Bactris Jacq. ex Scop., Intr. Hist. Nat. : 70 (1777)

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Map uses TDWG level 3 distributions (
Belizepresent (World Checklist of Arecaceae )B
Boliviapresent (World Checklist of Arecaceae )B
Brazil Northpresent (World Checklist of Arecaceae )B
Brazil Northeastpresent (World Checklist of Arecaceae )B
Brazil Southpresent (World Checklist of Arecaceae )B
Brazil Southeastpresent (World Checklist of Arecaceae )B
Brazil West-Centralpresent (World Checklist of Arecaceae )B
Colombiapresent (World Checklist of Arecaceae )B
Costa Ricapresent (World Checklist of Arecaceae )B
Cubapresent (World Checklist of Arecaceae )B
Dominican Republicpresent (World Checklist of Arecaceae )B
Ecuadorpresent (World Checklist of Arecaceae )B
El Salvadorpresent (World Checklist of Arecaceae )B
French Guianapresent (World Checklist of Arecaceae )B
Guatemalapresent (World Checklist of Arecaceae )B
Guyanapresent (World Checklist of Arecaceae )B
Haitipresent (World Checklist of Arecaceae )B
Honduraspresent (World Checklist of Arecaceae )B
Jamaicapresent (World Checklist of Arecaceae )B
Mexico Gulfpresent (World Checklist of Arecaceae )B
Mexico Southeastpresent (World Checklist of Arecaceae )B
Mexico Southwestpresent (World Checklist of Arecaceae )B
Nicaraguapresent (World Checklist of Arecaceae )B
Panamápresent (World Checklist of Arecaceae )B
Paraguaypresent (World Checklist of Arecaceae )B
Perupresent (World Checklist of Arecaceae )B
Surinamepresent (World Checklist of Arecaceae )B
Trinidad-Tobagopresent (World Checklist of Arecaceae )B
Venezuelapresent (World Checklist of Arecaceae )B
Venezuelan Antillespresent (World Checklist of Arecaceae )B
Although over 230 species have been described in the past, Henderson (2000), using a broad species concept in his recent monograph, has brought order to the genus. Seventy-seven species are currently accepted, distributed from Mexico and the West Indies south to Paraguay, with the greatest diversity in Brazil. (J. Dransfield & N. Uhl & C. Asmussen & W.J. Baker & M. Harley & C. Lewis, Genera Palmarum. The evolution and classification of palms. 2008)A



Biology And Ecology



  • Economically, the most important species is B. gasipaes (Guilielma gasipaes), which is widely cultivated and not known in the truly wild state (Mora-Urpi 1983); this species is thought to be one of the oldest of all domesticated palms and its endocarps have been found in early archaeological sites (Morcote-Rios and Bernal 2001). It produces thick mesocarp flesh that is edible and tasty after cooking, and that is sufficiently rich in nutrients and vitamins to be an important constituent of the diet of rural people. The ‘cabbage’ of the same species is edible and good. See also Guerrero and Clement (1982) for references on B. gasipaes. Other species have edible fruits and some have been used as a source of walking sticks, and for thatch and fibre. (J. Dransfield & N. Uhl & C. Asmussen & W.J. Baker & M. Harley & C. Lewis, Genera Palmarum. The evolution and classification of palms. 2008)A


  • Diminutive to large, solitary or clustered, unarmed (rarely) to very spiny, pleonanthic, monoecious palms. Stems subterranean and very short, to erect, very slender to moderate, with short to long internodes and, eventually, with conspicuous nodal scars, often scaly, frequently armed with short to long spines. Leaves pinnate or entire bifid, marcescent or neatly deciduous; sheaths usually splitting opposite the petiole, the margins smooth or becoming fibrous, unarmed to densely spiny, glabrous, scaly, hairy or bristly, a ligule-like projection sometimes also present; petiole very short to long, adaxially channelled, flat, or angled, abaxially rounded, variously unarmed to spiny; rachis usually longer than the petiole, adaxially angled except near base where channelled or not, abaxially rounded to flattened, variously armed or unarmed; blade where undivided with smooth or spiny margins, numerous ribs and an apical V-shaped notch, leaflets 1–several-fold, regularly arranged or irregularly grouped, often held in different planes within the groups, linear, lanceolate, or sigmoid, the tips very rarely praemorse (Bactris caryotifolia), acute or acuminate in a long drip tip, more rarely bifid or irregularly lobed, sometimes the abaxial surface covered in chalky-white indumentum, sometimes spiny along midrib on abaxial surface, the margins often bristly, blade surfaces sometimes softly hairy, midrib prominent adaxially, transverse veinlets conspicuous or obscure. Inflorescences interfoliar, or mostly becoming infrafoliar, solitary, spicate (rarely) or branching to 1 order, protogynous; peduncle usually relatively short, sometimes elongate, ± curved, oval in cross-section, armed or unarmed; prophyll short, tubular, 2-keeled, tightly sheathing, often concealed within the leaf sheath, usually membranous, unarmed, splitting along the abaxial face; peduncular bract inserted near the base of the peduncle, usually persistent, much longer than the prophyll, enclosing the rachillae in bud, coriaceous to woody, tightly sheathing the peduncle, tubular, later splitting longitudinally in distal region and often expanding and becoming boat-shaped or cowl-like, usually bearing indumentum, often bearing spines on the outer face, inner face smooth, sometimes conspicuously cream-coloured, rarely a second peduncular bract present; rachis usually shorter than the peduncle, bearing spirally arranged, rather stiff, ± glabrous, densely hairy or bristly rachillae, each subtended by an inconspicuous triangular bract; rachillae bearing spirally arranged, usually rather crowded, small triangular rachilla bracts subtending flower groups, flowers borne in triads ± throughout the rachillae, or triads scattered among paired or solitary staminate flowers ± throughout, or triads borne in proximal ca. 1/2 and solitary or paired staminate flowers distally; floral bracteoles minute. Staminate flowers often somewhat asymmetrical, sessile, or rarely borne on slender, unequal pedicels; calyx cupular or spreading, very short, shallowly trilobed; petals 3, fleshy, asymmetrically triangular, distally valvate, connate basally to ca. 1/2 their length and adnate basally to a fleshy floral axis; stamens (3–)6(–12), filaments slender, inflexed at the apex nearly from the middle in bud, sometimes curved, anthers usually dorsifixed, short to elongate, ±versatile, latrorse; pistillode absent. Pollen grains ellipsoidal, or oblate-triangular, usually with either slight or obvious asymmetry; aperture a distal sulcus or trichotomosulcus; ectexine tectate, usually, finely to coarsely rugulate, perforate and/or micro-channelled, or psilate with usually widely spaced perforations, less frequently finely perforate rugulate tectum with either supratectal spines, verrucae or gemmae, aperture margin may be slightly finer; infratectum columellate; longest axis ranges from 28–52 µm [42/73]. Pistillate flowers scarcely larger than the staminate; calyx annular, somewhat flattened or urn-shaped, truncate or very shallowly 3-lobed, sometimes hairy, scaly or spinulose; corolla much longer than the calyx or ± the same length, urn-shaped, truncate or very shallowly 3-lobed, variously hairy or spiny or glabrous; staminodes absent or forming a membranous ring, not adnate to the corolla; gynoecium columnar to ovoid, sometimes spiny or hairy, trilocular, triovulate, stigmas 3, very short, ovules laterally attached, orthotropous. Fruit usually 1-seeded, very small to large, ovoid, obpyriform, oblate, or top-shaped, yellow, red, green, brown, purple, or black; epicarp smooth, spiny, roughened or hairy, mesocarp thin to very thick, fleshy, juicy or starchy with sparse or abundant fibres, endocarp thick, bony, with 3 pores at or above the equator, sometimes with fibres radiating from the pores. Seed irregularly globular, basally attached, hilum circular, raphe branches sparsely anastomosing (?always) endosperm homogeneous, with or without a central hollow; embryo next to one of the endocarp pores. Germination adjacent-ligular; eophyll bifid or rarely pinnate, often spiny, bristly or hairy. Cytology: 2n = 30. (J. Dransfield & N. Uhl & C. Asmussen & W.J. Baker & M. Harley & C. Lewis, Genera Palmarum. The evolution and classification of palms. 2008)A


Fossil record

  • From the Middle Eocene of southeastern North America (Claiborne Group), very fragmentary pinnate fronds, some with spiny margins, are referred to Bactrites pandanifoliolus (Berry 1924). However, the leaves referred to Bactrites cannot safely be attributed to the extant genus; fossil vegetative parts, especially spines, can bear some resemblance to Bactris but there should be caution in equating them (Uhl and Dransfield 1987). Hollick (1928) compared fossil fruit from the Middle Oligocene of Puerto Rico, named Bactris pseudocuesco, with fruit of Bactris cuesco Engl. (= B. corossilla), and commented that, “the fossils can hardly be distinguished.” (J. Dransfield & N. Uhl & C. Asmussen & W.J. Baker & M. Harley & C. Lewis, Genera Palmarum. The evolution and classification of palms. 2008)A



  • Albura y madera del tronco: cortado en pequeños pedazos, decocción con flores de clavel, se utiliza en lavados o baños para personas víctimas del susto, es decir padecimiento de anemia perniciosa; se realizan en la noche antes de acostarse y pueden repetirse varios días seguidos. Estos baños se aplican también para las personas afectadas de maleficios o embrujos - sirve para la confección de pequeñas cruces, que se llevan como escapularios alrededor del cuello, contra maleficios y embrujos.
  • Alimentación. Artesanía (ahorros, trampas). Frutos-semilla, estípite.
  • Alimentación. Planta para uso doméstico.
  • Antídoto (contra veneno) de picadura de raya. Se machuca la hoja y exprime el jugo.
  • Arcos de muchachos.
  • Bactris spp. Chonta. Wood. Ceremonial staffs. Construction of houses and roofs.
  • Bows and barbed arrow points are made from the wood of väij (Bactris sp.), a cultivated palm often found in fallows. (…). Chimane often take trips to gather at sites which, reportedly, belonged to their forefathers but that thay no longer actively manage. This is especially true when gathering väij (Bactis sp.) and (…). (…). During the wet season i recorded important yields of Bactris sp and mana´i (Scheelea princeps) in Puerto Méndez and Chaco Brasil. (…). These fruits were mainly eaten as snack food during the day.
  • Cayapas. Palm heart and cooked fruits edible.
  • Edible fruit.
  • El fruto fresco es comestible.
  • El único árbol que produce frutas comestibles, cultivado por los Jívaros es la palma chontacurú (guilielma), llamada uí por los Jívaros. Su fruta, extremadamente alimenticia; madura en febrero y marzo y los indios Jívaros y Canelos la aprecian hasta tal punto que reconocen el inicio del año cuando la fruta de la palma de chontacurú madura. Esta especie de manzana roja no puede se comida cruda y es siempre hervida en agua aunque ciertamente la forma en que más aprecian este alimento es en la bebida fermentada, la cerveza de chontacurú, que preparan con este fruto.
  • En algunas partes del Departamento del Chocó se utilizan las hojas de esta palma conocida con el nombre de Chacarrá, para envolver carne, harina y, en general, alimentos crudos y cocidos.
  • Es urpi chunda, se utiliza el tronco raspado para las ventanas. (...). Se obtiene raspando del tronco aserrín para el taco de la escopeta.
  • Floors are made of split-trunk slats (or hand-sawn boards) taken from a variety of palms, depending upon elevation. In the higher elevation gualte (Geonoma) is preferred, while in the lower elevations barrigonas ( Catoblastus, Wettinia, Socratea, and Bactris) are common.
  • Formerly the wood of Astrocaryum, Bactris, and Guilielma, were used for making bows and arrows, now rare among the acculturated Chocó.
  • Fruit, mesocarp.
  • Fruits eaten. (…). Formerly the wood of Astrocaryum, Bactris, and Guilielma, were used for making bows and arrows, now rare among the acculturated Chocó.
  • In the training and indoctrination of Desano payés or medicine men on the Vaupés River, splinters of the macana palm, Bactris (Pyrenoglyphis) sp., play an important role.(…). This splinters are the magic darts by means of which medicine men can send sickness and death to all who have broken the moral code or to far off enemies.
  • Los frutos de muchas de ellas se pueden comer directamente. Una excepción es la varidedad que produce frutos rojos entre noviembre y enero: éstos son incomestibles. (…). El tronco de marajaú se usa en la construcción de tejados. También se utiliza para limpiar cañones de escopeta.
  • Los frutos de otras especies silvestres de Bactris, de pulpa delgada y acídula, se comen directamente en el campo. (…). También los implementos de caza y pesca se fabrican con palmas: las cerbatanas o bodoqueras se elaboran con los tallos de las especies de Catoblastus y Wettinia; las catangas, o trampas para pescar, se construyen con matamba y chacarrá; con las semillas de la tagua se fabricaban antiguamente unos pitos eficientes para atraer a los animales de caza.
  • Los frutos sirven como alimento contra la debilidad. Las raíces en mate sirven para curar el mal de orín, chancro, y los líquidos de mal olor de la vagina.
  • Los tacana conocen dos variedades de esta palmera silvestre. Sus frutas se comen; y de la madera elaboran pequeños arcos y flechas para los niños, utilizados también en la caza de ratas.
  • Nombre de las palmeras que dan la madera conocida como "chonta", la cual es muy dura y de color negro con pequeños jaspes blancos. Muy cotizada para pisos, muebles y múltiples usos en trabajos corrientes.
  • Ornamental. (...). Cultivada.
  • Packing for gun cartridges ( Bactris sp.). (…). Fresh fruits edible (Bactris sp., Phytelephas microcarpa, Ammandra sp., Palandra aequatorialis, Aiphanes caryotaefolia, Aiphanes eggersii, Astrocaryum murumuru, Astrocaryum chambira, Astrocaryum standleyanum, Desmoncus sp., Geonoma sp.).
  • Palm hearts, fruit pulp. Vegetable, beverage.
  • Planta comestible recolectada. Parte comestible, fruto.
  • Present in Slash-and-burn agricultural plots. (...). Crop in garden of household.
  • Se come la fruta. Anteriormente se hizo anzuelo tradicional. Sirve para trampa de panguana y sal vegetal para el ambíl.
  • Su madera es la mejor para la fabricación de lanzas. El fruto es comestible y con el se prepara una bebida fermentada.
  • The leaves are commonly used for thatch, and the fruit is eaten.
  • The leaves of this abundant six-foot palm formerly were reduced to ashes and added to Caryocar fish poison to made more active the ichthyotoxic mixture with mud (Cf. Caryocar).
  • The windowless wall is built of stout chonta palm ( Guilielma sp.) staves set vertically into the ground about an inch to permit light and air to enter, (...).

Use Record