Synechanthus warscewiczianus

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Synechanthus (sihn-eh-KAHN-tuhs) warscewiczianus
Ecuador. Photo-AAU palm archive.
Scientific Classification
Genus: Synechanthus (sihn-eh-KAHN-tuhs)
Species: warscewiczianus
None set.
Native Continent
Habit: Clustering, rarely solitary
Leaf type: Pinnate, sparsely divided.
Survivability index
Common names
Bola Palme, Palmilla

Habitat and Distribution

Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Panamá. Costa Rica to Ecuador,
It is located on the Caribbean side of the volcanic cordilleras Central and Talamanca, the plains of San Carlos and Tortuguero, on both slopes of the mountain ranges of Guanacaste and Tilaran in Tarrazu and Fila Chonta, Southern Tier coastal (Cerro Anguciana) and the Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica; present between 0-1450 m altitude. Photo by Dr. Reinaldo Aguilar
below 1200 m elevation. Common in somewhat seasonal tropical moist forest W of the Andes and sometimes dominant in the shrub layer. (Borchsenius, F. 1998)/Palmweb.

Common in very humid forests, Atlantic and north-central zones; 0-1200 m; fl and fr throughout the year; Grijalva 310 , Riviere 345 ; Nicaragua to Ecuador. (Flora of Nicaragua)


Understorey palm. Stems clustered, monoecious, to 4 m tall and 3.5 cm in diameter, rarely taller. Leaves with blade to 150 cm long, divided into 6-32 unequal to nearly equal, sigmoid to falcate pinnae on each side, the central ones 40-60 x 1.5-40 cm; leaf axis green and smooth. Inflorescence once branched, to 80 cm long, with up to 75, long and slender, spreading branches. Flowers minute, yellow, arranged in linear groups of 5-13 male flowers above a basal female one. Fruits ellipsoid, about 2 cm long, yellow to orange, turning bright red at full maturity, very soft when ripe. (Borchsenius, F. 1998)/Palmweb. Editing by edric.

Stems usually cespitose, rarely solitary and with basal buds obviously suppressed, up to 5-6 m high and 5 cm in diameter, often much smaller, with internodes 6-8 cm long. Leaves up to ca 1.7 m long, with 2-31 pinnae on each side; rarely uniform pinnae, generally 1-17-nerves and disjuncts, pinnae medium up to ca 57 cm long and 2.3 cm wide or wider. Inflorescences with simple branches, basal pulvinus not very enlarged and not embraced by bracts; acervuli with (3-) 6-13 staminate flowers, stamens 3, absent pistilodium; staminodes generally present in pistillate flowers. Fruits 1.5-3.2 cm long. (Flora of Nicaragua)


Comments and Curiosities

Uses: The Colorados at Santo Domingo prepare a dye by macerating the leaves in cold water. Fruits are edible when boiled. The Cayapas believe it is inhabited by evil spirits from the forest. They do not eat it, but say that birds are fond of its fruits.

"This palm can be grown in Southern California but is not as happy here as it is in the tropics... more borderline than it's solitary cousin, S fibrosa. This one is almost always a clustering palm and, like S fibrosa, looks a lot like a Chamaedorea species. It has tall, thin, ringed, bamboo-like canes topped with partially split, pinnate leaves, usually with the distal leaflets wider than all the rest. Seeds are bright red when ripe. Does not like sunlight directly on it, even in the tropics." (Geoff Stein)

"It is a solitary palm stems (at least apparently) or multiple 0.6 to 5.0 m high and 1.5 to 7.0 cm in diameter The petioles, beyond the sheath, measured from 18.5 to 65.0 cm long; the leaf blades are simple or (more often) pinnately compound, the rachis is from 67 to 128 cm long; simple sheets are bifid at the apex, whereas if they are pinnate, presents two or five leaflets 34 per side, more or less regular or irregularly spaced, arranged in a single plane, equal or unequal, measure from 19.0 to 60 5 by 0.9 to 13.5 cm (subterminal), are more or less straight. The inflorescences are branched racemosely; the stem is (24-) 28-73 (-78) cm long; rachis measured (5,2-) from 7.4 to 20.0 (-23.0) cm long; about 17 or 25 to 61 and glabrous rachillae are 8 to 48 cm long; about 6-15 staminate flowers by acervulus, measuring 0.5 to 1.0 mm long, are whitish to yellowish or orange; has three stamens inflexed in the long-exserted at anthesis button; anthers are much shorter than the filaments; pistillate flowers are 0.8 to 1.0 mm. Ripe fruits are 1.2 to 2.7 0.6 to 1.1 cm, subglobose (especially in the lowlands of the Pacific) or ovoid (rarely) to narrowly or broadly oblong-ellipsoid (often more or less falcate), yellow to orange or red." (Dr. Reinaldo Aguilar)

Don't dismiss this palm simply because of its unpronounceable name. It is, in fact, a very pretty, small, understorey palm from Central America and the north of South America, where it lives deep in the rainforest. It is similar to Chamaedorea but distinguishable by the seed shape, which resembles a brain, among other things. Should do well as an unusual house plant, will thrive in rich soil in the warm temperate to tropical garden, and will undoubtedly tolerate low light well. (

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.

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