The Reinhartia complex
The name of this small genus honors the Reihardt family, some of whom where prominent nineteenth century Danish botanists. Stems are slender, very small to rather large, and are solitary, but more commonly clustering. Leaves are pinnate or simple, and 6-20 in number. The leaf sheaths are closed, but do not form crownshafts, rather they disintegrate into an interwoven, fibrous covering. Leaves are of three kinds; in some species there are numerous, in others there are 2-3 broad compound leaflets made up of several non-split leaflets; in one species the leaves are small, simple and elliptical. The leaflets are very characteristic in their strongly unequal tips, with one half markedly longer than the other half. These unequal tips make the compound, and the margins of the simple leaves appear toothed. In some species there are small windows between the folds of the compound leaflets, close to the rachis. Inflorescences are born among the leaves and are spicate, or branched to one orders when the lower branches are bifurcate. Only one peduncular bract is present, and the peduncle is usually elongate. Flowers are small and creamy white, arranged in threes of a central female and two lateral males; male have 80-40 stamens. The flowering branches turn red in ripe fruit. Fruits are one-seeded, ellipsoid, ovoid, or obovoid, small, and purplish-black at maturity. The seed has homogenous or ruminate endosperm, and the seedling leaf is simple or bifid.
Reinhartia contains six species, distributed from southwestern Mexico, throughout Central America to Panama. Two species reach northwestern Columbia, and one is endemic to the Dominican Republic. All species inhabit the undersory of lowland rain forest, usually at low elevations, but occasionally reaching 1600 m. None of the species are able to regenerate in disturbed areas.
Morphological variation within the genus follows an almost linear sequence, ranging from the tall Reinhardtia elegans of southern Mexico, with large, pinnate leaves and inflorescences branched to one or two orders, progressing through the smaller species of Central America, with fewer, compound leaflets and inflorescences with fewer flowering branches, and ending with the dwarf R. koschnyana in Panama and Columbia, with minute, simple leaves and inflorescences. This variation in size along a latitudinal gradient, parallels the variation found in other genera in palms along elevational gradients in the Andes (e.g., Wettinia). It is noteworthy of two of the species that reach the northernmost latitudes in Mexico, also reach the highest elevations. None of the species are particularly abundant in the wild, and there are few records of local names and uses. Species of Reinhardtia have been in cultivation by enthusiasts since the nineteenth century, but none have become vary common. Dr. Andrew J. Henderson, Field Guide to the Palms of the Americas.
Etymology: Genus name honors either Johannes C. H. Reinhardt or his son, Johannes T. Reinhardt, both of whom were prominent Danish biologists in the 19th century.