Aiphanes minima

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Aiphanes (ah-ee-FAHN-ehz)
minima (mihn-EE-mah)
Photo by Ryan D. Gallivan.
Scientific Classification
Genus: Aiphanes (ah-ee-FAHN-ehz)
minima (mihn-EE-mah)
Aiphanes erosa, A. acanthophylla.
Native Continent
Habit: Solitary
Leaf type: Pinnate
Survivability index
Common names
Bitten Palm, Macaw Palm

Habitat and Distribution

A. minima is found in the rain forests of most islands in the West Indies,
Fairchild FL.
Barbados, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Dominica, Martinique, and St. Vincent, with the exception of Cuba. Wet forests, altitude up to 2000 m. elevation.


A variable spiny palm to 25-50 ft/7.6-15 m with a full and well rounded crown. Leaf: Pinnate, Leaf stays flat. Leaflets with jagged ends, Paripinnate leaves (length: 2 m), composed of 18-34 pairs of pinnae linear (length: 40-75 cm), incised margins. Macaw Palms have spines on the upper and lower leaf surfaces. Trunk: Brown with fine black spines., 6 inches in diameter (15 cm). Flowers monoecious, whitish yellow, grouped in panicles, axillary and interlayer compounds (length: 2 m). Fragrant creamy to light yellow flowers. Flower stalk coming from among the leaves, pendulous, much longer than the leaves (6 feet - 1.8 m). Fruit: red. 0.7 inch (1.6 cm). round. Seed: round, pitted. Edible seed. As well as spiny leaves as a juvenile, the rachis, petiole and trunk of the adult are covered in sharp black spines. Its older pendulous leaves gives this palm a most elegant and graceful appearance. (From the French).


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Min. Temperature: 28°F (-2°C) Water Requirements: Regular water, Sun Requirements: Light shade to shade. Germination: easy when fresh. Juveniles reportedly require a shady location to get established after which they can tolerate sun or partial shade. A well drained soil free of salt is imperative. Aside from that it will tolerate most other growing conditions well. Best in a tropical climate, but will survive and even thrive in a warm Mediterranean climate like Southern California. In such a climate, best in semi-shade, surrounded by other plants to both protect from the Santa Ana winds, and to provide extra humidty through transpiration.

Comments and Curiosities

Because of its variability and ease of hybridizing in cultivation, this palm has experienced repeated name and group changes, and therefore a legacy of some confusion.

Despite its spiny appearance, the Macaw Palm is a popular ornamental in the tropics, usually cultivated under the name Aiphanes erosa. In the wild, it is widespread in rainforests or seasonally dry forests throughout the Caribbean. It grows a fairly slender, spiny trunk that can reach up to 18 m (60 ft.) tall, topped by a lush crown of dark green, bushy leaves. The attractive, brilliant red fruits hold edible seeds that are reminiscent of coconut. A. minima will grow in sun as well as in deep shade and is a very fast and rewarding palm mainly for the tropics. (

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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