Lytocaryum itapebiense

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Lytocaryum (ligh-toh-KAR-yuhm)
Lytocaryum itapebiensis showing its growth habit as a potted plant. Note young emerging inflorescence at the base and typical long, peduncled infructescence with bright red to red-orange fruits. Photo by Dr. H. Lorenzi.
Scientific Classification
Genus: Lytocaryum (ligh-toh-KAR-yuhm)
Syagrus itapebiense
Native Continent
Habit: Solitary
Leaf type: Pinnate
Survivability index
Common names

Habitat and Distribution

Southern Bahia State, NE Brazil. Rare on the drier upper shaded slopes of a rainforest in clay soils.
Farm São Miguel -Itacaré - BA - Brazil. Photo: Mauricio Caixeta.
The plant is only known from one forest valley, but has not been searched for extensively in adjacent forest valleys, where there may be other populations in the Municipio of Itapebi, Bahia, Brazil.


Stem subterranean about 8–9 × 2.5 cm, whole plant usually less than 60 cm tall, but varying from 35–65 cm. Leaves 4–11 in crown; sheathing leaf base about 8–11 cm long; true petiole 3–7 cm long and 0.5–0.6 cm wide by 0.4 cm thick, channelled adaxially and rounded abaxially, pseudopetiole (true petiole plus part of the sheath) 12–25 cm long; rachis 31–52 cm long; leaflets dark, shiny green, discolorous, abaxial surface with a silvery tomentum, leaflets numbering 21–26 along one side, regularly distributed along rachis in nearly a flat plane, ramenta scales or tomentum present lacking at the leaflet insertion on the rachis and none along the abaxial midvein; basal leaflets 10–13.5 cm long by 0.2–0.6 cm wide, middle leaflets 11–16 cm long and 1.2–1.9 cm wide, apical leaflets 5–7 cm long and 0.4–0.5 cm wide with an asymmetric tip and long drip tip. Inflorescence interfoliar; prophyll 4–8 cm × 1.3–1.5 cm; peduncular bract very narrow, thin, woody, slightly sulcate, exterior with scattered thin indumentum, total length 21–24 cm and usually with no expanded or inflated portion (one exception measured 5–12 cm long including a 1 cm beak, 0.6 cm diameter and a 1.5 cm perimeter and a 0.5 mm thickness); peduncle glabrous ca. 32–66 cm long (much longer than the peduncular bract in fruit, see note below) and nearly round in cross-section with a 3 × 2.5 mm in diameter, zig-zag rachis 2–4 cm long, with 4–6 glabrous primary branches lying in nearly the same plane, with a total length of 7–9 cm from the first basal primary branch to the apex, 5–5.5 cm long at the apex, 6.5 cm long at the base; staminate flowers green to yellow, arranged in triads on the lower portion or in staminate dyads or singly on the upper portion of the primary branch, 4–4.5 mm long and 2 mm wide, sepals 3, 1.7–2.5 mm long and 1–1.5 mm wide, glabrous, with raised nerves, keeled and connate at the base; petals 3, valvate, 3.5–4 mm long and 2 mm wide with acute tips, nerves indistinct to slightly raised; stamens 6, 2–3 mm long, anthers 1.5–1.8 mm long, filaments 1–2 mm long; pistillode trifid, 1.8–2 mm long; basal pistillate flowers elongate conical, glabrous, 5 mm long and 3 mm wide (apical flowers 3 × 2 mm), sepals 3, green, imbricate 2.5–3 mm long and 3 mm wide; petals 3, glabrous, imbricate at the base but slightly valvate at the tips, 3–5 mm long and 3 mm wide, pistil glabrous, 4 mm long and 2 mm in diam., stigmas 3 in number, and less than 0.5 mm long, but sitting above a stigmatic cap with a total length of 1.3–1.5 mm long including the stigma, glabrous; staminodial ring ca.1 mm high, 6-dentate. Fruit red or redorange when mature, glabrous, conical, 1.2–1.5 cm long by 0.9–1.1 cm in diam. with a 2–2.5 mm thick fleshy-fibrous mesocarp, composed of two layers, an outer red or orange fleshy part about 1.5 mm thick and an inner white fibrous layer about 0.8–1 mm thick and finally a very thin (less than 0.5 mm thick) endocarp; endocarp about 1.2–1.3 × 0.6–0.7 cm. with 3 visible pores on the basal end. Seed ellipsoidal, about 10–12 × 5–6 mm. (Dr. LARRY R. NOBLICK and Dr. HARRI LORENZI) Editing by edric.


Cold Hardiness Zone: 10a.

Comments and Curiosities

ETYMOLOGY: The specific epithet honors the municipality of Itapebi, Bahia, Brazil; where the only known population of this species is found.

CONSERVATION: Much of the area has been converted into pasture. The area is unprotected and owned by cattle ranchers who annually torch their pastures, burning deeper into the adjacent forest with each burn cycle threatening the adjacent forest where this palm grows. The only known population is extremely threatened with only about 20–25 plants left in the wild. From our current knowledge, we would rank this plant as Critically Endangered. This species grows well as a potted plant and continues to flower and fruit more vigorously in a pot than it does in the wild. Therefore ex situ conservation is a potential conservation strategy, and recent successes in germinating the seed have sparked new hope for the species. (Dr. LARRY R. NOBLICK and Dr. HARRI LORENZI)

PHENOLOGY: Flowering in the wild in June with some plants having immature fruit at that time. Potted plants appear to flower and fruit year around.

USES: This palm has great ornamental potential with its small size and very attractive foliage and fruit. It grows well in shade and thrives as a potted plant.

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).

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

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