Pholidostachys pulchra

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pulchra (POOL-krah)
Pholidostachys pulchra 2786 04.jpg
Costa Rica. Photo by Dr. N. Zamora
Scientific Classification
Genus: Pholidostachys
pulchra (POOL-krah)
None set.
Native Continent
Habit: Solitary & rarely clustering.
Leaf type: Pinnate
Survivability index
Common names

Habitat and Distribution

Colombia, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Panamá.
Instituto Nacional de Biodiversidad - INBio, La Selva Biological Station, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica. Photo by Dr. Reinaldo Aguilar
From 11°22'-3°10'N and 76°13'-84°24'W in Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, and western Colombia at 331 (12-1000) m elevation, in lowland rainforest. (Henderson, A.J. 2012)/Palmweb.


Stems 3.7 (1.5-6.6) m long, 4.6 (3.0-8.0) cm in diameter, solitary or rarely clustered. Leaves 12 (7-23) per stem; sheaths 32.1 (20.0-48.0) cm long; petioles 85.3 (49.0-150.0) cm long; rachises 70.5 (32.0-130.0) cm long, 6.8 (3.3-13.1) mm diameter; pinnae 6 (3-9) per side of rachis; basal pinna 48.1 (35.5-61.0) cm long, 1.2 (0.4-3.0) cm wide, forming an angle of 62(42-93)° with the rachis; apical pinna 40.3(30.0-54.0) cm long, 11.3(4.0-20.0) cm wide, forming an angle of 16 (11-27)° with the rachis. Inflorescences spicate, with a welldeveloped peduncle, absent rachis, and 1 rachilla, this arching or erect at anthesis; prophylls 14.8 (5.0-29.0) cm long; peduncular bracts 31.4 (12.5-59.0) cm long, inserted 3.4 (1.1-10.0) cm above the prophyll; peduncles 13.1 (4.5-33.0) cm long, 5.7 (3.6-11.8) mm diameter; rachilla 1, 37.2 (7.5-85.0) cm long, 9.4 (6.2-16.2) mm diameter; proximal lips of flower pits regularly shaped, rounded, completely covering pits before anthesis and not recurved; fruits compressed, obovoid in lateral view with an asymmetric base, ellipsoid in frontal view, with a pronounced longitudinal ridge on one side and several lesser ridges on opposite side, 22.3 (11.5-29.2) mm long, 11.1 (6.6-14.6) mm diameter. (Henderson, A.J. 2012)/Palmweb. Editing by edric.

Pholidostachys pulchra shares with P. panamensis a spicate inflorescence and unequal prophyll and peduncular bract. It is a widespread and variable species.

Subspecific variation. Pholidostachys pulchra occurs in at least six geographically separate populations. However, no subspecific division is made here for two reasons. It is not clear if the gaps between some of the populations are artifacts of insufficient collecting, and in most cases there are too few specimens to test for differences amongst populations.


Filtered light, warm, sheltered and moist. Cold Hardiness Zone: 10a minimum

Comments and Curiosities

Etymology: The specific epithet; from the Latin, meaning "beautiful, fair or pretty."

"Great understory palm from central America (mostly Nicuargua)... it eventually grows up to 25' but I have never seen one much taller than 6'. Very slow palms. Have thin (2-3") stems and sparse, irregularly pinnate crowns with maroon to orange new leaves. Most Pholidostachys in cultivation are probably this species, as the other 3 species are very rare in cultivation.. however they all look so much alike (only differ in minute floral details) that most are just labeled as 'sp.'. Not cold hardy! Too bad." (Geoff Stein)

This palm looks just like a very big Geonoma, and has stunning RED new leaves. The leaflets are very broad and of different widths, giving it a striking appearance, quite different from most other palms. It is occasionally clustering and produces spicate infructescences carrying quite large fruits. A perfect choice for a shady, tropical or subtropical garden. (

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).

Henderson, A.J. 2012. A revision of Pholidostachys (Arecaceae).

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

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