Phytelephas tenuicaulis

From Palmpedia - Palm Grower's Guide
Jump to: navigation, search
Phytelephas (fy-TEHL-leh-fahs)
tenuicaulis (teh-noo-ih-KAW-lis)
Photo-Rare Palm
Scientific Classification
Genus: Phytelephas (fy-TEHL-leh-fahs)
tenuicaulis (teh-noo-ih-KAW-lis)
None set.
Native Continent
Habit: Solitary
Leaf type: Pinnate
Survivability index
Common names

Habitat and Distribution

W. Amazon region in Colombia, Ecuador and Peru.
Ecuador, Quito, and the basin. Taken from the tree tower. Photo by Timothy Brian
Common throughout the E. lowlands, both on river plains and on terra firme. (Borchsenius, F. 1998)/Palmweb.


Stems usually clustered, up to 8 together, each to 7 m tall and 8-10 cm in diameter. Leaves 2-4.5 m long; pinnae 35-75 on each side, inserted regularly and opposite each other on the two sides, spreading in one plane, with inconspicuous marginal veins, the central ones 30-60 cm long, and 2.5-3 cm wide. Male inflorescence 60-100 cm long, covered by densely crowded, sessile male flowers. Fruiting heads 15-40 cm in diameter, with about 10 fruits, each 6-9 cm long. Seeds about 5 per fruit. (Borchsenius, F. 1998)/Palmweb. Editing by edric.

This taxon was originally described as a subspecies of P. macrocarpa, a species distributed in the W Amazon region in Peru and Bolivia, but is distinct in its taller and more slender stems, and smaller size of the crown. Plants from terra firme forest tend to have few stems and individuals with a solitary stem occasionally occur. (Borchsenius, F. 1998)/Palmweb.


Cold Hardiness Zone: 10a

Comments and Curiosities

Perhaps the most attractive of the ivory nut palms, this species is found in seasonally flooded tropical forests in the western Amazon in southern Colombia, Ecuador and northern Peru. It produces one or several slender trunks to 7 m tall, with a large crown of flat leaves that have evenly arranged leaflets, giving it a neat and elegant appearance. The large fruits are held in tight clusters below the crown. The seeds used to be harvested for the manufacture of buttons and other commodities before the invention of plastics and are now regaining popularity as an alternative to ivory. They are somewhat lengthy to sprout (use deep pots as they produce a long sinker), but once above the ground, seedlings are pretty fast growing and easy to maintain. It is a nice and rarely grown palm that looks best in the tropical and frost free warm temperate garden if somewhat protected from high winds. Despite its very tropical origin, Phytelephas tenuicaulis is surprisingly adaptable. (

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).

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.

Back to Palm Encyclopedia

Retrieved from ""