Conservation status of Attalea crassispatha (Mart.) burret, the rare and endemic oil palm of Haiti

  • Published source details Timyan J.C. & Reep S.F. (1994) Conservation status of Attalea crassispatha (Mart.) burret, the rare and endemic oil palm of Haiti. Biological Conservation, 68, 11-18.


Carossier Attalea crassispatha is an endangered endemic Haitian palm. It grows to 20 m, and is best known for its fat-rich nut. Little natural vegetation survives in Haiti. In consequence, this palm is now confined to three ‘anthropogenic’ habitats in the southwest: field gardens (annual croplands cultivated for several years, then converted to pasture); courtyard gardens (perennial croplands, usually on more fertile soils); and shrub forest (small patches of secondary forest, often on dry stony areas least suitable for agriculture). This present paper describes the conservation status of the palm and local use. Here, propagation and transplanting initiatives undertaken on Haiti 1989-1992 are summarised.

Seed collection: Approximately 1,570 fruits were collected from five palms in August-September 1989. Half of the seed remained in Haiti for propagation and the rest distributed abroad. During July-September 1991, fruits from nine trees were harvested. Seeds of individual trees were kept separate to ensure that the widest gene pool could be planted together.
Propagation: In 1989 at Camp Perrin nursery (southwest Haiti), seeds were sown 2-3 cm deep in a raised bed of sandy alluvial soil under the shade of a mango Mangifera indica tree. After germination, seedlings were planted in 10-litre polythene soil-filled bags and grown on for 12 months. Most had 3-4 (15 cm long) leaf blades at the time of outplanting in 1990. At Roche Blanche nursery in 1989, seeds were sown in a vermiculite medium but did not germinate and rotted; the vermiculite appeared to absorb too much water. Thus propagation procedures in 1991 at Roche Blanche were similar to Camp Perrin, except that a different potting medium was used (6 parts decomposed sugar cane bagasse (fibrous residue): 2 parts moss: 2 parts loam). During August-September 1991, 940 seeds from seven palms were sown. In February 1992, 180 seedlings were planted in bags.
Transplanting: Private properties were selected where individuals expressed interest in planting A.crassispatha and where some seedling care was assured, thus favouring higher survival and growth.

Propagation: In 1989, at Camp Perrin nursery approximately 200 seeds germinated and produced seedlings.  Of the 940 seeds sown in 1991 at Camp Perrin and Roche Blanche, by 5 November 1992,105 seedlings had survived and were suitable for outplanting.

Transplanting: Beginning in September 1990, seedlings were distributed to 21 sites in Haiti (8 residential; 5 courtyards; 3 arboretums; 3 field gardens; and 2 hospital grounds) for transplanting up to the time of the authors’ departure in October 1991. At present little monitoring of transplanted seedlings has been undertaken. This would be useful to identify, amongst other things, problems of early establishment, and to assess survival and growth in response to management techniques and land use. Despite the lack of transplant survival data, nursery cultivation of A.crassispatha appears to offer potential for boosting its population in Haiti.
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