Astrocaryum confertum

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Astrocaryum (ahs-tro-kahr-EE-uhm)
confertum (kohn-FEHR-tuhm)
Astrocaryum confertum 31 2011.jpg
Scientific Classification
Genus: Astrocaryum (ahs-tro-kahr-EE-uhm)
confertum (kohn-FEHR-tuhm)
None set.
Native Continent
Habit: Solitary
Leaf type: Pinnate
Survivability index
Common names

Habitat and Distribution

Astrocaryum confertum is found in Central America,
Astrocaryum confertum Vargas 1.jpg
To Colombia, Habitat: Low Elevation Rainforest. Native to Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama.

An understorey tree growing in dense, primary forest, lowland rain forest, on soils not subject to inundation, at elevations up to 250 metres.


Solitary stem, 10–20 m high and 14–20 cm in diameter, densely armed, with long black spines, deciduous leaf bases. Leaves 5–12, up to 4 m long, erect; pinnae 114–130 on each side, more or less grouped and irregularly arranged in several planes, unevenly bifid distally. Inflorescences with peduncle 30–60 cm long, peduncular bract ca 100 cm long; staminate flowers 3–4 mm long; pistilled flowers 9–11 mm long, cylindrical corolla. Obovoid fruits, 2.8–3.7 cm long and 1.4–2 cm in diameter, rostrate, often adpressive-spiny, but with a smooth, orange appearance. (Flora of Nicaragua)

Expected in Nicaragua; known from the Atlantic slope from northern Costa Rica to Panama. Similar and probably specific species with A. standleyanum LH Bailey (center of Costa Rica to the northwest of Ecuador) from which it is distinguished by the peduncle of the relatively short, erect inflorescence even when in fruit.

Astrocaryum confertum is a single-stemmed, evergreen palm tree thatt can grow 10 - 17 metres tall. The unbranched, cylindrical, straight bole can be 25cm in diameter and is thickly covered by conspicuous, needle-sharp spines that can be up to 17cm long. This dense cloak of piercing armour makes the bole appear woolly and black from a distance, though the outer wood is actually smooth and tan or flesh coloured. The stem is covered by a crown of 5 - 12 erect leaves that can each be up to 4 metres long. (Field Guide to the Palms of the Americas) Author: Dr's, Henderson A.; Galeano G.; Bernal R.

Subcanopy to canopy, pinnate leaves with leaflets in multiple planes, spines often flattened, branched inflorescence. Astrocaryum confertum is the only solitary subcanopy palm with a spiny trunk. Leaves are pinnate with leaflets in multiple planes and spines on the petiole and rachis. Epicarp with small scale-like spines. Note pinnate leaves with pointy leaflets oriented in multiple directions. Editing by edric.


Cold Hardiness Zone: 10b.

Comments and Curiosities

Uses: The tree is harvested from the wild for local use as a food, source of fibre, wood etc. Fruit, The fruits are about 3cm in diameter, held in long racemes on the plant. Turning orange when fully ripe, the thin, leathery skin of the fruit covers a fibrous layer of softer, orange flesh, and a single, central seed. The spines are flammable and possibly useful as kindling. The black wood is hard. It is used for canes, ornamental boxes, archery bows etc

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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