Chamaedorea pinnatifrons

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pinnatifrons (pin-NAHT-ih-fronz)
Chamaedorea pinnatifrons.jpg
Fairchild Gardens, Florida.
Scientific Classification
Genus: Chamaedorea
pinnatifrons (pin-NAHT-ih-fronz)
None set.
Native Continent
Habit: Solitary
Leaf type: Pinnate, rarely bifid.
Height: 4.5m
Trunk diameter: 2 cm
Survivability index
Common names
Molinillo, San Pablo palm, Jatatilla, Ubim, Chontilla, Pacaya.

Habitat and Distribution

Chamaedorea pinnatifrons is found in Bolivia, Brazil North, Colombia, Costa Rica,
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Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico Gulf, Mexico Southeast, Mexico Southwest, Nicaragua, Panamá, Peru, Venezuela. Colombia and Venezuela to Bolivia and Brazil, at up to 2400 m elevation. In Ecuador it is common in the East lowlands and on the E and W Andean slopes, in primary as well as in secondary forest, often on steep slopes, in limestone deposits.


Trunk type: Solitary. Trunk diameter: 0.5 to 3 centimeters, (1") Hight: To 4 meters, (13'). Spread: To 1.2 meters, (4'). Leaf detail: Pinnately compound, alternately opposed, 4 to 8 fronds average, with 8 to 22 lanceolate leaflets, with up to 11 veins per side. Flower detail: Female flowers cream colored. Flower stalk coming from between the leaves, bright orange to cream. Fruit detail: Yellow orange, turning black, or yellow when ripe. up to 0.6 inches long by 0.2 inches in diameter (1.5 by 0.5 centimeters). elongated. Stems erect, sometimes decumbent, they reach a size of up to 4 m high and 0.5 to 3 cm in diameter, often with stilt roots, internodes 1-18 cm long. Leaves 4-10, erect-patent, pinnate, rarely simple and bifid, of 0.8-1.5 m long, pinnae (2 -) 4-8 on each side, middle pinnae largest, elliptic to lanceolate or rhombic-lanceolate, sigmoid to falcate, 15-40 cm long and 2.5-12 cm wide, midrib with 2 or 3 nerves on each side or 3-7 main veins prominent on the face, when bifid leaves 25-75 cm long and 15-30 cm wide, incised in the apex by 1/3-2/3 of its length, wolves 5-15 cm wide, with 8-14 pinnatiacostillados primary nerves on either side, rachis to 70 cm long, abaxially pale with a band which extends to the sheath, tubular sheath, 6-40 cm long, 5-55 cm long petiole. Inflorescences inter or infrafoliar, solitary, pendulous when erect but very heavy with fruit, peduncle 10-70 cm long, bracts 3-7, rachis up to 15 cm long, greenish blossoms, red-orange in fruit; staminate inflorescences with (3 -) 5-21 of 5-28 cm rachilla long, pendulous, green to yellow-orange flowers 3.5 mm long and wide, green to yellow, imbricate sepals and / or connate at base, petals valvate, connate apically and basally; pistillate inflorescences with (2 -) 5-15 rachillas of 4-24 cm long, erect, patent, rigid, simple or rarely forked basal, green to yellow in flower, becoming somewhat pendulous and red in-orange fruit, flowers 1-1.5 mm long and 3.5-4 mm wide, moderately dense spirals, green to yellow, fragrant, sepals connate and / or embedded in the base, imbricate petals almost to the apex, connate the base. The fruits are ellipsoid to globose, up to 20 mm long, yellow, orange or red when ripe and turning black.

Understorey palm. Stem solitary, to 4 m tall and 2.5 cm in diameter, green. Leaf sheath closed for at least 4/5 of its length; blade pinnately divided or rarely entire, 25-75 cm long and 15-30 cm wide; pinnae 7-15 on each side, usually conspicuously sigmoid. Inflorescences infrafoliar, one per node, to 80 cm long, once branched; male inflorescences with 3-25 pendulous branches; female inflorescences with 2-15, horizontal to erect branches, orange in fruit. Male flowers with petals united at apex. Fruits black, about 9 x 11 mm. (Borchsenius, F. 1998)/Palmweb. Editing by edric.

The species is variable, especially in leaf size, number and size of pinnae, and size and ramification of the inflorescence. It is defined by having male flowers with petals fused at their apex, but variation in vegetative characters within the species is not fully understood. Simple-leaved forms are sometimes found occurring together with the common, pinnate-leaved form, e.g., around Plan de Milagro in the Morona-Santiago province. (Borchsenius, F. 1998)/Palmweb.


Requirements: Full shade to filtered light, this is an understory palm. Consistently moist soil, well drained position. Often planted in groupings.

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Comments and Curiosities

Chamaedorea are dioecious, male, and female flowers, on separate plants.

Uses: The petioles are chewed by the Mayna Jivaros to blacken teeth, starting at an age of five or six years. (Schultes, R.E., and R.F. Raffauf. 1990)/Palmweb.

Chamaedorea pinnatifrons plants are removed from the forest by campesinos and sold in street-side markets in some cities. (Bernal, R. 1998)/Palmweb.

Etymology: The basal part of the stem with its numerous adventitious roots has been used by the local population for whipping food; thus the local name, wich means " little mill." (Svenning, J.C., and H. Balslev. 1998)/Palmweb.

External Links


Phonetic spelling of Latin names by edric.

Special thanks to Geoff Stein, (Palmbob) for his hundreds of photos.

Special thanks to, Dr. John Dransfield, Dr. Bill Baker & team, for their volumes of information and photos.

Glossary of Palm Terms; Based on the glossary in Dransfield, J., N.W. Uhl, C.B. Asmussen-Lange, W.J. Baker, M.M. Harley & C.E. Lewis. 2008. Genera Palmarum - Evolution and Classification of the Palms. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. All images copyright of the artists and photographers (see images for credits).

Borchsenius, F.1998. Manual to the palms of Ecuador. AAU Reports 37. Department of Systematic Botany, University of Aarhus, Denmark in collaboration with Pontificia Universidad Catalica del Ecuador.

Schultes, R.E., and R.F. Raffauf, The healing forest- Medicinal and toxic plants of the Northwest Amazonia. 1990. 1990. The healing forest- Medicinal and toxic plants of the Northwest Amazonia.

Bernal, R., Demography of the Vegetable Ivory Palm Phytelephas seemannii in Colombia, and the Impact of Seed Harvesting. 1998. 1998. Demography of the Vegetable Ivory Palm Phytelephas seemannii in Colombia, and the Impact of Seed Harvesting.

Svenning, J.C., and H. Balslev, The palm flora of the Maquipucuna montane forest reserve, Ecuador. 1998. 1998. The palm flora of the Maquipucuna montane forest reserve, Ecuador.

Many Special Thanks to Ed Vaile for his long hours of tireless editing and numerous contributions.

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