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LaysanPrichardia

The only known sighting of the Fan Palm on Laysan.

The Laysan fan palm, likely belonging to the genus Pritchardia, is an officially undescribed species that became extinct around 1896, endemic to Laysan Island.

Historical accounts dating back to 1828 mention the presence of this palm, with Karl Izembek, surgeon of the Russian ship Moller, being the first to document it. By 1859, only five mature individuals were reported to remain.

Upon Hugo Schauinsland's visit in 1896, it was observed that all palms had perished, with human activity blamed, evident from palm wood in charcoal and numerous stumps indicating a larger population in previous decades. The last signs of these palms were noted in 1914 as "decaying remains."

Described as reaching heights of up to 15 feet, with stumps up to 50 cm in diameter, the Laysan fan palm was characterized by its large fan-shaped leaves, long inflorescences, and fruit racemes. It once flourished across the island, with historical palynology suggesting dense forests.

Scant photographic evidence exists, insufficient for precise identification, and no physical specimens are known. Some suggest the species may have been identical to the Nihoa fan palm based on photographs, while others argue for its distinctiveness, supported by observations from George Campbell Munro, who noted differences between the Laysan and Nihoa fan palms. The localized nature of Pritchardia species further supports the possibility of the Laysan fan palm being a separate entity.

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