Arden DeardenJoey palms – Johannesteijsmannia

This amazing genus of palms to my knowledge was first introduced into cultivation in Australia in the mid 1980s at the beginning of the palm craze that was to last 20 years. The publishing of Palms of Malaysia with its classic photo of Johannesteijsmannia magnifica and Johannesteijsmannia lanceolata side by side stoked the fires of desire amongst the palm enthusiasts for Joey palms (a shortening of the genus’s somewhat unpronounceable name.) A new highway was built through Malaysia and literally let the light, in causing a mass flowering and fruit set. It was from this fruit set that they were introduced into cultivation.

Johannesteijsmannia altifrons

Johannesteijsmannia altifrons

Johannesteijsmannia altifrons is by far the most common species, with its leaves being green above and below. The leaves are glossy and diamond shaped. It grows easily in the tropics and with care and protection can be grown further south. In the wild, this species has the most northerly distribution being found in Southern Thailand. It is also found in Sumatra. The species found in Sarawak has also been identified as Johannesteijsmannia altifrons but has a much narrower leaf. It can be easily seen in Bako National Park in Sarawak for those that travel to Borneo.

Johannesteijsmannia altifrons

Johannesteijsmannia altifrons

Johannesteijsmannia   magnifica fruit

Johannesteijsmannia magnifica fruit

The inflorescence is found at the base and sets distinctive corky fruits.

Of the four species, Johannesteijsmannia perakensis is the slowest in cultivation. It forms a trunk up to 6 metres in height in the wild. These plants are thought to be hundreds of years old. In cultivation no trunk has been seen, despite many years of growth.

Johannesteijsmannia magnifica2



The silver underside to huge diamond leaves held upright resulted in one species gaining the epithet ‘magnifica’. Johannesteijsmannia magnifica is just that, with its large diamond shaped leaves 3 metres long and 1 metre wide. This species is the fastest in cultivation and 26 years after introduction they are now producing seed, reducing the pressure on the wild populations.



Johannesteijsmannia magnifica

Johannesteijsmannia magnifica

A group of Johannesteijsmannia magnifica collected in the 1980s as seed and grown in Sarawk. Licuala orbicularis is seen in the foreground

A group of Johannesteijsmannia magnifica collected in the 1980s as seed and grown in Sarawk. Licuala orbicularis is seen in the foreground

Johannesteijsmannia lanceolata, Singapore Botanical Gardens

Johannesteijsmannia lanceolata, Singapore Botanical Gardens

Joey classic photo


The Johannesteijsmannia lanceolata in cultivation are yet to produce the narrow leaves (seen on the right) in the classic photo. Whether this is a factor of time, or low light which makes leaves longer and narrower, remains to be seen. I believe where the classic photo was taken has now been flooded by a dam.

All four species are worthy of cultivation. They require warmth, humidity, good drainage and protection from the wind.

Joey palms were named for Johannes Elias Teijsmann (1808-1882), Dutch gardener and botanist at the Buitenzorg Botanical garden in Java. It is now the Kebun Raya Garden, Bogor, Indonesia.

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Arden Dearden

About Arden Dearden

Arden developed an interest in tropical plants in his late teens after finding a small nursery supplying aroids and other interesting and unusual plants on Latrobe Tce, Paddington Brisbane. That interest gradually grew and diversified. Information and species were limited so he felt the only way to learn more about the plants was to travel to the countries from which they come. So in 1992 he traveled to PNG. Since then he has traveled extensively in the tropical areas of the New and Old World with his partner Chris, exploring and searching for plants and observing the environments from which they originate. Arden owns Equatorial Exotics nursery in Cairns.

5 thoughts on “Joey palms – Johannesteijsmannia

  1. Hello Arden

    a comprehensive article and some stunning photos.

    Johannesteijsmannias must be my favourite palms. They are so photogenic that I keep taking photographs of them. Its great to know that the older palms in cultivation are now producing seed.

    J. altifrons and J. magnifica can grow well in sheltered gardens as far south as Brisbane and northern New South Wales so long as the soil is well prepared and they have some additional water during dry periods.

    I’ll be planting a few in my garden in the future, but I will wait until we get a decent wet season to start them off.


  2. Hello Arden,
    The International Palm Society (IPS) will travel to Sarawak in June 2016, and searching for photos of Licuala orbicularis in Sarawak, I came across this fine article. I wonder if it is possible for the IPS to share the article and photos with membership and on FaceBook with full attribution?
    Kim C.

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