnontus zeylanicus) on the palm.

Input and images by YC Wee.

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