Bactris major Jacq., Select. Stirp. Amer. Hist. , ed. 2: 134 (1781)

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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 West-Centralpresent (World Checklist of Arecaceae)B
Colombiapresent (World Checklist of Arecaceae)B
Costa Ricapresent (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
Honduraspresent (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
Surinamepresent (World Checklist of Arecaceae)B
Trinidad-Tobagopresent (World Checklist of Arecaceae)B
Venezuelapresent (World Checklist of Arecaceae)B
Common and widespread from southern Mexico through Central America to northern South America, less common in the Amazon region, again common in lowland Bolivia. (Henderson, A.J., Bactris (Palmae) in Flora Neotropica Monographs 79. 2000)A



  • Bactris major is diagnosed by its pistillate flowers (and fruits) with staminodial ring, subglobose, irregularly ellipsoid, ellipsoid-oblong, or broadly obovoid, brown or purple-black fruits 1.5-4.5 x 1-3.5 cm, with minute spinules or small brown scales, and ellipsoid or obovoid endocarp with the pores equatorial and equidistant, but the fertile one displaced proximally. Synonymy was established by Henderson (1995) and de Nevers et al. (1996). This is a widespread and extremely variable species. Henderson (1995) divided it into four varieties, only three of which are here accepted. This species is, however, still poorly understood, and the boundaries between the varieties are not always clear.
    Bactris major var. major is fairly homogeneous vegetatively, but variable in fruit size and shape. It is similar to, but easily distinguished from var. sociale, by the peduncular bract spines and geographic range. Bactris major var. infesta is even more heterogeneous. Some specimens from the western Amazon region of Ecuador, Peru, and Brazil are smaller than the others and have inflorescences with 1 or 2 rachillae (e.g., Balslev et al. 84772, Henderson et al. 1524, Henderson & Padilla 2103, Pardini 58, L. Vargas 976). Except for their swollen, scurfy or spinulose fruiting calyx and corolla and scurfy or spinulose fruits, they are similar to specimens of B. concinna, and some were so identified by Henderson (1995).
    One specimen (Brazil. Amazonas: Barcellos, 19 Jun 1874, Trail 855/LXII (K)), incorrectly determined by Trail as B. aristata, is similar to another specimen (Brazil. Amazonas: Mun. Careiro, km 22 on Manaus-Porto Velho hwy., 3°30'S, 60°W, 1 Apr 1985, Henderson 176 (NY)). Both are large plants with regularly pinnate leaves, inflorescences with 1 rachilla, and pistillate flowers with a staminodial ring. Both lack fruits but could belong to B. major although neither is included in the above description. Another specimen (Venezuela. Lara: Gamilotal, 2-3 km E of El Altar, 10°40'S, 69°W, 200-300 m, 17 Jun 1994, Noblick & R. Smith 4935 (FTG, NY)) has the large inflorescence and clustered leaf spines of B. setulosa, but fruits of B. major, and may be a hybrid. This specimen is similar to another, at least in fruits (Venezuela. Aragua: Maracay, 2 May 1930, Vogl s.n. (B)), except that this latter has a leaf with flattened yellow spines (like B. brongniartii), and was determined by Burret as Pyrenoglyphis leucacantha (Linden & Wendland) Burret. Vogl s.n. may also be a hybrid (Henderson, A.J., Bactris (Palmae) in Flora Neotropica Monographs 79. 2000)A


  • Stems cespitose, forming dense or open clumps, 1-10 m tall, 2-6 cm diam., spiny on internodes.
    Leaves 3-10; leaf spines brown or black, more or less terete, to 11 cm long, moderate to dense on sheath, petiole, and rachis; sheath 22-55 cm long, fibrous on margins; ocrea to 20 cm long, becoming fibrous; petiole 0.1 -1.5 m long; rachis 0.7-1.8 m long; pinnae 24-46 per side, more or less regularly arranged, sometimes irregularly, spreading in the same plane, linear, aristate, minutely spiny on margins, with a metallic sheen on drying; middle pinnae 25-62 x 1-3.5 cm.
    Inflorescences interfoliar; peduncle 15-40 cm long, recurved, spinulose or densely spiny; prophyll 13-30 cm long; peduncular bract 28-60 cm long, densely to moderately covered with black, dark brown, or yellowish brown spines to 1(-2) cm long; rachis 0.5-4 cm long; rachillae (1-)5-10(-17), 9-23 cm long, ca. 2 mm diam. at anthesis, 3-4 mm thick in fruit, at anthesis scarcely covered brown tomentum; triads irregularly arranged among paired or solitary staminate flowers; staminate flowers 3-8 mm long, somewhat persistent; sepal lobes 1.5-3 mm long; petals 3-7 mm long; stamens 6; pistillode absent; pistillate flowers 4-9 mm long; calyx tubular, 4-8 mm long, minutely spinulose; corolla tubular, 3-5 mm long, minutely and densely spinulose; staminodial ring adnate to corolla, 1-3 mm long; fruits 1.5-4.5 x 1-3.5 cm, subglobose, irregularly ellipsoid, ellipsoid-oblong, or broadly obo-void, brown or purple-black, with minute spinules or small brown scales; mesocarp juicy; endocarp ellipsoid or obovoid, the pores equatorial, equidistant, but fertile one displaced proximally; endocarp fibers numerous, free; fruiting perianth with regularly lobed calyx shorter than the regularly lobed, swollen corolla, with staminodial ring adnate to corolla. (Henderson, A.J., Bactris (Palmae) in Flora Neotropica Monographs 79. 2000)A

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