Astrocaryum gynacanthum

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Astrocaryum (ahs-tro-kahr-EE-uhm)
gynacanthum (jihn-ah-KAHN-tuhm)
Brazil. Photo by Steven Alexander
Scientific Classification
Genus: Astrocaryum (ahs-tro-kahr-EE-uhm)
gynacanthum (jihn-ah-KAHN-tuhm)
None set.
Native Continent
Habit: Solitary & clustering.
Leaf type: Pinnate
Survivability index
Common names
In Venezuela, Corioco Palm. In Colombia it is commonly known as mace, palm serrillo, macanilla, chonta, coconut pork (Muinane).

Habitat and Distribution

Astrocaryum gynacanthum is found in Bolivia, Brazil North,
Belém, Brasil. Photo by Dr. André Cardoso
Colombia, French Guiana, Guyana, Peru, Suriname, and Venezuela. Widely distributed throughout the Amazon basin, in the undergrowth. Elev. 200-300 m. An understorey plant in lowland rainforest, growing in areas not subject to seasonal inundation, at elevations up to 650 metres, occasionally to 850 metre


Solitary palm, trunk hight 4 m., diam. 5 to 10 cm., leaves about 8 in the crown, spirally arranged and spreading, leaf sheath and petiole 145 cm., long, with the petiole alone only 45 cm., smooth margins with a fiberous leaf sheath, rounded both adaxially, and abaxially, leaf rachis 187-193 cm. long, 25-28 pairs of pinnae evenly distributed along the rachis in one plane, middle pinnae 80-84 mm. long, 4-4.5 mm. wide. Inflorescence: androgynous spicate, with 50-60 cm. long peduncle, and 16-17 cm. long rachis bract, peduncular bract having a total length of 70 cm., beak absent, the expanded or inflated part of the bract measuring 22 cm. long, and 6 cm. wide, with 1a 10 cm. perimeter. Fruit: Bright orange when mature, and the epicarp splits open in a flower-like fashion. Editing by edric.

Astrocaryum gynacanthum is an clustering palm producing several stems usually 2 - 6 metres tall, occasionally to 12 metres. These unbranched stems can be 3 - 10cm in diameter; they are covered with flattened spines up to 15cm long; and are topped with a rosette of 6 - 13 horizontal leaves that can be up to 3 metres long.

Caespitose, with stems less than 10 cm in diameter, internodes up to 5 cm long, spiny; leaves with less than 50 pinnae per side; inflorescence pendulous; pistillate flower 8—11 mm long, calyx and corolla armed with flat, flexuose spines long enough to hide the floral parts; petals of the staminate flower strongly reflexed. (


Cold Hardiness Zone: 10b.

Comments and Curiosities

Occasionally fruit is a food source and heart is used to prepare vegetable salt, Uitoto (is burned, then cooked and the mixture is filtered) that is mixed with the ambil snuff. S. America - northern Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Venezuela, the Guyanas. Fruit - raw, Floury. Occasionally eaten. The bright orange, obovoid fruit is up to 30mm long and 15mm in diameter.Leaves - cooked. The apical bud, often called a 'palm heart', is eaten as a vegetable.Eating this bud leads to the death of the individual stem because it is unable to produce side-shoots. The apical bud is sometimes burnt and the ashes used as a salt substitute.

A short palm of upland forests in central and eastern parts of the Amazon Basin, the fruits are consumed in some areas, such as in the Upper Rio Negro region. The heart-of-palm is also eaten as a vegetable and one indigenous group burns the palm to obtain ash salts.

We are following the treatment in the on-line 2012 Flora do Brasil, which treats this taxon as a true species. In the 'World Checklist of Selected Plant Families', however, it is treated as a synonym of Astrocaryum aculeatum G.Me

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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