Larry Noblick and colleagues have just published an extensive study of New World palms.The work carefully examines the morphology and anatomy of the close relatives of the Coconut Palm – Syagrus, Attalea, Butia and others – and considers how these are all related based on this information.

Larry’s study of these palms began in the 1980s for his graduate study. His extensive fieldwork throughout South America and the Caribbean over the decades has developed both a leading living collection of these palms at Montgomery, as well as extensive herbarium specimens documenting these plants. In total, specimens from 47 different herbaria were carefully studied. These living and preserved collections provide a rich source of information – the very structure of the plants – which can be used to consider how these palms have evolved.

These palms include amazing diversity of habit and shape, with some of the most massive palms known, and also some of the smallest. The work found that perhaps the genus Syagrus is not held together by a single common ancestor, as several other recognized genera appear to group within Syagrus. Further research involving other kinds of data will help resolve these questions.

The study appears in the journal Brittonia, Volume 65, which is published by The New York Botanical Garden.