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Family Arecaceae
Lady palm
Rhapis excelsa
(Thunb.) Henry
Zhong zhu

Scientific names Common names
Chamaerops excelsa Thunb. Rapis (Tag.)
Chamaerops excelsa var. gracilis Carriere Rhapis (Engl.)
Chamaerops kwanwortsik Siebold ex H.Wendl. Bamboo palm (Engl.)
Rhapis aspera W.H.Baxter Broadleaf bamboo plant (Engl.)
Rhapis cordata W.H.Baxter Broadleaf lady palm(Engl.)
Rhapis divaricata Gagnep. Fern rhapis (Engl.)
Rhapis excelsa (Thunb.) Henry Ground rattan (Engl.)
Rhapis flabelliformis L'Hér. Lady palm (Engl.)
Rhapis flabelliformis var. variegata B.S.Williams Little lady palm (Engl.)
Rhapis javanica Blume  
Rhapis kwamwonzick Siebold ex Linden  
Rhapis major Blume  
Trachycarpus excelsus (Thunb.) H.Wendl.  
Trachycarpus excelsus var. fortunei Makino  
Rhapis excelsa (Thunb.) Henry is an accepted species. KEW: Plants of the World Online
Related article: A Revision of Rhapis, the Lady Palms / Laura H. Hastings

Other vernacular names
CHINESE: Zhong zhu.
DANISH: Horpalme.
DUTCH: Chinese windmolenpalm.
FRENCH: Palmier éventail, Rhapis en éventail, Rhapis à feuilles larges.
GERMAN: Rhapispalme, Steckenpalme.
INDONESIAN: Palem wregu
ITALIAN: Palma ventaglio.
KOREAN: Gwan eum jook, Gwan eum juk.
SPANISH: Palmera bambu.

Gen info
- Rhapis excels is a species of fan palm in the genus Rhapis in the family Carapace.
- Etymology: The genus name Rhapis derives from Greek 'rhapis', meaning "needle," referring to the leaf segments. The species epithet derives from Latin, meaning "tall", although R. excels is not the tallest in the genus. (16)
- The UK has granted the plant the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit. (16)

• Rhapis excels is an erect, slender, suckering and clustering palm, erect and slender, growing up to 3 to 4 meters tall. Stem is cane-like, up to 4 centimeters in diameter, densely wrapped with dark-brown mats of coarse fiber. Leaves are palmate divided into broad, ribbed segments, appearing like a dissected fan. Leaf ends are saw-toothed in slender petioles up 20 to 50 centimeters long, smooth, stiff or arching. As the lower leaves fall off, stems are left with scars that give a bamboo-like appearance. New foliage emerges from fibrous sheath which remains attached to the base. Small inflorescences occur at the top, with spirally-arranged fleshy flowers with three petals fused at the base.

Rhapis excels grows up to 4 m in height and 30 mm in diameter in multi-stemmed clumps with glossy, palmate evergreen leaves divided into broad, ribbed segments. Leaf segments are single or few in young plants and increase to a dozen or more in mature plants; segments are divided to the petiole. Leaf-ends are saw-toothed unlike most other palms, occurring on slender petioles ranging from 20 to 60 cm in length. New foliage emerges from a fibrous sheath which remains attached to the base. As the plants age, the sheaths fall, revealing the bamboo-like trunks. Usually dioecious, the palm species produces a small inflorescence at the top of the plant with spirally-arranged, fleshy yellow flowers containing three petals fused at the base. Ripe fruit are fleshy and white, though R. excels more readily propagates via underground rhizome offshoots. (16)

- Introduced to the Philippines in the early 1900s.
- Ornamental cultivation.
- Used for dense hedges.
- Native to China Southeast, Hainan, Vietnam.

- Methanol extract of leaves yielded terpenoids, steroids and triterpenoids, saponins, glycosides, cardiac glycosides, phytosterols, resins, phenols, flavonoids, and oxalic acid. (see study below) (3)
- Chromatographic fractionation of R. excels leaves isolated four flavonoids:
Apigenin-8-C-glucoside (vitexin), Apigenin-6,8-Di-C-β- glucopyranoside (vicenin-2), Luteolin-6-C-glucoside (isoorientin) and Luteolin-8-C-glucoside (orientin). (see study below) (4)

- Considered hemostatic, antidysenteric, and circulatory tonic.
- Studies have shown anti-viral, bacteriostatic, cytotoxic, antioxidant, acetylcholinesteral inhibitory, antidermatophytic properties.

Parts used
Bark, roots.


- No known folkloric medicinal use in the Philippines.
- Burned or charred bark applied externally to stop bleeding. (1)
- Decoction of roots or ashes from burnt bark used for rheumatism; also used to stimulate blood circulation. (1)
- Used as hemostatic and antidysenteric. (12)
- Air-cleaning Indoor Plant: Used as air-filtering plant.

Air-Filtering Property:
Included in the NASA list of 10 Best Air Filtering House Plants, Raphis excels is considered capable indoor air purification—eliminating formaldehyde, ammonia, xylene and toluene from indoor environment. (1)
Phytochemicals / Antioxidant / Leaves: Study evaluated leaves of Rhapis excels for phytochemical composition, antioxidant activity and FTIR evaluation. Total phenolics and terpenoids in the methanolic extract showed 11 mg GAE/g and 130 mg/g, respectively. Hydrogen peroxide and reducing power scavenging assays were used to evaluated antioxidant activity. Results showed moderate to significant antioxidant activity. (see constituents above) (3)
Flavonoids / Antioxidant / Antibacterial Potentiation / Leaves: Study of leaves extract yielded four flavonoids. Ethyl acetate and butanol fractions showed remarkable antioxidant activity (86.2 and 75.6 respectively) on DPPH radical scavenging assay. The extracts had no antimicrobial activity alone, but revealed an ability to potentiate the antibacterial activity of ciprofloxacin, tetracycline and oxacillin. (see constituents above) (4)
Anti-Chikungunya Virus Activity / Antifungal / Bacteriostatic: Study investigated the antimicrobial and antiviral potential of three medicinal plants viz., Catunaregam spinosa, Houttunyia cordata, and Rhapis excels All the extracts showed bacteriostatic activity. The ethanol extract of R. excels exhibited the strongest fungicidal activity against C. albicans, C. parapsilosis and T. mentagrophytes with minimum fungicidal concentration (MFC) of 0.04-0.08 mg/mL. Only the chloroform and ethyl acetate extract of R. excels showed significant antiviral activity against Chikungunya virus with 50% effective concentrations (EC50) of 29.9 and 78.1 g/mL. (6)
Cytotoxicity / Anti-CHIKV Testing: Study investigated a total of 30 crude extracts from leaves and aerial parts of five Malaysian plants (Ipomoea aquatica, Persicaria odorata, Rhapis excels, Rhoeo spathacea, and Vernonia amygdalina) for anti-CHIKV activity. On cytotoxicity testing on Vero cells in a 72 hour NRU (neutral red uptake) assay, the ethanol extract of R. excels showed the highest cytotoxicity with CC50 of 51.67±2.89 µg/mL. In post-inoculation antiviral assay, all the extracts did not achieve the half-maximal effective concentration (EC50). (7)
• Anti-Chikungunya Virus Activity: Chikungunya virus is a reemerging arbovirus transmitted mainly by Aedes aegypti mosquito. Study investigated 120 extracts from 20 selected medicinal plants for anti-Chikungunya activity. Quantitative RT-PCR analysis showed the chloroform extract of Rhapis excels leaves exhibited the highest percentage of viral load reduction (98.1%) with EC50 of 29.9 ± 0.9 and selectivity index of 5.4. (10)
• Comparative Indoor VOC Absorption: Study evaluated the effectiveness of VOC (volatile organic compounds) absorption between Rhapis excels, Nephrolepis exaltata, and Dracaena fragrans in small rooms. Among the three plants, R. excels was identified as the best indoor plant to absorb VOC with the highest decrement when using six plants. (11)
• Antidermatophytic / Leaves: Study evaluated the antidermatophytic activity of 48 extracts obtained from medicinal plants and marine algae. Ethanol and methanolic leaf extracts of R. excels and methanol and water extracts of S. myrtifolium were highly active (MFC <0.1 mg/mL) with highly selective indices (SI>2.8) against reference strains T. rubrum and T. interdigitale, and most of the clinical isolates of T. tonsurans. Phytochemical analysis showed presence of alkaloids, anthraquinones, flavonoids, saponins, tannins, phenolics and triterpenoids in the extracts. (13)
Anti-Chikungunya Virus Activity / Leaves: Methanolic extract of leaves yielded 4 flavonoids i.e., Apigenin-8-C-glucoside (vitexin), Apigenin-6, 8-Di-C-βglucopyranoside (vicenin-2), Luteolin-6-C-glucoside (iso-orientin), and Luteolin-8-C-glucoside (orientin). In a study of six leaves extracts  by Chan et al., the chloroform extract (30 µg/ml) exhibited the strongest inhibition of the cytopathic effect of CHIKV without  significant cytotoxicity. The strong anti-chikungunya activity was confirmed by quantitative RT-PCR analysis that showed the extract reduced viral load by 98% compared to virus control. Results suggest the extract might have direct virucidal effects on CHIKV. (17)
Acetylcholinesterase Inhibitory Activity / Leaves: Study evaluated 31 selected medicinal plants from Perlis for potential AChE inhibitors. Dichloromethane and alcoholic extracts were screening for AChE inhibitory activity using Ellman's method. Out of 31 plant species, methanol extracts of Rhapis excelsa leaves (97.03%), Diospyros blancoi leaves (95.80%), and Phyllantus elegans roots (83.22%) showed highest AChE inhibitory activity at concentration of 100 µg/mL. (18)

- Wildcrafted.
- Ornamental cultivation.
- Plant and seeds in the cybermarket.

Updated April 2024 / December 2019 /July 2017
September 2016

Photos © Godofredo Stuart / StuartXchange
OTHER IMAGE SOURCE: Rhapis excelsa / Eric in SF / CC BY-SA 4.0 International / Cliick on image or link to go to source page / Wikipedia

Additional Sources and Suggested Readings
Rhapis excelsa / Medicinal Plants in Singapore
NASA Clear Air Study / Wikipedia
A STUDY ON PHYTOCHEMICALS, ANTIOXIDANT ACTIVITY AND FT-IR ANALYSIS OF RHAPIS EXCELSA (THUNB.) A. HENRY / D. Vanaja and Dr. S. Kavitha / EJPMR: European Journal of Pharmaceutical and Medical Research, 2016; 3(7): pp 390-394.
Polyphenolic constituents and antimicrobial activity of Rhapis excels (Arecaceae, Coryphoideae). / Hassanein HD*, Elsayed WM, Abreu AC, Simões M, and Abdelmohsen MM / Research Journal of Pharmaceutical, Biological and Chemical Sciences, 6(1): pp 1714-1722
A Revision of Rhapis, the Lady Palms / Laura H. Hastings / Revision of Rhapis Volume 47(2) 2003
Evaluation of Medicinal Plants, Catunaregam spinosa, Houttuynia cordata, and Rhapis excelsa from Malaysia for Antibacterial, Antifungal and Antiviral Properties / Yik Sin Chan, Bee Ling Chuah, Wei Quan Chan, Ri Jin Cheng, Yan Hang Oon, Kong Soo Khoo, Nam Weng Sit / International Journal of Pharmacological and Pharmaceutical Sciences, Vol 1, No 11 (2014)
/ ARVIND DEVAR RAMACHENDRIN / A project report submitted to the Department of Biomedical Science Faculty of Science Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman
Raphis excelsa / Synonyms / KEW: Plants of the World Online
Sorting Rhapis names / /Maintained by: Michel H. Porcher / MULTILINGUAL MULTISCRIPT PLANT NAME DATABASE / Copyright © 1995 - 2020 / A Work in Progress. School of Agriculture and Food Systems. Faculty of Land & Food Resources. The University of Melbourne. Australia.

Investigation of Twenty Selected Medicinal Plants From Malaysia for Anti-Chikungunya Virus Activity / YS Chan et al. / Int Microbiol 19 (3), 175-182. 9 2016.
Effectiveness of voc absorption between Rhapis excelsa (Thunb.) A. Henry, Nephrolepis exaltata (L.) and Dracaena fragrans (L.) in small rooms / Ghazalli, Aini Jasmin (2012)  / Master Thesis / Universiti Putra Malaysia
Traditions and plant use during pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum recovery by the Kry ethnic group in Lao PDR / Vichitt Lamsay et al / Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine, Dec 2011 /
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1186/1746-4269-7-
In vitro antidermatophytic activity and cytotoxicity of extracts derived from medicinal plants and marine algae / N.W. Sit, Y.S. Chan, S.C. Lai, L.N. Lim, G.T. Looi, P.L. Tay, Y.T. Tee, Y.Y. Woon, K.S. Khoo,  and HC Ong / Journal of Mycologic Medicale, Sept 2018; 28(3): pp 561-567
/ DOI: 10.1016/j.mycmed.2018.07.001
A Revision of Rhapis, the Lady Palms / Laura H. Hastings
Rhapis excelsa / WFO: World Flora Online
Rhapis excelsa / Wikipedia
Demystifying therapeutic potential of medicinal plants against chikungunya virus / Sukendar Kumar, Chanchal Garg, Samander Kaushik, Harpal Singh Buttar, Munish Garg / Indian J Pharmacol, 2021; 53(5): pppp 403-411 / PMID: 34854411 / DOI: 10.4103/ijp.IJP_81_19
Screening of Medicinal Plants from Taman Herba Perlis for Acetylcholinesterase Inhibitory Activity / Norhafizoh Abdul Somat, Che Puteh Osman, Nor Hadiani Ismail, Zaini Yusoff, Yuswanie Md Yusof / Science Letters, 2019; 13(1)

DOI: It is not uncommon for links on studies/sources to change. Copying and pasting the information on the search window or using the DOI (if available) will often redirect to the new link page. (Citing and Using a (DOI) Digital Object Identifier)

                                                            List of Understudied Philippine Medicinal Plants
                                          New plant names needed
The compilation now numbers over 1,300 medicinal plants. While I believe there are hundreds more that can be added to the collection, they are becoming more difficult to find. If you have a plant to suggest for inclusion, native or introduced, please email the info: scientific name (most helpful), local plant name (if known), any known folkloric medicinal use, and, if possible, a photo. Your help will be greatly appreciated.

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