• Balaka microcarpa

This species of Balaka is usually a small palm, but it can grow up to 13m in height, with an 8 cm diameter trunk.
Also known as:
Local Names: Balaka


This species of Balaka is usually a small palm, but it can grow up to 13m in height, with an 8 cm diameter trunk. The trunk is green with distinct nodes below the crown shaft, but lower down along the trunk it becomes grey-brown, and is usually heavily adorned with epiphytes, moss and lichen of various colours. It has a compact crown with 7-10 ascending fronds that are up to 2 m in length, with large, well spaced dark green leaflets. As with several, if not all the Balaka, the fronds are considerably longer in those palms growing in full shade than those in open areas. The crown shaft is slight and dark green with inflorescences emerging beneath it. The inflorescences are two or three times branched with a long petiole and are often held erect. The fruit are small, oval in shape; about 2 cm long by 1 cm wide, and are bright orange-red when mature. Young palms are conspicuous, with characteristic entire leaves, the transition from the entire leaf to the pinnate form occurs on average after the 28th leaf.


The known range of this palm is very small, occurring immediately north of Suva, Vitilevu – only in the forests of Coloisuva and Savura Creek.

Habitat Ecology and Behaviour

This species of Balaka grows as an understorey, rarely semi-emergent palm of the wet forests of Coloisuva and Savura Creek at an altitude of 50-300m with an annual rainfall in excess of 4000mm and with no dry season. In the early 1980s, Dr Julian Ash of the University of the South Pacific made a detailed ecological study of this palm over a three year period and found it to be very slow growing with palms maturing at about 5 m in height when they would be about 45 years old. Flowering and fruiting occurs throughout the year. The oldest palm he observed was estimated to be 85 years old. Annual fruit set is very variable with about 180 fruits on each inflorescence each year. Only about 0.1% of these fruit survive to become a mature palm. No observations were made on seed dispersers and so gravity and water are believed to be the main agents.


Nearly the entire population is located in one of several adjacent reserves – the Coloisuva Forest Park (wholly a mahogany plantation), the Savura Forest Reserve (about 75% mahogany plantations), the Vago Forest Reserve (mature forest) and the Tamavua and Savura Watercatchment Reserve (mature forest). However, about half of this distribution is under planted mahogany (Coloisuva and Savura Forest Reserve). Clearly the felling of the mahogany which has commenced will have a major impact on this palm unless it is undertaken with great care everywhere and the major palm locations are left intact.

Conservation Status

The current threat category is Endangered (IUCN Global Status) but in view of the on-going felling of the mahogany, and clearance for agriculture elsewhere, this should be revised to Critically Endangered.

Remarks and Cultural Significance

The current threat category is Endangered (IUCN Global Status) but in view of the on-going felling of the mahogany, and clearance for agriculture elsewhere, this should be revised to Critically Endangered.


Ash (1988);
Fuller (1997);
Watling (2005).

Front Page Photo: Dick Watling
Related Media
Source: George Bennett
Source: Dick Watling
Source: Dick Watling
Source: Dick Watling
Most Viewed Plants
Endangered Species Compendium
Latest Project
Taveuni National Park Project
Located in the Province of Cakaudrove, the island of Taveuni is Fijis 3rd largest island. Since the 1980s, the National Trust and the Fiji Department of Forests have been advocating for the merger of the Ravilevu Nature Reserve, Taveuni Forest Reserve and the Bouma National Heritage Park to form the Taveuni National Park. In 1993 the Fiji Department of Environment proposed the Integrated Development Plan for Taveuni supporting this combination to better promote the wilderness and cultural features of Taveuni to harness Taveunis tourism market to its full potential. The Fiji Department of Forests, National Protected Areas Committee, Cakaudrove Provincial Council and NatureFiji-MareqetiViti, with support from the Critical Ecosystems Partnership Fund are revitalising efforts to bring Taveuni's three current protected areas into one Taveuni National Park: 1. Taveuni Forest Reserve (FR). Declared in 1914. Size: 11, 160 HA 2. Ravilevu Nature Reserve (NR). Declared in 1959. Size: 4, 108 HA 3. Bouma National Heritage Park (BNHP). Established by covenant in 1990. 1, 417 HA. TAVEUNIS WILDLIFE AND LANDSCAPE Much of Fijis land and forest has now been impacted and modified by deforestation, commercial and subsistence agriculture, plantation timber production and/or invasive alien species. We must also remember the historic impacts of the first human settlement that resulted, for example, in the extinction of many species and conversion of dry forests to grasslands. Not only has Taveuni retained significant forest and wetland ecosystems across a full altitudinal range (ridge to reef), but also it has not been severely impacted by invasive species, in particular the mongoose. The absence of the mongoose from Fijis third largest island has resulted in the retention not only of Taveunis endemic fauna species but also Fijian endemics that have been extirpated or are highly threatened on Viti Levu and Vanua Levu. SPECIAL LANDSCAPES ON TAVEUNI Taveunis outstanding landscape qualities are derived mainly from its tropical forest cover. From all points around the Taveuni coastline, there are views of the undisturbed, densely forested uplands. Frequently cloud and mist-capped, the rugged central range dominates the landscape with characteristic emergent volcanic cones. From the peaks of the central range descend the long symmetry of old lava flows covered with dense rainforest. Taveuni is one of the very few islands where the scale of negative land use impacts has been limited. But current trends of widespread soil degradation and encroachment into the reserves indeicate taht this is changing for the worse. The thriving agricultural industry of Taveuni can attribute its success to the Taveuni Forest Reserve which was established to ensure unlimited water supply and free ecosystem services to the people of Taveuni. While the Taveuni FR currently provides little monetary benefit to landowners, combined with the Ravilevu NR and Bouma National Heritage Park, the Taveuni National Park will build a strong imperative for ecotourism development. THE PROJECT Not until 2009 were landowners informed about plans which had been around for 30 years on possible Protected Areas development, and the potential of Taveuni's forests for conservation. If there is one conspicuous lesson of the lead up work of the Sovi Basin Protected Area project, it was that there was no real progress until the landowners and the Fijian administration took up ownership of the process. Getting the landowners involved in the PA discussions is the main objective of this project.
Latest Newsletter
NFMV January 2014 Newsletter - #17
Good news to start the year, NFMV receives a grant to protect our logo - the rare forest conifer - Acmopyle sahniana