West Papua has Raja Ampat as one of its breathtaking attractions. Like its wonderful marine beauty, Raja Ampat also has many plants that have not yet been discovered. Raja Ampat is not only enriched with impressive animals. It also has 874 plant species from 116 tribes, including 360 tree species from 83 tribes. Only being recorded, there are predictably many other types of plants that have not been recorded because of limited access.
One example of species that only exists in Raja Ampat is the Raja Ampat Palm or Wallaceodoxa raja-ampat. To get to know more about the solitary palm plant of West Papua, you can review some details about it in the following elaboration.
Behind the Name
Wallaceodoxa raja-ampat was discovered in 2014 by Prof Charlie D. Heatubun from UNIPA on Gag Island, a nickel mining concession. The Raja Ampat palm grows solitary in the lowlands from 50 to 600 meters above sea level.
If you’re wondering how they came to the name of Wallaceodoxa, it shares a quite interesting reason. It is to commemorate Alfred Russel Wallace. He was an amazing English naturalist and co-discovered the evolution theory. Wallaceodoxa comes from his name “Wallace” and the Greek word “doxa” which together means “to the glory of Wallace.”
Meanwhile, the name behind “raja-ampat” species is because the unique solitary palm plant can only be found in Raja Ampat Islands, West Papua, especially in Gag Island and Waigeo Island. Thus, it can make Wallaceodoxa raja-ampat good to go together.
Solitary Palm Native to Raja Ampat
Being part of the family Arecaceae, Wallaceodoxa is a genus of palm in the subtribe Ptychospermatinae. Wallaceodoxa raja-ampat, native to the Raja Ampat, West Papua, belongs to the genus. The palm plant is found in two islands in Raja Ampat, namely Gag Island and Waigeo Island. Lowland forest on limestone up to 50 meters high is where this palm has been reported to grow. Mostly, it has been found in secondary and disturbed forests, and old gardens. The palm plant is closely associated with Calamus species, Areca macrocalyx Zipp. ex Blume, Licuala species, and Heterospathe elata Scheff.
Wallaceodoxa raja-ampat is a solitary palm. It is a unique canopy palm distinguished with its bold indumentum along the sheath, leaf rachis, petiole, and white inflorescence, its arching leaves with small, balance leaflets. It is branched to generally three orders, with bold rachillae clustered with triads of flowers.
The palm plant stem can reach 30 to 50 meters tall. The diameter of the stem can be 9 to 30 cm. It has 11 to 19 cm of crown leaves. The petiole is around 275 to 410 cm long. The sheat tubular is approximately 76 to 115 cm long and 16 to 30 cm wide. The tapering is ten wide, and the crown-shaft is 100 to 150 cm long. Its inflorescence at the anthesis is 50 to 100 cm long and 75 to 80 cm wide.
The Uses of Wallaceodoxa raja-ampat
Like other uses of a palm plant, Wallaceodoxa raja-ampat is used in various ways. If you want to build an installation for flooring, you can use the stem of the palm. The local people usually consume betel nut on a daily basis, and the fruit of Wallaceodoxa raja-ampat can substitute for the nut. The way to enjoy it is by chewing the palm fruit.
Today, Wallaceodoxa raja-ampat is critically endangered due to the worse habitat quality and the related fragmentation. Three-third of the Gag Island area is included in a concession of nickel mining. Meanwhile, other parts of the island on limestones have been extensively turned to be coconut and conventional mixed-crop plantations. The only remaining part here is the rainforest.
The development of Waisai has threatened the subpopulation of the Waigeo. The subpopulation of Waigeo covers the entire area within the town and soon becomes Waisai’s town center in the nearest future. One example is that the specimen of herbarium from the site was taken from the office complex and the town hall of the local government and sent to the Pari Convention Center building.
In 2006, a census recorded the subpopulation in Gag Island consisting of 45 adults, 32 teenagers, and 129 children, but the same subpopulation changed in 2011, including only 28 adults and no teenagers nor children. It predictably occurred because of the clearance of land committed by the local people. They conducted slash-and-burn agriculture and expanded the coconut plantation, which most likely represented a decline in adults reaching 38%.
Those are several highlights about Wallaceodoxa raja-ampat. You can only see the unique solitary palm plant in West Papua, Indonesia. The conservation status is now endangered due to the conservational habitat issues, although it is still beneficial for the local people for various uses, like flooring and food.
Heatubun and Baker, W. J. Wallaceodoxa raja-ampat. https://powo.science.kew.org/taxon/urn:lsid:ipni.org:names:77141222-1 [Retrieved on December 31, 2021]
Kumparan. 2021. Mengenal Tanaman Ajaib di Raja Ampat yang Tak Ada di Tempat Lain. https://kumparan.com/pandangan-jogja/mengenal-tanaman-ajaib-di-raja-ampat-yang-tak-ada-di-tempat-lain-1wOtJf20Vym