| Chamaedorea |
Habitat and DistributionChamaedorea tepejilote is found in Belize, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador,
Usually solitary trunked but a rarer clustering variety is also found. C. tepejilote has one of the fattest and tallest trunks of all the Chamaedoreas at about 3 inches (7.6 cm) in diameter reaching heights of 20 feet (6.5 m) or more. Green ringed trunk with white leaf base scars have visual affinities to bamboo culms, especially when planted en masse. The long, wide, tapering "S" shaped (aka falcate) leaflets fall from the rachis (or droop a bit) in a relaxed manner that just screams tropical rain forest palm. The leaflets of this species are thinner than most,with prominent striations. Though many 'bamboo-like' Chamaedoreas have a pale line along the ventral surface of the petiole, it is the most pronounced in this species, and is a characteristic that can help identify it.
Habit: solitary, sometimes caespitose (growing in tufts or clumps), erect, sometimes decumbent, 2-7 m tall or more, if cespitose, forming clumps 3-4 m wide. Stems: 2-10 cm in diam., green, prominently ringed, internodes 2-15 cm long, often with more or less prominent prop roots basally. Leaves: 3-7 per crown, spreading, pinnate; sheath 20-40 cm long, tubular, obliquely open apically, green, striate-nerved; petiole 10-30 cm long, slightly grooved and green above, rounded and pale below; rachis 0.5-1.4 m long, angled and green above, rounded below with a distinct yellow band extending onto sheath; pinnae 12-25 on each side of rachis, middle pinnae the largest, these 16-70 x 3.5-7.5 cm, broadly linear-lanceolate to long-lanceolate, sigmoid, falcate, narrowed basally, long-acuminate apically, sub-opposite, spreading or sometimes drooping, thin, lustrous green, 5-10 primary nerves keeled above, yellowish and shining below with 4-5 or even more secondaries interspaced, often nearly as prominent as primaries, tertiaries fine and numerous especially in large pinnae. Inflorescences: infrafoliar, erect-spreading, solitary, 25-60 cm long; peduncles 6-27 cm long, stout, thick; bracts 4-5, to 20 cm long, lower short and truncate, upper rather prominently inflated and hoodlike, ± fibrous, drying ± woody, longitudinally striatenerved, green becoming brownish in flower and fruit; rachises 1-30 cm long, green to yellow in flower, red-orange in fruit. Staminate with 7-50 rachillae, these 6-17 cm long, spreading or pendulous, yellow-green. Pistillate with 5-20 rachillae, these 3-30 cm long, ± thick, spreading, straight or flexuous, ± angled, greenish yellow to green, minutely white-spotted in flower, red-orange in fruit. Flowers: Staminate in 4-8 very dense spirals, contiguous, 22.5 x 3.5-5 mm, depressed-globose, irregularly shaped by mutual pressure, yellow, aromatic, seated in shallow elliptic depressions 2.5-3 mm long; calyx 0.5 x 3.5-5 mm, scarcely lobed, ringlike, membranous, green, partially adnate to sides of depression and similarly shaped, sepals connate nearly to apex, straight apically; petals 2-2.5 x 2.5-3.5 mm, deltoid, valvate, appearing as though connate basally due to crowding but essentially distinct, inflexed in bud, spreading apically at anthesis, ± fleshy, thick, lightly nerved on inside; stamens equalling or barely exceeding petals, filaments 1.25-1.5 mm long, green, anthers 0.5-0.75 mm long, ellipsoid, separated basally, entire apically, yellow; pistillode 0.75-1.25 mm high, shorter than or equalling stamens, slender, 3-lobed apically. Pistillate in dense or lax spirals, 2-2.5 x 4-5 mm, conic subglobose, greenish to yellow or whitish, slightly sunken in shallow elliptic-rounded depressions 1.5-3 mm in diam.; calyx 0.5 x 4-5 mm, deeply or scarcely lobed, greenish, membranous, becoming undulate in fruit, sepals free or briefly connate and/or imbricate basally, broadly rounded apically; petals 2-2.5 x 4-5 mm, broadly ovate to triangular, imbricate nearly to apex, ± thick, fleshy, rounded to acute apically, usually undulate and brown-margined in fruit; staminodes 0-6, small, subtriangular; pistil 2-2.5 x 3-4.5 mm, yellow-green, globose, styles lacking, stigma lobes sessile but exserted well beyond petals, separated, recurved, angled, clear-colored. Fruits: to 10-15(20) x 7-8 mm, ellipsoid to ovoid or nearly globose, blue-green maturing black, abortive carpels generally adherent to fruit, epicarp thin, slightly membranous, mesocarp slightly fleshy, green, aromatic, endocarp slightly membranous, fibrous; seeds 9-11 x 5-6.5 mm, ellipsoid, brownish. (Hodel, D.R. 1992)/Palmweb. Editing by edric.
Liebmann apparently discovered C. tepejilote at Matlaluca, Veracruz, Mexico and named and described it in Martius (1849). However, I have been unable to locate any Liebmann collections of C. tepejilote from Veracruz. Strangely, Liebmann material identified as the holotype at Copenhagen is from Oaxaca as are the isotypes at Paris and the Smithsonian Institution.
Several collectors, including Liebmann, Linden, Warscewicz, and Wendland, sent propagative material of C. tepejilote to Europe, where it has been cultivated since prior to the middle of the 19th century, usually under the various names placed in synonymy here. C. tepejilote is widely cultivated today, appearing in gardens and collections in California, Hawaii, Florida, Australia, Europe, and elsewhere. One of the largest members of the genus, only C. woodsoniana, C. linearis, and the more stout and robust forms of C. costaricana equal or surpass C. tepejilote in size. Chamaedorea tepejilote is a variable species throughout its very wide range. It occurs in moist or wet forests on a variety of substrates from southern Mexico to northern Colombia. Separate taxa have been proposed based principally on size, number of parts, and nervature of pinnae. According to Standley and Steyermark (1958), it is difficult to find constant distinguishing features and, essentially, differences are of size, not of character. They placed C. wendlandiana and C. anomospadix in synonymy with C. tepejilote. In an earlier paper (Hodel 1990d) I treated C. exorrhiza, C. sphaerocarpa, and C. columbica as synonyms of C. tepejilote. In that paper, I maintained C. casperiana as separate from C. tepejilote. Klotzsch (1852) described and named c. casperiana from plants cultivated at the botanic gardens in Schonhausen near Berlin. These were grown from seeds that Warscewicz had collected in Guatemala and sent to Europe in 1849. I had not seen type material of C. casperiana and, based on Standley and Steyermark's (1958) assertion that the staminate calyx of C. casperiana was prominent and well developed, I felt the two species to be distinct. However, I have since seen good type material of C. casperiana at Goettingen, Copenhagen, and Leiden and the staminate calyx is variable, but not well developed and prominent. In most cases, the calyx is low, ring-like and more or less inconspicuous, like that of C. tepejilote. Occasionally, there will be a shriveled, membranous, tooth-like sepal in the ring-like calyx, an uncommon but not unknown condition in C. tepejilote. When considering the highly variable nature of C. tepejilote though, this distinction seems insignificant. Chamaedorea tepejilote is widely cultivated for food in southern Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. The unopened staminate inflorescences, resembling ears of corn, are sold in markets and used as a vegetable or in salads. They are called Pacaya, a term also used for the entire plant. In Guatemala it is more intensely cultivated and exploited for market than in any other part of Central America. See the chapter on economic uses for a more extensive account of Pacaya. A handsome ornamental when well grown, C. tepejilote is a striking specimen for a background planting or as a solitary or group accent. Pistillate plants are especially attractive when bearing their heavy and relatively massive, red-orange, branched infructescences with black fruits. Although requiring some protection from the sun, C. tepejilote tolerates relatively high light. Its large, spreading leaves easily provide denser shade for smaller chamaedoreas requiring lower light. C. tepejilote is susceptible to damage from wind and infestations of mites. Krempin (1990, p. 94) discussed and illustrated C. neurochlamys but the description and photograph depict C. tepejilote. Krempin (p. 96) also illustrated what appears to be a Ptychosperma but erroneously captioned the photograph as C. tepejilote? (Hodel, D.R. 1992)/Palmweb.
This is a shade loving species. Even small amounts of direct sun will result in yellowing and burn. Plant this palm under a tall canopy as it's fast growing and often outgrows it's canopy only to expose itself to be damaged by the sun. This is a great indoor palm. As with most Chamaedoreas, fresh seed germinates readily and with high germination rates.
In southern California this is considered a moderately hardy Chamaedorea, tolerating some mild frosts down to around 28F. It does not tolerate hard freezes well, though, nor does it like intense, dry heat or winds. Shredding of the delicate leaflets is a common problem in many areas of southern California where Santa Ana winds occur.
Comments and Curiosities
Chamaedorea are dioecious, male, and female flowers, on separate plants.
Etymology: Is the vernacular name for the species.
The clustering variety is quite rare and sought after by collectors. The more common and readily available solitary variety can easily be multi-planted to achieve the desired effect.
- Glossary of Palm Terms
- MODERN BOTANICAL LATIN
- "Just To Be Clear"
- Palms Throughout the World by David L. Jones. Page 180.
- Field Guide to the Palms of the Americas by Andrew Henderson, Gloria Galeano, Rodrigo Bernal. Page 104.
Phonetic spelling of Latin names by edric.
Special thanks to Geoff Stein, (Palmbob) for his hundreds of photos.
Special thanks to Palmweb.org, 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).
Many Special Thanks to Ed Vaile for his long hours of tireless editing and numerous contributions.