Colpothrinax aphanopetala

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Colpothrinax (kol-poh-TRIH-naks)
Scientific Classification
Genus: Colpothrinax (kol-poh-TRIH-naks)
None set.
Native Continent
Habit: Solitary
Leaf type: Costapalmate
Survivability index
Common names
Udirbi ("Kuna"), guágara. [These names are cited on a single collection of C. aphanopetala from Panama (de Nevers and Herrera 4260). The name guágara was probably mistakenly attributed to C. aphanopetala, as it is commonly used in Panama and Costa Rica for the sympatric palmate-leaved palm Cryosophila warscewiczii.

Habitat and Distribution

Colpothrinax aphanopetala is found in Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Panamá. Extreme SE
Nicaragua, and on both the Caribbean, and Pacific slopes, in Costa Rica and Panama, 350-1,000 (-1,400) m, typically in premontane, sometimes lowland, wet forests. Colpothrinax aphanopetala, is most frequently encountered on the upper slopes, and crests of ridges of premontane wet forests above 700 m elevation, in association with Euterpe precatoria Mart. However, C. aphanopetala has been found to as low as 350 m elevation, and sometimes occurs in areas, with little or no topographic relief. For example, at Laguna Cote in Costa Rica, C. aphanopetala is restricted to the lowlying, partially inundated margins of the lake, where it grows in saturated soil, and emerges above a low-forest, dominated by Astrocaryum alatum, H. F. Loomis, and Heliconia. Another noteworthy population of C. aphanopetala, is that on Cerro Jefe in Panama. Adult C. aphanopetala, in the windswept low-forest on Cerro Jefe, are approximately half the size of typical adults elsewhere. The same phenomenon also appears to have produced, the smaller-than-average C. aphanopetala, found on the low, but isolated, often storm-swept Cerro El Gigante, which is only about 30 km inland, from the Caribbean coast in extreme southeast Nicaragua. (R.J. Evans. 2001)/Palmweb.


Trunk (12+) 15-20 m tall, erect, sometimes decumbent basally, on Cerro Jefe, Panama, 15-25(-40?) cm diam. breast high, columnar, usually naked, sometimes, particularly in closed forest, upper portion partially or completely enclosed in a mat of persistent leaf-sheath fibers; trunks of juveniles less than about 6-8 m tall usually completely enclosed in this mat; when present, usually 20-30 cm thick. Leaves 12-30 per crown; petiole (0.5+) 1-1.5 (-2) m long, 2.1-3.9 cm wide at attachment to blade; sheath tomentose, the trichomes of two intermixed types: .1 soft, stellate trichomes, about 0.5 mm long, basally ferruginous, with free, white distal ends and .2 coarser, longer, wavy, twisted, compressed trichomes, these longer trichomes sparsest, shortest (about 1.5 mm long), and lightest in color (± tannish) on the basal portion of the sheath, becoming progressively denser, longer (to 9 mm long), and darker (rufous) distally; sheath disintegrating and fraying into fine, loosely woven, pendulous, filiform, typically ± terete fibers, 0.3-0.5 mm in diam.; hastula appressed to or slightly elevated above the blade, 1.6-3.0 x 1.9-4.3 em, 1.1-1.6 times as wide as long, very broadly to depressed-triangular, usually cuspidate apically; costa (12.0+) 17.5-28.0 cm long; blade 95-152 cm long centrally, 36-74 em long laterally, divided into single-fold segments, except for lateral-most 1(-5) segments of each blade half composed of 1-3 folds; central division extending to within 33-70 cm of (1/2-2/3 to) base, the lateral-most division extending to within 6.5-10.5 (-23.5) cm of [about (2/3+) to 7/8 base; folds per blade half 26-35; widest single-fold segment 4.1-6.0 cm wide. Inflorescences with flowers or fruit to about 5, plus about 5 marcescent per individual; primary-axis 1.5-1.9 m long; inflorescence bracts lanate, with trichomes 2-8 mm long; peduncle 0.4-0.7 m long; prophyll 8.0-28.0 x 7.0-10.0 cm; peduncular bracts 4-6, 21.0-43.5 cm long; rachis 1.1-1.3 m long; rachis bracts 9.5-49.0 cm long; first-order branches (5+?) 8-12; axes creamy pink, their primary-axes 11.5-77.0 cm long, with unbranched proximal portion 6.5-48.0 cm long, the branched distal portion 2.5-38.0 cm long; prophyll 9.5-46.0 cm long; rachillae typically 30-50 per basal first-order branch, < 10 per apical first-order branch, 2.0-15.0 cm long, tomentose, the trichomes (tannish to) ferruginous, 0.2-0.3 mm long; flower-bearing spurs 0.2- 0.4 mm long, the subtending bracteole 0.5-1.2 (-1.6) mm long, 0.3-0.9 mm wide basally. Floral receptacle 0.9-1.7 mm long; calyx 2.7-3.4 mm long, free distally from corolla for 1/4-1/2 its length, reddish with some yellow distally, the lobes 0.3-0.9 mm long; corolla 2.9-4.2 mm long, connate basally for 1/3-1/2 its length, mostly pinkish, creamy yellow marginally below apex, adjacent lobes never touching, the lobes attenuate with acute apices, membranous, adaxially plane with slight apical thickening, persistent, filaments 2.0-3.8 mm long, connate basally for 0.6-2.0 mm (1/3-3/5 their length), cream-colored, stamen-cup shorter than or ± same length as calyx-cup, 2.4-3.0 mm in diam., anthers 2.7-4.4 x 0.8-1.1 mm; pollen 25-30 x 20-30 pm, tectum on non-apertural face coarsely perforate to reticulate; gynoecium 2.5-3.5 x 1.6-2.1 mm, carpels 1.1-1.8 x 0.9-1.4 mm, reddish, styles 1.4-2.0 mm long, cream-colored. Fruit 1.6-2.1 cm in diam. Seed 1.0-1.3 x 1.2-1.5 cm. (R.J. Evans. 2001)/Palmweb. Editing by edric.


Moist, but well drained position. Quite slow growing.

Comments and Curiosities

Etymology: The specific epithet refers to the small, membranous, and not readily apparent corolla lobes of this species.

Uses: The only reported use for C. aphanopetala, has been the leaves used for thatching.

This species was segregated from C. cookii about five years ago. My understanding of the genus in Central America is that C. cookii is restricted to the uplands of countries north of the Nicaraguan depression (eastern Guatemala, Belize, north-central Honduras, northwestern Nic), and C. aphanopetala to the south (CRica and Panamá). I'll try and post some more images of it here; very interesting to see this larger examples of this species as the dominant tree cover on the summit of Cerro Jefe at elevations between 900 and 1,000 m. It also occurs in more tropical settings further east. What struck me immediately with the younger examples growing in open shade under canopy was their strong superficial resemblance to Coccothrinax crinita. Like that sp., I understand that these palms take ages to grow to any decent size. (Jay Vannini, Guatemala City, Guatemala)

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).

Evans, R.J.2001. Monograph of Colpothrinax. Palms 45(4): 177-195.

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

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