Desmoncus cirrhifera

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Desmoncus (dehs-MON-koohs)
cirrhifera (sir-rih-FEHR-ah)
Panamá. Photo by Rutilio Paredes.
Scientific Classification
Genus: Desmoncus (dehs-MON-koohs)
cirrhifera (sir-rih-FEHR-ah)
None set.
Native Continent
Habit: Clustering
Leaf type: Pinnate
Survivability index
Common names
Matamba (Colombia), Boira Negra (Ecuador).

Habitat and Distribution

Desmoncus cirrhifera is found in Colombia, Ecuador, and Panamá. From 9°24'N-1°27'S
Colombia. Photo by Dr. Gentry, Alwyn Howard.
and 75°05'-79°84'W in central and eastern Panama, western Colombia, and western Ecuador at 180 (1-700) m elevation in wet, lowland rainforest, sometimes in disturbed areas (Henderson, A. 2011)/Palmweb.


Subcanopy reaching liana (climbing). Stems clustered, to 10 m long, 1-2 cm in diameter. Leaves 1-2 m long; rachis in adult plants armed with numerous short, recurved spines used in climbing; pinnae 5-9 on each side, regularly spaced, elliptic, thin, nearly glabrous, to 20 cm long and 7 cm wide, distally extended into an up to 10 cm long filament; distal part of the leaf axis with a few pairs of pinnae transformed into climbing hooks. Inflorescence 30-50 cm long; branches 15-20, each 15-20 cm long. Fruits yellow to red, elongate, 1.5-2.5 cm long. (Borchsenius, F. 1998)/Palmweb.

Palm 11.0 (3.0-20.0) m tall; stems 2.0 (1.2-3.0) cm diameter, clustered. Leaf petioles 10.8 (7.0-16.5) cm long; rachises 105.3 (91.0-117.0) cm long, 6.0 (4.0-8.1) mm wide, the spines usually <1 cm long, mostly abaxial, recurved with markedly swollen bases; pinnae 9 (7-15) per side of rachis, with long, filiform apices, without a beard of spines at the bases, without spinules or dense tomentum at the bases adaxially; basal pinna 19.4 (17.0-21.0) cm long, 4.2 (2.5-6.0) cm wide; cirri poorly-developed, the rachis terminating in a short cirrus, acanthophylls absent but some small, acanthophyll-like pinnae present, with many, usually paired spines. Inflorescences with the rachis angular, slightly twisted, thicker than the few to numerous, closely spaced and spirally arranged rachillae, each rachilla not (or very rarely) adnate to the rachis, subtended by an acute bracteole and with a well-developed axillary pulvinus; peduncles 5.4 (3.3-7.1) mm wide; peduncular bracts 22.5 cm long, broad, ribbed or ridged, densely covered with felty, reddish-brown tomentum, sparsely covered with short, scarcely swollen-based, diagonally oriented, flattened spines, whitish-brown proximally, brown distally, with tomentose margins; rachillae 24 (19-33), tomentose initially; proximal rachillae 6.0 (4.0- 8.0) cm long, 1.7 (1.4-2.0) mm wide; stamens 6; fruits 18.2 (14.3-20.9) mm long, 13.4 (9.8-15.7) mm wide, the surfaces uneven with numerous, subepidermal, short, often branching (Y-shaped) fibers; fruiting corollas less than one quarter as long as fruits, splitting irregularly into 3 lobes, the lobes often splitting again; endocarps globose to obovoid with rounded or slightly peaked apices, the pores lateral. (Henderson, A. 2011)/Palmweb. Editing by edric.

The species is easily recognised by the long tail at the apex of the leaflets (Borchsenius, F. 1998)/Palmweb.

Subspecific variation:-There is a gap in the distribution of this species, in southern Colombia. Although this may be an artifact of insufficient collecting, specimens from Ecuador appear larger than those from Colombia and Panama. However, there are too few data to test for differences. (Henderson, A. 2011)/Palmweb.


Cold Hardiness Zone: 10a

Comments and Curiosities

Uses: Desmoncus cirrhifera is one of the most utilized palm species of the Pacific coast region of Colombia. It is used to make nets and shrimp traps (catangas) in the Bahía Malaga and Río San Juan delta areas and is prized by the indigenous. The flexible stems of the matamba (Desmoncus cirrhiferus), are used to construct cradles, and baskets. The stems are used for making fish traps called catanga. Raw fruis are edible.

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).

Borchsenius, F.1998. Manual to the palms of Ecuador. AAU Reports 37. Department of Systematic Botany, University of Aarhus, Denmark in collaboration with Pontificia Universidad Catalica del Ecuador.

Henderson, A. 2011. A revision of Desmoncus (Arecaceae).

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

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