Phoenix in the Cape Verde Islands

Henderson, Sally. Gomes, Isildo. Gomes, Samuel & Baker, William
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The African Republic of Cape Verde consists of nine inhabited and several uninhabited volcanic islands set out in the Atlantic Ocean, about 500 km off the most westerly point of the African mainland and 1500 km south of the Canary Islands @g. 2). Most are rugged and mountainous; three (Sal, Maio, and Boavista) are flat, desert islands with sand beaches. Precipitation is meagre and very erratic; indeed Cape Verde can be seen as an island extension of the arid Sahel zone. Three species of the genus Phoenix are recorded from the Cape Verde Islands, P. akzctyli&a L., P. canariensis Chabaud and P. atlantica A. Chev. While the former two species have almost certainly been introduced by man, the latter is said to be endemic to the islands. Perhaps because the Cape Verdes are a particularly isolated set of islands or because palms are notoriously awkward to collect, little is known about the taxonomy, origins and natural history of this species. Phoenix atlantica was described by the French botanist Auguste Chevalier (1935a) following field exploration in the Cape Verdes in 1934 (Chevalier 1934: 1153). Chevalier provided limited diagnostic characters, defining the species as a clustering palm with 2-6 trunks, 5-15 m in height with dark green leaves 2-3 m in length. He considered it to be most similar in form to P. &ctyZzjkra and P. canariensis, possessing characters of both (Chevalier 1935a). Chevalier’s description indicates that Phoenix atlantica can be distinguished easily from P. canariensis by its clustering growth form (P. canariensis always has a single, stout trunk) and its shorter, straighter leaves. However, the differences between P. atlantica and P. dactylzjkra appear much more subtle. For example, while P. dacfylifera is usually observed as single-stemmed, when left undisturbed for a number of years it becomes clustering like the Cape Verde Phoenix, so this character on its own is unreliable. Further alleged distinctions include acuminate (P. atlantica) versus rounded (P. dactylzjkra) petals in the male flowers (Chevalier 1935a, b, Greuter 1967: 249, and Brochmann et al. 1997), fruit 2 cm long (P. atlantica) versus fruit more than 2.5 cm long (P. dactyl&a) (Brochmann et al.1997), leaves green (P. atlantica) versus leaves glaucous (p. dactylifera).
(Henderson,et al.2003)