Johannesteijsmanni altifrons

Johannesteijsmanni altifrons - Body

Let’s explore one of the largest tropical plants in The Huntington’s conservatory! This plant’s scientific name is Johannesteijsmanni altifrons. This plant has many common names! This plant’s common names include Joey Palm, Umbrella Leaf Palm, and more! Look closely at the photos and videos below. What do you notice? How do you think this plant has adapted to survive in its environment?

Scientific Name: Johannesteijsmanni altifrons (YO-han-nes-tays-man-nee ahl-TEE-frons)

Family: Arecaceae

Common Name: This plant has multiple common names including Joey palm, Diamond Joey, Umbrella leaf palm, Litter collecting palm

Range: Malay Peninsula, Sumatra, Borneo

Johannesteijsmannia altifrons

target icon target icon target icon Large plant with a short stem and tall vertical green leaves

Johannesteijsmanni altifrons

Vertical Leaves. Drip tips are pointed tips on the ends of leaves. Vertical leaves point toward the ground. In wet environments, it rains a lot. Water is heavy. If water piles up on a leaf, it can break the leaf. Drip tips and vertical leaves are adaptations that help the plant survive in environments with heavy rain. Vertical leaves also help the plant get food! Dead matter from other plants and animals falls down the leaves. The water gets absorbed into the soil, but the dead matter gets trapped by the leaves’ petioles. This trapped matter is helpful for the plant because it can absorb the matter’s nutrients as the plants and animals decay.

Large, Wide Leaves. In wet conditions, many plants grow close together. This means it can be hard for plants to get enough sunlight! Large leaves have a better chance of absorbing the available light. The plant needs that light to turn into food. Large, wide leaves are an adaptation to help the plant make food while in a shady environment.

Dark Green Leaves. Dark leaves absorb more light than pale leaves. Dark leaves help plants that live in shady environments absorb as much sunlight as they can! Dark green leaves are an adaptation to help the plant make food while in a shady environment.

This plant grows best in the shade. The large leaves soak up a lot of light. If this plant were to grow outside in a desert, it would overheat! Its habitat is in the undergrowth in humid rainforests.

Which color do you think best matches the leaves of this plant?

Plant with large green vertical leaves grows in front of a concrete wall. The plant is surrounded by shorter dark plants.

Johannesteijsmanni altifrons

birds-eye view of a plant with very large, vertical, bright green leaves

Johannesteijsmanni altifrons

Close up of several large petioles attached to a small stem. The petioles trap dead matter from other plants.

Johannesteijsmanni altifrons

Large green leaf with dead matter from other plants resting on the surface

Johannesteijsmanni altifrons

Close up of a large leaf with deep ridges and spine-like growths along the edge of the petiole

Johannesteijsmanni altifrons

Watch this video to look at the plant in a new way!

Questions & Prompts

  • In English, this plant’s common names include Litter Collecting Palm, Diamond Joey Palm and Umbrella Leaf Palm. Why do you think people chose these names for this plant? What common name (or nickname) would you give to this plant? Why?

  • If you were to choose a common name (or nickname) for this plant, which would you choose? Why?

  • What do you observe?

  • What do you wonder?

  • Imagine touching this plant. What would it feel like? Do you think different parts of the plant feel different?

  • If you could ask this plant one question, what would you ask?

  • What do you think would happen to this plant if it were transplanted to a desert? Why do you think that?

Creative Prompts

  • What colors do you see on this plant? Do you see any of these greens? Can you recreate these colors using art supplies?

  • What do you think this plant’s stem looks like on the inside? Create an artwork or write a descriptive paragraph.

  • Be an engineer! Study the adaptations that help this plant survive in a nutrient-poor environment. Create an invention to help people survive nutrient-poor environments. Your invention should use the same features this plant uses. What does your invention do? Is your invention sustainable?

  • Be an artist! Create an abstract artwork based on this plant’s features. When you’re done, write a label for your artwork.

  • Be an artist! Create a pattern artwork based on a plant part pattern you see. When you’re done, write a label for your artwork.

  • Be an artist! Create a work of botanical art for this plant.

  • Write from the perspective of a small tropical rainforest animal (you choose which animal). The animal encounters this plant for the first time. What do they think? What do they notice? What do they do?

Resources and References

Huntington database:

Flora and Fauna Web. n.d. Accessed June 7, 2021.