Oenocarpus bataua

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bataua (bah-tah-OO-ah)
Photo by Dr. R. Vasquez-Biovertsity International.
Scientific Classification
Genus: Oenocarpus
bataua (bah-tah-OO-ah)
None set.
Native Continent
Habit: Solitary
Leaf type: Pinnate
Survivability index
Common names
Ecuador: Ungurahua. Brazil: Patauá. Indigenous: Komboe. Portuguese: Batauá, Patauá. Spanish: Aricagua, Chapil, Colaboca, Dudiba, Gindóru búso, Jagua, Majo, Milpesos, Palma Sege, Sacumana, Seje, Trupa, Turu, Ungurahu, Yagua, also known as, Kumbu, and Chari.

Habitat and Distribution

Moist forest areas below 1000 m elevation. Occasionally the palm is
Apolobamba, La Paz, Bolivia. Photo by Dr. Alfredo F. Fuentes.
found up to 1350 m. It is a mid-story palm that grows throughout the terra firme sites, in the Amazon Basin and wet coastal areas of Ecuador, Trinidad, Colombia, Venezuela. and Panama. It is native to the tropical rainforest and is abundant in the wet zones at elevations less than 1000 m, from Panamá to South America: Colombia, Venezuela, Guyanas, Brazil, Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru. It is usually found in sandy soils with a high organic matter content that are subsequent to flooding, possibly because there are few other species which compete with it. It can grow extremely well on unflooded soils as witnessed by high-density stands in the pastures of the Colombian Chocó, though it is rarely found on terra firma in the wild since competition from other species is such that it rarely gets the high light levels it needs to set fruit.


Palm solitary, diameter breast high 30 cm, 20 m tall with mass of prop roots at base. In open palm forest, common, terra firme. Leaves pinnate, about 88-90 pinnae per side, sheath 1/2 m long x 60 cm wide, olive green; petiole 70 cm long; with stiff upright fibers at base; rachis 9 m long. Basal pinnae 1.62 m long x 4 cm wide; middle pinnae 1.7 m x 14 cm; apical pinnae 90 cn x 2.5 cm. Prophll 70 cm long x 13 cm wide; bract almost ready to open, 1.6 m long. Primary axis of inflorescence 23 cm to first bract scar, apical rachillae 80-90 cm long; middle rachillae 80-85 cm long; basal rachillae about 80 cm long. Very heavily fruited, 25-36-36-38-39-42 fruits per rachillae. Flowers collected from another tree, as the two panicles on this tree are unripe. (M.J. Balick, D.C. Daly, J.S. Solomon 1982)

Canopy palm. Stem solitary, to 20 m tall and 20-40 cm in diameter, smooth. Leaves erect, forming a funnel shaped crown, to 10 m long; sheath open to base, with abundant black, stout fibres at the margins, intermixed with brown, wooly fibres; pinnae 100 or more on each side, one-ribbed, 1-1.5 m long, more or less pendulous. Inflorescence once branched, with numerous pendulous branches, to 1.2 m long, borne on a very short axis. Fruits elongate, purple when ripe, pointed at apex, 2.5-4 cm long. (Borchsenius, 1998/Palmweb.) Editing by edric.

"Only in age the columnar stems smooth when 20 meters high or higher, 2 dm. in diameter, in youth more or less marked by or enclosed in the spiniform remnants of the leaf-sheaths; leaves 8-10, crowded, erect-spreading, 10 meters long or longer, the equally distant segments linear-lanceolate, mostly about 2 meters long, 1 dm. wide; spadices few, 1-2 meters long, the many branches fastigiate, strict, incrassate above; lower spathe half as long as upper, extended into a fuscous tomentose mucro; male petals ovate-oblong, subacute; fruit violet-purplish, cylindric-ellipsoid (stigmas nearly on the rounded apex), 3-3.5 cm. long, 2-2.25 cm. in diameter, the oblong seed acute at both ends" (MacBride, 1960; 13 (1/2):379-380).

Its stem is solitary, erect, 10–25 m (33–82 ft) in height and 2–3 dm (8–12 in) diameter, smooth, and ring-shaped. It has 10–16 leaf terminals, petiole 10–50 cm, rachis 3–7 m long; with leaflets up till 2 m long and 15 cm breadth, approximately 100 to each side, placed in the same plane. The new leaves are maroon in colour. The blossom is 1–2 m long, with about 300 rachilas up to 1.3 m in length. The flowers are yellow with sepals 2 mm and petals 7 mm long. Patauá is a palm tree that grows both on dry land and in most humid forests. This species can reach 25 meters in height, has only one stem and the infructescence is arranged in the form of a horse’s tail. The patauá palm starts producing fruits in its eighth year and produces up to 3 infructescences per year. The fruits take between 10 to 14 months to develop, which is why plants can be found with flowers and fruits at the same time. (amazonoil.com.br)


A fast grower, given plenty of sun, water, and warmth. Cold Hardiness Zone: 10b

Comments and Curiosities

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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