Chamaedorea cataractarum

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Photo by Rohan Musgrave
Scientific Classification
Genus: Chamaedorea
Chamaedorea atrovirens
Native Continent
Habit: Solitary
Leaf type: Pinnate
Survivability index
Common names
Guayita de los arroyos - Mexico. Cat palm, Cascade Palm, Cataract Palm, Mexican Hat Palm.

Habitat and Distribution

Chamaedorea cataractarum is found in Mexico Southeast, Mexico Southwest. MEXICO. Chiapas.
photo by Forest & Kim Starr
Oaxaca. Tabasco. Moist or wet forest along or in streams and cataracts on the Atlantic slope; alt. 300-1,000 m elevation; usually on limestone.

This is one of the rare rheophytes in the palm family which means it grows in areas often covered by standing or flowing water.


A small, attractive, trunkless, clumping palm, to about 2m (6ft) high, and 2.5m (8ft) across, with glossy, dark green leaves, and long thin leaflets. It will eventually form quite a large dense, clump given time. (It is occasionally used as a hedge plant.) This trunkless habit, along with its flexible long thin leaflets is an adaption that allows as little resistence as possible to flowing water, helping to prevent it from being washed away during floods. As the trunk grows, it creeps across the ground helping to anchor the plant even more securely against the forces of water. Editing by edric.


This is one of the toughest of the "Chams" and may be the most hardy. It will take some sun if given adequate water. But like all Chams it is susceptible to spider mites in dry and indoor conditions, which reduced it's popularity as a house plant which peaked in the 1970s. But with its dark green and tropical glossy foliage, it is still a very worthwhile outdoor palm for those marginal climates where a tropical look is desired. Since it often occurs on limestone, similar treatment with additions of lime may prove beneficial.

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Comments and Curiosities

Another of the Chams that was introduced to Europe in the first half of the 19th century during what was an apparent craze for indoor tropical foliage at the time. It again gained popularity as an indoor landscaping plant in the 1970s until better candidates were found.

Chamaedorea are dioecious, male, and female flowers, on separate plants.

The epithet is from the Latin cataracta, refering to cataracts, the wet rocks along water courses in its native habitat.

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).

Hodel, D.R.1992. Chamaedorea Palms, The Species and Their Cultivation. The International Palm Society.

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

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