Syagrus cearensis

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Syagrus (see-AHG-ruhs)
cearensis (sahr-EN-sis)
Photo-Rare Palm
Scientific Classification
Genus: Syagrus (see-AHG-ruhs)
cearensis (sahr-EN-sis)
None set.
Native Continent
Habit: Solitary & clustering (soboliferous)
Leaf type: Pinnate
Survivability index
Common names
Twin Palm, catolé or coco babão (babão translates as mucus or slobber and refers to the slimy juices of the mesocarp).

Habitat and Distribution

Brazil Northeast; Brazil, locally common in mountainous areas and seasonal forests
Canhotinho, Pernambuco, Brazil. Photo by Amilton Morais.
in the states of Ceará, Pernambuco, Paraíba, and Alagoas. Growing at the base of the mountains or in pastures at an altitude of about 100–750 m above sea level. Flowering and fruiting probably throughout the year, but collected in flower and fruit during the months of July to September. (L. Noblick. 2004)/Palmweb.

Transitional areas of the caatinga (scrublands), and in seasonal vegetation on the hills and sierras of the Atlantic coast.


Coco catole is a medium sized, clustering palm (soboliferous), often with only 2 stems and occasionally with only one. It usually grows from 4 - 10 metres tall. The unbranched stems are topped with a crown of dark green, slightly plumose leaves. The tree is sometimes harvested from the wild for its edible fruits and seeds, which are consumed locally. It is also occasionally cultivated as a food crop and is grown as an ornamental in gardens.

Unarmed, solitary or clustering palm (soboliferous) in clusters of usually 2–4 stems growing in one plane, to multi-stemmed clusters. Trunk to 4–10 m tall and 10–18 cm in diam., internodes 9–16 cm long at the base and shortening to 2–7 cm long towards the apex, producing a rough trunk with slightly stepped nodes. Leaves 10–15 in crown, leaf sheath together with petiole about 90–100 cm long, sheathing leaf base 18 cm long or more, about 18 cm wide at the base, fibrous with papery membrane disintegrating between the fine principal warp fibers, persisting along the margins of the pseudopetiole (apparent petiole); true petiole absent or to 2 cm long and 4 cm wide by 2 cm thick, but often smaller, channeled adaxially, often with a raised central ridge, rounded abaxially, pseudopetiole (true petiole plus part of the sheath) about 40–50 cm long; rachis 2.3–3.2 m long, a fine light brown to grayish indument covering the abaxial side of the sheath, continuing up the abaxial side of the petiole and sometimes onto the lower portion of the leaf rachis, the upper parts of the leaf rachis becoming glabrous with age; leaflets medium green color becoming lighter when dried, concolorous, adaxial surface with prominently raised transverse veins when dried, leaflets ca. 100–130 along one side, irregularly distributed in loose clusters of 2–5 along rachis and inserted in divergent planes, ramenta absent, tomentum absent at leaflet insertion and along the abaxial midvein; basal leaflets 80–95 cm long by 2–2.5 cm wide, middle leaflets 68–100 cm long and 3–4 cm wide, apical leaflets 31 cm long and 0.4 cm wide, usually one lobe of the asymmetric tip attenuate, the other rounded, occasionally both rounded. Androgynous inflorescences interfoliar, 45–85 cm from the first basal primary branch to the apex; prophyll ca. 30–45 cm long; peduncular bract woody, sulcate, exterior covered with a thin indumentum, about 102–115 cm or more long including a beak 4–11 cm long, expanded or inflated portion 50–74 cm long, 13–16 cm in diam. and a 14–26 cm perimeter and 1–3 mm thickness; peduncle about 40–80 cm long, somewhat flattened in cross-section, 2.5–3 × 1.5–2.5 cm in diam., sparsely lepidote; rachis 33–60 cm long, primary branches 35–45, glabrous, 9–17 cm long at the apex, 30–50 (–106) cm at the base, 11–13 mm in diam. at the base and 2–3 mm diameter at the tip, each primary branch, especially the lower ones, subtended by a deltoid rachis bract ca. 5 mm long, pistillate portion 12–16 cm long with 10–22 pistillate flowers or fruits per primary branch, staminate portion 16–20 cm long. Staminate flowers yellow, arranged in triads with pistillate flowers on the lower portion or in dyads or singly on the upper portion of the primary branch, 12–21 × 5–7 mm, sepals and petals 3; sepals (3–)5–6 × 0.5–1 mm, strongly keeled and slightly connate at the base; petals valvate, 12–20 × 4–5 mm with acute tips, nerves indistinct; stamens 6, 6–8 mm long, anthers 4–6 mm long, filaments 2 mm long; pistillode trifid and less than 0.5 mm long. Pistillate flowers oblong and pyramidal, usually slightly lepidote on the basal portion, 17–25 × 8–10 mm; sepals 3, imbricate, 14–25 × 7–10 mm wide; petals 3, unnerved to slightly nerved, imbricate at the base but (upper 5–7 mm) valvate at the tips, 11–14 × 6–8 mm; staminodal ring about 3 mm high, 6-dentate; pistil lepidote on upper portion, glabrous on lower behind the staminodal ring, 10 × 6 mm, stigmas 3, 2 mm long. Fruit light orange when mature, color often obscured by a thin dark brown indument, about as long as wide, 3.5–4.0(–5) cm long and 3–4 cm diam. with a 7–10 mm thick mesocarp and 3–5 mm thick endocarp, endocarp ca. 4 × 2.3 cm. Seed ellipsoid, about 1.8 × 1.2 cm, and with a substantial central cavity about 6 mm in diam. (L. Noblick. 2004)/Palmweb. Editing by edric.

In summary, Syagrus cearensis merits recognition. Some of the distinct attributes of this species are the common clustering habit with the strong tendency towards twins, fruit nearly as long as wide, evenly covered with a fine dark brown lepidote indument, presence of deltoid rachis bracts, sepals of staminate flowers usually narrowly linear and strongly keeled and a rather large distinct interior seed cavity. I am unaware of any other species of Syagrus with such a large seed cavity. Because of its predisposition to form twins, this species is a great ornamental. (L. Noblick. 2004)/Palmweb.


A plant of the 'Caatinga' dry forest region of northeast Brazil. The climate is hot and dry, there are usually 6 to 11 months without rain each year. The mean annual rainfall varies from 250 - 1,000mm, and the mean annual temperature is from 24 - 26°c. Likes an open sunny, well drained position, but will grow in some shade. Cold Hardiness Zone: 9b

Comments and Curiosities

Etymology: The specific epithet honors one of the states to which the palm is native, Ceará, Brazil.

Uses: This palm has great ornamental potential. The especially attractive character is its tendency to grow in pairs or as twins. Fruit - raw. A thick, yellow, fibrous, mucilaginous pulp with a slightly sweet flavour. The fruit is about 4 cm in diameter.

A recently discovered and described, slender, mildly clustering palm from easternmost Brazil, where it grows in seasonal forests to 750 m (2500 ft.). Each of its usually two to four slender, smooth, 4 to 10 m (13 to 33 ft.) tall trunks sports a bushy crown of ascending, plumose leaves. In cultivation it is still rare but adapts easily to many tropical and warm temperate climates and is a fast grower. (

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).

Noblick, L.2004. Syagrus cearensis, a Twin-Stemmed New Palm from Brazil. Palms 48(2) 70-76.

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

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