Chamaedorea tenerrima

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tenerrima (teh-nehr-REE-mah)
Guatemala, photo
Scientific Classification
Genus: Chamaedorea
tenerrima (teh-nehr-REE-mah)
None set.
Native Continent
Habit: Solitary
Leaf type: Pinnate, rarely bifid.
Survivability index
Common names

Habitat and Distribution

Chamaedorea tenerrima is endemic to GUATEMALA. Alta Verapaz. Baja Verapaz.
Wet forest on the Atlantic slope; alt. 900-1,600 m (2950 to 5200 ft.) elevation.


One of the most striking and unusual leaf shapes, the largest pair of leaflets sits at the tip of the leaf, looking like a big, green butterfly. Up to another eight pairs are evenly spaced below that, angled towards the base of the leaf. All are somewhat undulate, forming a sparse crown atop a pencil-thin stem.

Habit: solitary, erect or decumbent, slender, to 1.5 m tall. Stem: 3-7 mm diam., smooth, green, ringed, internodes 2-5 cm long. Leaves: 4-5 per crown, spreading, pinnate, variously pinnate or infrequently bifid; sheath to 15 cm long, tubular; petiole 4-12 cm long, rugose, grayish; rachis 6-20 cm long, rugose, grayish; blade broadly obovate; pinnae 2-7 on each side of rachis, to 11 x 2.5 cm, strongly reflexed, sigmoid, lower margin produced in a prominent auricle below, outer margins minutely scarious-roughened, mucronulate and emarginate at tips of nerves and rather sharply toothed between them, a prominent midrib and a less conspicuous primary nerve on each side of this, apical pair to 15 x 8-10 cm, broadly flared, 3-8-nerved, all pinnae thin, green, concolorous; if bifid then blade incised apically to 1/2 its length with broadly spreading lobes, these to 19 x 14 cm wide at apex, ovate-oblong, shortly acuminate apically, rounded to subacute basally, outer margin toothed, 9-10 primary nerves on each side of rachis. Inflorescences: infrafoliar, erect to spreading; peduncles 8-30 cm long, slender; bracts 4-6, tubular, contracted or short-acuminate, upper reaching to rachis; rachises to 4 cm long. Staminate with up to 10 rachillae, these slender, small, green. Pistillate with 2-3 rachillae, these 3-10 cm long, very slender, recurved, downward-pointing and red in fruit. Flowers: Staminate known only in immature state, in loose spirals, depressed-globose, superficial; calyx short, lobed; petals valvate, spreading apically; stamens with anthers entire apically; pistillode short, columnar. Pistillate in ± dense spirals, 1-1.8 mm apart, 2.5-3 x 2.5-3 mm, ± globose, green; calyx 1 x 1.8-2 mm, moderately lobed, green, sepals connate and/or imbricate in basal 2/3, rounded apically; petals 2.5-3 x 2.5-3 mm, imbricate nearly to apex, broadly triangular, rounded to obtuse apically, only slightly erect; staminodes present; pistil 1.75 x 1.5 mm, depressed-globose-obovoid, flattened apically, stigma lobes short, sessile, clear-colored. Fruits: 6-7 mm in diam., globose, black, seated on superficial and . widely spaced rounded cushions; seeds globose; abortive carpels apparently adherent to perianth. (Hodel, D.R. 1992)/Palmweb. Editing by edric.


Even though not difficult to grow, and despite being highly coveted by collectors, C. tenerrima is exceedingly rare in cultivation because seeds have generally been unavailable.

Comments and Curiosities

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

Etymology: From the Latin, tenerrimus meaning most delicate or thin, apparently in reference to the habit. (Hodel, D.R. 1992)/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).

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

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