papyraceus (L.) = papery. In reference to the distinctly papery floral bracts.
WCM Protologue Reference:
Pillans, Trans. Roy. Soc. South Africa 29: 350 (1942)
Vegetative parts: plants tufted, 0.3–0.6 m tall, basal diameter 0.05–0.2 m, crown diameter 0.1–0.5 m, compact, without spreading rhizomes or stolons. Fertile culms unbranched, smooth, olivaceous, 0.3–0.6 m tall, diameter at base 1–1.5 mm, diameter at apex 0.5–1 mm. Sheaths absent or one per culm, persistent, with no abscission line (sheath chartaceous, splitting and decaying), closely convoluted, 70–125 mm long, papery, yellowish, finely red-speckled, apical margins broadly chartaceous and soon decaying, hyaline shoulders absent, apex, excluding the membranous lobes, acuminate. Sheath-mucro absent, strikingly pale, papery sheaths. Males: male inflorescence with 11–20 spikelets, paniculate, 10–50 mm long, 30–60 mm wide. Male inflorescence spathes persistent, upper margins lacerated and largely decayed at anthesis, shorter than spikelets, membranous. Male flowers in spikelets. Male spikelets pendulous on flexible pedicels, oblong or elliptical, apex rounded or obtuse, 10–20 mm, 6–10 mm, with 18–26 flowers, pedicels shorter than the spikelets, flattened. Male bracts taller than flowers, 6–9 mm long, oblong or ovate (-lanceolate), acute, hyaline or membranous, bract upper margin like body of bract, bract awn minute or absent, almost transparent. Male flower 4–4.5 mm long. Male tepals sepals and petals the same rigidity or sepals more rigid than petals, cartilaginous, petals chartaceous, oblong, inner and outer tepals the same length. Male outer lateral tepals keeled or winged, glabrous. Anthers 2–2.3 mm long, included in the flowers. Pistillode absent. Females: female inflorescence racemose, 20–50 mm long, 10–20 mm wide, with 1 spikelet or 2–5 spikelets. Female spathes longer than the spikelets, not obscuring spikelet, persistent, membranous. Female spikelet pedicel simple, obovate or obtriangular, apex truncate or rounded, 20–35 mm long, with 10–20 flowers, with 0 sterile bracts. Female bracts at least twice as long as flowers, 15–25 mm long, oblong (lanceolate), acute, hyaline or membranous, apical margin like rest of bract, same as body of bract, awn minute or absent. Female flower 5.5–7 mm long, without a fleshy pedicel. Female tepals chartaceous or membranous, glabrous and smooth, at least as tall as nut, wrapped around it and obscuring the surface, midrib flush with the tepal body, apices acute, inner whorl shorter than outer. Female outer lateral tepals keeled or winged, wings entire, wings lateral sepals decurrent, without grooves, wider than body, exserted past bracts (but not obvious because of bract and spikelet arrangment), 5.5–6 mm long. Female odd outer tepal elliptical or ovate, 4–5 mm long. Female inner tepals ovate (lanceolate), 3.5–4.5 mm long. Staminodes absent. Styles plumose, white, 1. Ovary with 1 locule, indehiscent. Fruit: indehiscent fruits with a softer ovary wall. Perianth presence on fruits persistent, winged. Shape of winged dispersal unit oblong, narrower than long. Nut apex smooth, without a distinct cap, wall smooth, (2.4–)2.46(–2.6) mm long, (1.64–)1.79(–1.88) mm diam., shape in side view elliptical or ovate (apex truncate, thus almost obtriangulate), shape in top view elliptical in cross section, brown (dark). Elaiosome absent.