Bactris militaris

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Bactris (BAHK-triss)
militaris (mihl-ih-TAHR-iss)
Bactris militaris leaf underside.jpg
Leaf underside, U of H, Hilo, Hawaii.
Scientific Classification
Genus: Bactris (BAHK-triss)
militaris (mihl-ih-TAHR-iss)
None set.
Native Continent
Habit: Solitary & clustering.
Leaf type: Bifid
Sun exposure: Partial Shade
Survivability index
Common names

Habitat and Distribution

Bactris militaris is found in Costa Rica, and Panamá.
University of Hawaii, Hilo.
West Cost Rican rainforest, Osa Peninsula, West Coast in low swampy regions Zone: 10b-11, all the way through the Pacific slopes of Costa Rica (Puntarenas).


This is a very attractive, medium sized palm with long, narrow, simple, upright, dark grey/green leathery leaves. Armed with spines. Extremely rare, and thought to be extinct until recently rediscovered.

Stems solitary or clustering, but usually caespitose (growing in tufts or clumps), in tight clumps of 5-20 stems, 3-5 m tall, 2.5-4 cm in diam. Leaves 6-8 per crown, erect; leaf spines widely scattered, black, terete, to 9 cm long, few on sheath, lateral surfaces of petiole, abaxial surface of rachis, and margins of blade; sheath to 37 cm long; ocrea not seen; petiole to 20 cm long; rachis to 2.8 m long; blade simple, elongate cuneate-oblanceolate in outline, gradually expanded from a narrowly cuneate base to the bifid apex, without cross-veins; blade to 3.1 m long, to 25.5 cm wide at apex of rachis. Inflorescences interfoliar; peduncle 20-38.5 cm long, straight, not spiny; prophyll 13-19 cm long; peduncular bract 30-49 cm long, densely tomentose, sparsely covered with slender brown spines to 4 mm long; rachis to 10 cm long; rachillae 14-23, to 6 cm long, at anthesis densely covered with brown, moniliform trichomes; triads irregularly arranged among paired or solitary staminate flowers; staminate flowers 3-4 mm long; sepal lobes 1-1.5 mm long; petals3-4 mm long; stamens 6; pistillode absent; pistillate flowers 3-4 mm long; calyx annular, 0.5- 1 mm long; corolla urceolate, 3- 3.5 mm long; staminodes minute; fruits 1.5- 1.7 cm in diam., broadly abovoid, indistinct lyrostrate, red ; mesocarp mealy; endocarp turbinate, pitted, the sterile pores displaced longitudinally; endocarp fibers few; fruiting perianth with minute calyx and longer corolla, without staminodial ring. (Henderson, A.J. 2000) /Palmweb. Editing by edric.

Bactris militaris is diagnosed by its simple, elongate cuneate-oblanceolate leaf blade gradually expanded from the narrowly cuneate base to the bifid apex, orange fruits, and pitted endocarps. The above description is mostly taken from Moore (1951) because there are few new collections since then. In fact, this species appears to be rare in the wild (Hodel &Binder, 1996). De Nevers et al. (1996) included specimens from the Atlantic coast of Costa Rica under B. militaris. These are here recognized as B. neomilitaris, following de Nevers & Henderson (1999). The two species can be separated by their endocarps. Those of B. militaris, from the Pacific coast, have pitted endocarp swith few endocarp fibers without juice sacs attached; those of B. neomilitaris, from the Atlantic coast, have smooth endocarps with terete fibers that have juice sacs attached. Bactris militaris is a member of a group of similar species confined to Central America and the Pacific coast of Colombia and Ecuador characterized by their obovoid, orange or red fruits. (Henderson, A.J. 2000)/Palmweb.


Very highly sought after by palm collectors. Requires, warm, sheltered, and consistently moist soil.

Comments and Curiosities

There are two subspecies; Bactris militaris subsp. militaris, Costa Rica, and Panamá. Bactris militaris subsp. neomilitaris, Costa Rica, and Panamá.

Costa Rica has a remarkably diverse palm flora and an excellent network of protected areas so there is every hope that much of the wonderful variety will persist. One of the rarest palms of Costa Rica is the extraordinary Bactris militaris. Described some 50 years ago, this splendid palm with its narrow undivided leaves has been scarcely known in cultivation. It's not surprising that such a spectacular palm should be high on every collector's desiderata list. Don Hodel and Mark Binder describe in graphic detail a sodden trip to Costa Rica during which they eventually found Bactris militaris.

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).

Henderson, A.J.2000. Bactris (Palmae). New York Botanical Garden.

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

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