Species Profile and Threats Database

For information to assist proponents in referral, environmental assessments and compliance issues, refer to the Policy Statements and Guidelines (where available), the Conservation Advice (where available) or the Listing Advice (where available).
In addition, proponents and land managers should refer to the Recovery Plan (where available) or the Conservation Advice (where available) for recovery, mitigation and conservation information.

EPBC Act Listing Status Listed as Vulnerable as Livistona lanuginosa
Listing and Conservation Advices Commonwealth Conservation Advice on Livistona lanuginosa (Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC), 2008agj) [Conservation Advice].
Recovery Plan Decision Recovery Plan not required, included on the Not Commenced List (1/11/2009).
Adopted/Made Recovery Plans
Federal Register of
    Legislative Instruments
Declaration under s178, s181, and s183 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 - List of threatened species, List of threatened ecological communities and List of threatening processes (Commonwealth of Australia, 2000) [Legislative Instrument] as Livistona lanuginosa.
State Listing Status
QLD: Listed as Vulnerable (Nature Conservation Act 1992 (Queensland): May 2014 list) as Livistona lanuginosa
Scientific name Livistona lanuginosa [64581]
Family Arecaceae:Arecales:Liliopsida:Magnoliophyta:Plantae
Species author A.N.Rodd
Infraspecies author  
Reference Telopea 8(1): 82, figs 3d, 7, 9a (1998).
Other names Livistona lanuginosa A.N.Rodd ms. [67418]
Livistona sp. Cape River (A.K.Irvine 1912) [64696]
Distribution map Species Distribution Map

This is an indicative distribution map of the present distribution of the species based on best available knowledge. See map caveat for more information.

Illustrations Google Images

Scientific name: Livistona lanuginosa

Common name: Waxy Cabbage Palm

Other common names: Cape River Fan Palm, Ravenswood Palm, Halifax Fan Palm, Burdekin Palm

The Waxy Cabbage Palm is a stout single-trunked fan-leaved palm (Price 1999) growing to 20 m in height. Inflorescences (flower clusters) are densely woolly, multi-branched and about 1 m in length (Jones 1984a). Leaf stalks are triangular in cross section and 1.5–2 m long and densely whitish-woolly over most of their length. Leaf blades are 1.3–1.9 m long and fan shaped, the surfaces appearing pale bluish-grey, especially the lower surface that has a thick coating of white wax that is readily rubbed off. Fruits are globular, 3.3–3.6 cm long and dark purplish brown. The fruit mesocarp is 4 mm thick and moderately juicy when fresh. The abundant woolly scales on the leaf stalks and the large brownish fruits are diagnostic for the species (Rodd 1998; TSSC 2008agj).

The Waxy Cabbage Palm is endemic to the Burdekin-Ravenswood-Cape River area inland from Ayr, where it is found on the tributaries of the Burdekin River (but not the Burdekin River itself) (Jones 1987). The main occurrence of the species is the lower Cape River (a tributary of the Burdekin River) and most of its primary and secondary tributaries (Dowe 2007). There are a few disjunct populations away from the Cape River, but none further than 40 km from the main population (Dowe 2007; TSSC 2008agj).

The most intact and least impacted populations occur: on the Campaspe River, upstream from Muckinbulla Waterhole on Nosnillor Station; Homestead Creek at Trafalgar Station; and Deep Creek, on Dandenong Park Station (Dowe 2007). Other significant populations occur: on Amelia Creek, Longton Station; Oaky Creek, Windsor Station; and Rollston River, Harvest Home Station (Dowe 2007). Collections have also been made: at 'Helenslee', Campaspe River; Lulu Pocket, south of Ravenswood; and 'Doongmabulla', Carmichael River (BRI n.d.; Rodd 1998; Thompson 2001 pers. comm.; TSSC 2008agj).

The owner of 'Nosnillor', Cape River, planted the Waxy Cabbage Palm on a number of stations. The population at Glenroy Creek was quite likely a human introduction (Irvine cited in BRI Rare & Threatened Plant Database 2001).

The distribution of Waxy Cabbage Palm individuals along streams is scattered, with rare dense congregations. There are seven known populations of the species (TSSC 2008agj). Population counts at eight pastoral lease sites indicate approximately 5000 individuals in total, including 510 adult plants (Pettit & Dowe 2004). The population at Doongmabulla consists of three or four individuals (Thompson & Turpin 2001). The species was noted as rare at a site 15 km north of Burdekin Falls (BRI n.d.). Some of the known stands exhibit vigorous regeneration with most age-classes represented (Rodd 1998), although most have limited regeneration and unbalanced recruitment between class sizes (Dowe 2007).

The Waxy Cabbage Palm does not occur in conservation reserves. All known populations occur on freehold land (Dowe 1990).

The Waxy Cabbage Palm forms colonies along streambanks and gullies well inland from the coast (Jones 1984a) and is found at altitudes of 150–300 m above sea level (Rodd 1998). Appropriate riparian systems have been described as braided and anastomised (multiple channel), and associated permanent pools that flow for only part of the year, and occurring adjacent to floodplains in sandy alluvial soils derived from granite (Dowe 2007). The species' habitat is open woodland on sandy river and creek channels which flow for part of the year, with permanent pools or soaks. Associated tree species are Corymbia brachycarpa, River Red Gum (Eucalyptus camaldulensis), Broad-leaved Teatree (Melaleuca leucadendra) and Pandanussp. (BRI n.d.; Rodd 1998). Suitable habitat is present in Regional Ecosystems 10.3.13, 10.3.14, 10.3.6 and 11.3.4 (BAAM 2011).

The climate of the Burdekin River system is strongly seasonal with an average rainfall of 600–700 mm, and extreme temperature range from 5°C–45°C. However, summer rain patterns can be influenced by unreliable monsoons in an otherwise semi-arid tropical environment (Dowe 2007). In periodic severe drought conditions, only stands growing on permanent soaks in stream beds survive (Rodd 1998). This explains the limited distribution of a species which is apparently vigorous and hardy, with seeds well adapted for dispersal by flood water (Rodd 1998).

Waxy Cabbage Palm flowers are bisexual (Rodd 1998). Flowering occurs in the driest part of the year (spring), and fruiting usually coincides with summer rains 4–6 months later. Fruit are mainly dispersed by flood water and settle in stream banks where seeds germinate and seedlings become established (Dowe 2007). Seeds germinate readily 2–3 months after settlement (Jones 1984a). Rodd (1998) suggests that the seeds are adapted for dispersal via water. In addition, this species may be fire tolerant (Thompson 2001 pers. comm.).

The Waxy Cabbage Palm is a very distinctive species with abundant woolly scales on the petiole (leaf stalk) and rachis bracts (on the main stalk) (Rodd 1998). The undersides of the leaves appear quite bluish due to the waxy coating (Price 1999). This species has the largest fruits of all the Australian Livistona spp. (BRI Rare & Threatened Plant Database 2001) and its closest affinity is with the Central Australian Cabbage Palm (Livistona mariae) (Rodd 1998).

The Waxy Cabbage Palm has a restricted distribution and is at risk from localised threats (e.g. fire, trampling by stock, clearing for development) and the potential introduction of weeds (TSSC 2008agj). Recruitment is severely restricted by the impact of cattle grazing (Dowe 2007).

The tributaries of the Burdekin River (the Waxy Cabbage Palm's habitat) have been affected by the construction of the Burdekin Dam (Lake Dalrymple). Many of the tributaries now drain into the dam and portions of Waxy Cabbage Palm habitat are submerged by the water. Actions that would raise the water level (i.e. raising the dam wall) would pose a major threat to many populations occurring along the seasonal creeks and watercourses which drain into the dam (Dowe 1990). This dam is at the centre of major regional development (BRI Rare & Threatened Plant Database 2001) and the Waxy Cabbage Palm may be threatened by associated agricultural development (irrigation) (Dowe 1990).

Commonwealth Conservation Advice

Refer to the Commonwealth Conservation Advice (TSSC 2008agj) for information on research priorities and recovery priority actions to mitigate threats including habitat loss, disturbance and modification, grazing, trampling, weeds and fire. Raising awareness of the species is also encouraged in the Advice.

Conservation actions

Exclusion from grazing is expected to benefit the species and improve regeneration (Dowe 2007). Dowe (2007) suggested that additional field work is required to determine the total population coverage of the Waxy Cabbage Palm. The species is suspected to occur in inaccessible/remote areas, where ecological inventory work has been minimal. 

The following table lists known and perceived threats to this species. Threats are based on the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) threat classification version 1.1.

Threat Class Threatening Species References
Agriculture and Aquaculture:Agriculture and Aquaculture:Land clearing, habitat fragmentation and/or habitat degradation Livistona lanuginosa in Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database (Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH), 2006np) [Internet].
Agriculture and Aquaculture:Livestock Farming and Grazing:Grazing pressures and associated habitat changes Commonwealth Conservation Advice on Livistona lanuginosa (Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC), 2008agj) [Conservation Advice].
Agriculture and Aquaculture:Livestock Farming and Grazing:Habitat alteration (vegetation, soil, hydrology) due to trampling and grazing by livestock Commonwealth Conservation Advice on Livistona lanuginosa (Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC), 2008agj) [Conservation Advice].
Ecosystem/Community Stresses:Indirect Ecosystem Effects:Restricted geographical distribution (area of occupancy and extent of occurrence) Livistona lanuginosa in Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database (Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH), 2006np) [Internet].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive Non-Native/Alien Species:Competition and/or habitat degradation by weeds Commonwealth Conservation Advice on Livistona lanuginosa (Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC), 2008agj) [Conservation Advice].
Natural System Modifications:Dams and Water Management/Use:Changes to hydrology including construction of dams/barriers Commonwealth Conservation Advice on Livistona lanuginosa (Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC), 2008agj) [Conservation Advice].
Natural System Modifications:Fire and Fire Suppression:Inappropriate and/or changed fire regimes (frequency, timing, intensity) Commonwealth Conservation Advice on Livistona lanuginosa (Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC), 2008agj) [Conservation Advice].

Biodiversity Assessment and Management Pty Ltd (BAAM) (2011). CopperString Project SEIS - Terrestrial Ecology Assessment Report. Report prepared for CopperString Pty Ltd.

BRI Collection Records (BRI) (undated). Queensland Herbarium specimens.

BRI Rare and Threatened Plant database (2001).

Dowe, J.L. (1990). Ecological status and endangerment of Australian Palms. Palms and Cycads. 26.

Dowe, J.L. (2007). Notes on Endangered and Vulnerable Australian Palms: Livistona lanuginosa Rodd. Townsville: Australian Centre for Tropical Freshwater Research, James Cook University.

Jones, D.L. (1984a). Palms in Australia. Reed Books, Frenchs Forest, NSW.

Jones, D.L. (1987). Palms in Australia; revised edition. Frenchs Forest, N.S.W. : Reed.

Pettit, N.E. & J.L. Dowe (2004). Distribution and population structure of the vulnerable riparian palm Livistona lanuginosa A.N.Rodd (Arecaceae) in the Burdekin River catchment, north Queensland. Pacific Conservation Biology. 9(3):207-214.

Price, J. (1999). A.N. Rodd's revision of Livistona in Australia. Palms and Cycads. 35:2-53.

Rodd, A.N. (1998). Revision of Livistona (Arecaceae) in Australia. Telopea. 8(1):49-153.

Thompson, E.J. & G.P. Turpin (2001). Regional Ecosystems of the Desert Uplands. Qld Herbarium, Environmental Protection Agency.

Thompson, E.J.K. (2001). Personal Communication. Queensland Herbarium.

Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC) (2008agj). Commonwealth Conservation Advice on Livistona lanuginosa. [Online]. Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts. Available from:

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This database is designed to provide statutory, biological and ecological information on species and ecological communities, migratory species, marine species, and species and species products subject to international trade and commercial use protected under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the EPBC Act). It has been compiled from a range of sources including listing advice, recovery plans, published literature and individual experts. While reasonable efforts have been made to ensure the accuracy of the information, no guarantee is given, nor responsibility taken, by the Commonwealth for its accuracy, currency or completeness. The Commonwealth does not accept any responsibility for any loss or damage that may be occasioned directly or indirectly through the use of, or reliance on, the information contained in this database. The information contained in this database does not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth. This database is not intended to be a complete source of information on the matters it deals with. Individuals and organisations should consider all the available information, including that available from other sources, in deciding whether there is a need to make a referral or apply for a permit or exemption under the EPBC Act.

Citation: Department of the Environment (2014). Livistona lanuginosa in Species Profile and Threats Database, Department of the Environment, Canberra. Available from: Accessed Wed, 1 Oct 2014 20:48:24 +1000.