Desmoncus orthacanthos

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Desmoncus (dehs-MON-koohs)
Yucatan Peninsular.
Scientific Classification
Genus: Desmoncus (dehs-MON-koohs)
None set.
Native Continent
Habit: Clustering
Leaf type: Pinnate
Survivability index
Common names
Masgidubaled, Maski, Matamba, Palma bejuco.

Habitat and Distribution

Desmoncus orthacanthos is found in Brazil West-Central. From 8°45'-23°01'S
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and 35°06'-43°28'W in the Atlantic Coastal Forest of Brazil at 105(0-700) m elevation, usually near the sea in restinga or scrub forest. Widespread in tropical America, from Mexico to Bolivia, below 1000 m elevation, often in coastal areas. (Henderson, A. 2011)/Palmweb.


Matamba: Barro Colorado Island; Slender, monoecious, widely spreading climber, growing into canopy but usually lower than 5 m; trunk 1-3 cm in diam; juveniles usually erect. Leaves usually about 2 m long; petiolesshort; rachis with black, flattened spines, often recurved, their bases swollen; base of petiole and sheath with denser, shorter spines, the leaf sheaths extending 3-12 cm above petiole; leaflets alternate, long-lanceolate, acuminate, 12-27 cm long, 2.5-4 cm wide, broad at mid­dle, the margins unarmed, the surfaces glabrous or puber­ulent, the upper surface sometimes with weakly elevated cross-lines, the midrib pronounced but the side veins indistinct, the underside often with 1 or more acicular spines; pinnae becoming opposite toward apex of blade, finally replaced by large, opposite, stout, reflexed spines. Spathes to about 24 cm long, the rachillae 15 or more, slender (less than 2 mm wide), flexuose in fruit, the peduncle and lower part of rachis armed with short prickles(some­times with pustular bases); flowers either in triads with 1 pistillate between 2 staminate or with staminate flowers solitary near end of rachilla; staminate flowers soon de­ciduous, about 8 mm long; calyx short, tridentate; petals 3, ovate, oblique, acuminate, fleshy; stamens usually 8 or 9; filaments fused to petals at base; pistillate flowers with a small annular calyx; corollas much longer than calyx, urceolate, tridentate, with very small, adnate staminodia; pistils ovoid, 3-celled; styles short; stigma trifid. Fruits bright red atmaturity, ellipsoid, 1.5-2 cm long, glabrous; exocarp thin; mesocarp fleshy; seed 1, about twice as long as broad, obscurely 3-sided with a pore on each side and with dark lines radiating from each pore; cupule incon­spicuous. (Pre-2011)

Frequent in the forest; most abundant in dense thickets and along the shore where vegetation is sufficiently dense to provide support. Flowers in the rainy season. Fruits in the dry season and early rainy season.


Warm, sheltered and moist. Cold sensitive. It spreads by seeds that take from 1-10 months to germinate, can grow rapidly.

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Comments and Curiosities

Uses: Fruit is edible. Stem fibers extracted to make baskets. Fruits are eaten by white-faced monkeys from April to August (Hladik & Hladik, 1969).

A very unusual, widespread climbing palm from S-Mexico to South America with elliptical leaflets and slender canes which are used for weaving baskets. It is rare in cultivation and best suited to tropical or warm subtropical climates. Surprisingly, this palm is not related to the Rattan palms, Calamus, but to Bactris, Astrocaryum and the like. (

"Desmoncus orthacanthos, a climbing Rattan Palm native from S.E. Mexico to E. Brazil. It can climb 130-40ft up and has canes 2-3cm in diameter. The rattan made from the canes is low quality and mostly used for baskets. This palm climbs by aid of cirri. These are long, whip-like structures that are a modified leaf rachis. They grow from the end of the leaves. The cirrus on this palm are not as vicious as other climbing palms. They have backward curving hooks that grab onto other vegetation and help anchor and pull the palm up." (Eric S., botanist, H.P. Leu Gardens, Orlando FL.)

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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