What it looks like: Darwin Palm, also known as MacArthur Palm, is a slender multi-stemmed plant of the rainforest understorey. Its bright green fronds have numerous opposite pairs of long, simple leaflets. It produces large, cascading clusters of bright red fruit.
Where it lives: Darwin Palms grow in shady rainforests on damp loamy soils associated with lowland springs near the margins of riverine floodplains. Also present on Cape York Peninsula and in Papua New Guinea, in the Northern Territory, they are known from only eight populations close to Darwin. In Queensland, they are said to thrive in canopy gaps.
Importance as an indicator: Persistence of Darwin Palms indicates intact rainforest with limited disturbance by grazing animals or weeds, and a well-managed fire regime. The wet conditions it requires are particularly sensitive to changes in hydrology caused by unseasonably dry weather, vegetation clearance or water extraction. Feral pigs are also attracted to wet areas in rainforests, where they dig up the soil looking for roots and tubers, and prevent the recruitment of new rainforest plants.
Look after Darwin Palm by protecting rainforest stands from clearance and disturbance. Manage fire in drier vegetation adjoining its rainforest habitat. Back-burn away from rainforest stands early in the dry season or after the first wet season storms to break up the fuel layer and prevent incursions by late dry season fires. Control weeds (such as Gamba Grass and Mission Grass) that increase fuel loads and fire hazards. Make sure decisions about developments in the catchments consider impacts on groundwater availability. Control pigs, which disturb rainforest soils, and may graze and dig out the low shoots.
Best Practice Management for Darwin Palm
* Maintain tree cover * Maintain shrub layer * Control pest animals * Control weeds * Fence key habitat * Manage fire * Manage water extraction sustainably * More information is needed about this species
- Describes the Darwin Palm P. macarthurii, formerly Ptychosperma bleeseri, its conservation status, appearance, distribution, ecology, threatening processes and conservation management. A list of relevant references is provided. (PDF file, 564 kB)
- This document, on the Northern Territory Government's Web Site explains their approach to managing Ptychosperma bleeseri>. Pdf 256 kB.
- This Profile of the Darwin Palm, on the Australian Government's Department of Environment and Water Resources website, provides a description of the species and where it occurs; threats faced by it; what can be done to conserve it; and where to get further information
- Holmes, J. Bisa, D., Hill, A. and Crase, B. (2005). A Guide to Threatened, Near Threatened and Data Deficient Plants in the Litchfield Shire.This beautifully illustrated booklet provides description of 55 plant species known to be threatened in the Litchfield Shire. Descriptions, distributions and notes on conservation status are provided for each of these species. There is a detailed chapter on management issues in the Litchfield Shire, including land clearing, mining, fire management, ground water extraction, and their impacts on threatened plants.