Oenocarpus mapora

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Oenocarpus (oh-eh-no-KAR-pohs)
mapora (mah-POR-ah)
Barro Colorado Island, Panama. Photo by Rolando Pérez.
Scientific Classification
Genus: Oenocarpus (oh-eh-no-KAR-pohs)
mapora (mah-POR-ah)
Oenocarpus panamanus
Native Continent
Habit: Clustering & solitary, often caespitose.
Leaf type: Pinnate
Survivability index
Common names
Don Pedrito's Palm, Bamboo Palm

Habitat and Distribution

Bolivia, Brazil North, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Panamá, Peru, and Venezuela.
Barro Colorado Island, Panama. Photo by Dr. Steven Paton.
Widespread in tropical South America and Central America, below 1000 m elevation. In Colombia has been recorded in forest departments of Amazonas, Caquetá, Guaviare, Meta, Putumayo and Vaupés. It is found in primary rainforest or fairly, or in flooded areas, sometimes in pastures. In Cahuinarí National Park, it is found in flood plane areas, on clay soils, dominated in the canopy by species of the genera Guatteria, and Vitex Richeria with understory dominated by Geonoma, and a high regeneration Biophytum Sapotaceae and lecythidáceas. In the district of Tarapaca it is an abundant species, forming groups of 10-12 palms. Has been collected in the upper middle basin of the rivers Porvenir and Joy, heavily embossed slightly wavy slopes between 7-40%, on a clay loam soils, very deep, tall forests dominated (23 m high), Semi-dense, with individuals of Iryanthera ulei, Eschweilera coriacea, Virola sp. and Dacryodes peruviana.


Clustering and solitary, often caespitose (growing in tufts or clumps), up to 10 stems of 5-15 m and 4-17 cm diameter, cylindrical, grayish brown maroon, with numerous roots visible at the base. 5-12 crown formed by sheets; sheath 0.4-1.4 m long, brown or olive green; petiole length 10-60 cm, rachis 2.1-5 m long, pinnae 40-90 per side, arranged almost all regularly in the same plane, linear, the longest 59-98 cm long and 3.5-7.5 cm wide, sometimes whitish on the underside. Inflorescence below emerging leaves, stalk 9-12 cm in length, bract 50-80 cm long, 8-11 cm long rachis with rachillae 79-120 50-64 cm long; flowers in triads, or pairs lonely, the male 4-5 mm in length, the female 4 mm in length, yellowish white. Fruits globose to ellipsoid, 2-3 cm long and 1.5-2.5 cm in diameter, purplish black when ripe. Editing by edric.

Understorey or subcanopy palm. Stems clustered, often numerous, to 15 m tall and 10-20 cm in diameter. Leaves spreading, about 5 m long, forming a globose crown; pinnae 50-100 on each side, more or less horizontal, regularly inserted, or in the central part of the blade arranged in groups of 2-4, usually paler below than above, the central ones to 1 m long. Inflorescence once branched, with a short rachis, and numerous pendulous, to 70 cm long branches. Fruits elongate or ovoid, purple when ripe, pointed at apex, 2-3 cm long. (Borchsenius, F. 1998)/Palmweb.


Sunny, moist, well drained position. Very good in cultivation, and deserves to be much more widely grown. Appears to be reasonably drought tolerant, but probably not very cold tolerant however.

Comments and Curiosities

Uses: The main use of this species is food. The fruits are eaten after cooking mild and used for the production of juices or beer; oil is also extracted from them. The fresh buds can be eaten raw or cooked. The stem is occasionally used as a column or beam in construction. The principal source of wood used in the manufacture of small bows and arrows sold to tourists. Trunks used as house posts.. The rachis and pinnae are used in making baskets: in some indigenous communities in the area of Nariño, the leaves jaibaná used to call the spirits during rituals or dances. This palm is also used by the indigenous in feedlots for hunting.

The fruits of this palm are similar in many respects to those produced by Oenocarpus bacaba and O. distichus, but O. mapora can be easily distinguished from its cousins because it tends to form clumps along river and stream banks and the trunks are much more slender. It is hard to distinguish “natural” stands of the palm from those that have arisen from discarded seeds or plantings around rural houses. Oenocarpus mapora is found in central and western Amazonia and reaches north into Venezuela and parts of Central America. The fruits are gathered to make a much appreciated juice. Since the trunk has no spines, people either shimmy up the trunk to gather the fruits or use a ladder. Children use catapults to knock down the fruits. The sturdy trunks are used for posts and flooring in some areas and the trunks of young specimens were once used to fashion blowguns. (Dr. Nigel J.H. Smith)

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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