Elaeis oleifera

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Elaeis (eh-leh-iss)
oleifera (oh-leh-ihf-EHR-ah)
5306421442 06df8a2481 o.jpg
Osa Peninsula of Costa Rica. Photo by Dr. Reinaldo Aguilar.
Scientific Classification
Genus: Elaeis (eh-leh-iss)
oleifera (oh-leh-ihf-EHR-ah)
Corozo oleifera
Native Continent
Habit: Solitary
Leaf type: Pinnate
Survivability index
Common names
American Oil palm

Habitat and Distribution

Brazil North, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, French Guiana, Honduras, Nicaragua,
Osa Peninsula of Costa Rica. Photo by Dr. Reinaldo Aguilar.
Panamá, Peru, and Suriname. Scattered throughout Central America and Northern South America, from Venezuela to Peru. In Ecuador it is less common in the east lowlands on poorly drained soil and along streams and rivers. Its present distribution may, at least in part, be anthropogenically determined.


Understorey palm. Stem subterranean or prostrate, 10-20 cm in diameter, erect only for a few meters. Leaves 3-4 m long; pinnae 30-90 on each side, regularly inserted in one plane, the central ones to 60 cm long and 4 cm wide. Inflorescence 50-80 cm long, with about 50 branches, these 10-15 cm long, with flowers borne singly and partly sunken into pits; male branches 5-10 mm in diameter, with densely positioned flowers to 5 mm long at anthesis; female branches to 15 mm in diameter, with more loosely inserted flowers, to 1 cm long. Fruits yellowish orange to red, oblong, about 3 cm long. (Borchsenius, F. 1998)/Palmweb. Editing by edric.


Sunny, moist, but well drained position. Tropical in its requirements.

Comments and Curiosities

Compared to its African relative, E. guineensis, which today is cultivated in enormous numbers everywhere in the tropics, the American oil palm is outright rare. It is naturally distributed in Central America, from Honduras to Colombia, and in the Amazon region, where its distribution is patchy however and generally connected with human settlements, suggesting that it may have been introduced there. While the African oil palm can be a fairly scruffy looking plant, its American cousin makes a much more elegant appearance, with long, flat, gracefully recurving leaves. Its oil yield is not as high though. It will flourish under the same conditions that E. guineensis does and has a preference for rich, wet soils. (Borchsenius, F. 1998)/Palmweb.

Uses: Peasant women in northern Colombia use a blackish, fatty substance extracted from the fruit of the nolí to dress their hair. It is supposed to combat dandruff and to prevent the hair from falling out, or turning gray.

External Links


Phonetic spelling of Latin names by edric.

Special thanks to Geoff Stein, (Palmbob) for his hundreds of photos.

Special thanks to Palmweb.org, 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.

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

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