Calamus scipionum Loureiro

Calamus scipionum Loureiro





Vernacular Names

General throughout region and in trade Rotan semambu.
Thailand Waai maithao (Peninsular).

Geographical Distributions

Calamus scipionum is widespread throughout Burma, Vietnam, Thailand, Peninsular Malaysia, Sumatra, Borneo and Palawan.


C. scipionum is a massive clustering rattan that can climb to a great height of 50 m or more.

The stem is 25-35 mm in diametre without leaf-sheaths, with rather prominent nodes, and slightly lopsided in transverse section. The internodes are very long sometimes exceeding 1 m and the sheaths are 50 mm in diametre.

The leaf is ecirrate and measures about 2 m in length. The leaf-sheath is mid-green, armed with large, triangular, flattened and yellowish-based. The black spines measuring up to 5 cm long, 1.5 cm wide at the base and with abundant grey indumentum when young. The knee is conspicuous. The ocrea is short and quickly tattering. The flagellum is massive, dark green, frequently exceeding 7 m in length, armed with whorls of black tipped and reflexed spines. The petiole measuring up to about 30 cm long while the leaflets are about 25 on each side of the rachis and regularly arranged. The lowermost measuring up to 40 cm x 3 cm, the mid-leaflets measuring up to 60 cm x 6 cm while the uppermost measuring up to 20 x 3 cm and very sparsely bristly at the tips.

The inflorescences are male and female, superficially similar, measuring up to 6 m or more in length with about 7 short to elongated partial inflorescences that are sometimes measure up to 1.5 m long, with slender reflexed rachillae in the female, and finely branched rachillae in the male.

The ripe fruit is ovoid, measuring up to 14 mm x 9 mm, very short beaked and covered in 14-15 vertical rows of dull green scales.

The seed is ovoid and measuring about 10 mm x 5 mm with scattered pits. The pits penetrate very slightly or the otherwise is homogeneous endosperm. The seedling-leaf is with 4 leaflets displayed in a fan.

Ecology / Cultivation

C. scipionum is a widespread lowland species rarely occurring above 200 m altitude. It appears to favour better soils such as alluvial soils in the floodplains of rivers. It is very tolerant of forest clearance and often found in secondary forests. C. scipionum has not been found in primary lowland dipterocarp forests.

Line Drawing / Photograph



  1. Plant Resources of South-East Asia No. 6: Rattans.