Prestoea ensiformis

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Prestoea (pres-toh-EH-ah)
ensiformis (ehn-sih-FOHR-mis)
Prestoea ensiformis specimen.jpg
Photo by Paul Craft
Scientific Classification
Genus: Prestoea (pres-toh-EH-ah)
ensiformis (ehn-sih-FOHR-mis)
None set.
Native Continent
Habit: Solitary
Leaf type: Entire leaf bifid & pinnate.
Survivability index
Common names
Colombia: rabihorcao; Ecuador: chontilla, palma jibara; Panama: Puerto Rico; Peru: cuyol, palmita.

Habitat and Distribution

Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Panamá, and Peru. Costa Rica (Alajuela, Puntarenas),
Wilson Botanical Garden, Las Cruces Biological Station, Costa Rica. Photo by Dr. David Stang
Panama (Chiriquí, Coclé, Colón, Panamá, San Blas, Veraguas), western Andean slopes of Colombia (Chocó, Nariño, Risaralda, Valle) and Ecuador (El Oro, Esmeraldas, Los Rios, Morona-Santiago, Pastaza, Zamora-Chinchipc), and eastern Andean slopes of Peru (Cusco, Húanuco); rain forest on steep slopes at 100-1300 m, occasionally reaching 1800 m. Like other Andean palms, this species crosses over from western Andean slopes in Colombia and Ecuador to eastern slopes in Peru. (Gloria Galeano and A. Henderson)/Palmweb.


Stems cespitose or solitary, erect, 2.5-9 m tall, 3-13 cm in diam., brown or gray, often covered with persistent leaf bases, with reddish roots visible at base. Leaves 5-14, erect or arching, pinnate or rarely irregularly pinnate or simple; sheath closed for ca. ½ its length, rarely forming a crownshaft, persistent on the stem, 0.3-1 m long including a short, blunt, fibrous ligule less than 1 cm long, often reddish, fibrous at the margins distally, densely to moderately covered abaxially with appressed, white or brown peltate-lacerate scales, glabrescent, leaving punctations; petiole 0.15-1.1 m long, with scales like those of sheath, or sometimes glabrous abaxially, glabrescent; rachis 0.4-2.3 m long, with scales like those of sheath, glabrescent; pinnae 36-49 per side, regularly arranged and spreading horizontally in the same plane, subopposite to alternate, linear-lanceolate, long acuminate, with a prominent midvein and several lateral veins, with midvein essentially glabrous abaxially or with a few small ramenta, with punctations abaxially; basal pinna 36-55 x 0.5-1 cm; middle pinnae 50-82 x 3-5 cm; apical pinna 22-44 x 1.3-4.5 cm, or rarely the leaves simple or almost simple, then 1-l.l m long, 30-35 cm wide, with 1-4 separate pinnae distally and with 14-15 prominent veins each side and deeply bifid apically. Inflorescences infrafoliar or interfoliar (usually in the axils of old pcrsistent leaf sheaths), erect or arching or horizontal, straight or curved in bud; peduncle 27-93 cm long, 1-2 cm in diam., terete, densely covered with brown tomentum, glabrescent; prophyll 13-60 cm long, 4-5 cm diam., reddish, sparsely covered with whitish brown scales; peduncular bract 0.7-2.2 m long including a 2-4(-8) cm long umbo, inserted either near prophyll or halfway up the peduncle, densely covered abaxially with brown tomentum persistent; rachis 0.2-1.4 m long, white at anthesis, with similar tomentum to that of peduncle; rachillae (13-) 18-60, 35-72 cm long distally, 21-45 cm long proximally, 1-2 mm in diam. at anthesis, 2-3 mm in diam. in fruit,


Cold Hardiness Zone: 10b

Comments and Curiosities

Uses: The palm hearts are eaten in Ecuador. Elsewhere: fruits, house posts, thatch, hunting gear: arrows, blow dart gun, spear, basketry, firewood, decoration: leaves, other: young leaves—woven fabrics, spoons.

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).

Gloria Galeano & A. Henderson. Flora Neotropica. New York Botanical Garden.

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

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