Chamaedorea pygmaea H.Wendl., Allg. Gartenzeitung 20: 217 (1852)

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Map uses TDWG level 3 distributions (
Colombiapresent (World Checklist of Arecaceae)B
Costa Ricapresent (World Checklist of Arecaceae)B
Mexico Southwestpresent (World Checklist of Arecaceae)B
Panamápresent (World Checklist of Arecaceae)B
COLOMBIA. Antioquia. PANAMA. Chiriqui. Darien. COSTA RICA. Puntarenas. (Hodel, D. 1992. Chamaedorea Palms, The Species and Their Cultivation. The International Palm Society.)A


  • The description is from Wendland (1852c) who described and named C. pygmaea from cultivated plants that Linden introduced to Europe, apparently from Diablo in Socorro Province of New Granada (Colombia) prior to 1850, and is supplemented from Standley (1940). Interestingly, the word "Chiapas" is written on a syntype at Copenhagen despite the fact that Wendland stated in his 1852 article that C. pygmaea was collected in Colombia. However, whoever wrote "Chiapas" easily could have been confused since botanists ofthe time used New Granada for both Colombia and Chiapas, Mexico. C. pygmaea is extremely variable vegetatively with leaves being completely pinnate to bifid. The type has leaves with up to 12 pinnae on each side of the rachis. Also, C. pygmaea has the widest altitudinal range of any species of the genus. Although occurring mainly from 600-2,000 m elevation, a few collections from the Darién region in Panamá adjacent to Colombia place it as low as 200 meters.
    Standley (1940) described and named C. terryorum from the Darien, and the type (M. & R. Terry 1452) had bifid leaves. Another collection from the same population (M. & R. Terry 1453) has completely pinnate leaves. The latter collection fits C. pygmaea very well, substantiating the case that C. terryorum is a bifid-leaved form of C. pygmaea. Chamaedorea pygmaea is close to C. stenocarpa but the pinnae decreasing noticeably in length toward the apex of the rachis distinguish the latter species. C. pygmaea, C. stenocarpa, C. brachyclada, C. scheryi, and C. undulatifolia, form a natural subgroup within subgenus Chamaedoropsis characterized by their virtually stemless habit, decurrent pinnae, long-pedunculate inflorescences ascending from or below ground level, and pinnate eophylls (Hodel and Uhl 1990b).
    Although Guillaumin (1923b) reported that C. pygmaea was once common in European glasshouses, it is rare in cultivation today. The only living plants that we have seen are a few cultivated in a remote location of Jardin Botanico Robert y Catherine Wilson in Costa Rica. Bruce McAlpin collected these in 1974 in the upper valley of the Rio Coton, Puntarenas, Costa Rica. Like other related species from relatively high altitudes, C. pygmaea is difficult to cultivate and frequently brown-tips from warm temperatures, highly mineralized water, and/or low humidity. (Hodel, D. 1992. Chamaedorea Palms, The Species and Their Cultivation. The International Palm Society.)A

Biology And Ecology



  • Habit: solitary, erect or decumbent, appearing stemless, to 60 cm tall. Stem: 1-2 cm diam., creeping at or below ground or leaflitter and attaining 30-40 cm in length, green, densely ringed, internodes to 5 mm long, often covered with persistent leaf sheaths. Leaves: 3-8, erect-spreading, pinnate, variously pinnate or occasionally bifid; sheath 5-10 cm long, long-open, splitting deeply opposite petiole and tubular only near base, green with brownish margin, ageing brown and persisting, densely striated; petiole 5-25 cm long, slender, lightly grooved especially near base and green above, rounded and greenish below; rachis 12-16 cm long, angled and green above, rounded and green below; pinnae usually 9-12 on each side of rachis, 12-15 x 1-2.5 cm, lanceolate or elongate-lanceolate, long-attenuate, falcate, thin, lower margins briefly decurrent on rachis, upper pinnae wider and not decreasing noticeably in length toward apex of rachis, weakly toothed, a prominent midrib and one primary nerve conspicuous on each side of this above; if bifid, blade 20-30 x 6-15 cm, cuneate-obovate, incised apically to 1/3 its length, lobes long, thin, narrowly acuminate, narrowed basally, olive-green above in dried state, paler below, 12-14 prominent nerves on each side of rachis, 2 secondary nerves conspicuous below between each pair of primaries, tertiaries numerous and less conspicuous; or blade variously pinnate with a broad terminal pair and several basal pinnae, lower margin of lowest pinnae obscurely decurrent along petiole to sheath. Inflorescences: inter- or infrafoliar, erect-ascending, arising from base, long-pedunculate, shorter than or about equalling leaves; peduncles to 20 cm long, erect; bracts 4-8, to 15 cm long, narrowly tubular, 3 mm wide, membranous, bifid, longitudinally striate-nerved, brown in flower; Staminate with rachis to 10 cm long, slender, straight, greenish in flower; rachillae 10-25, these to 6-8 cm long, longest near base and becoming progressively shorter toward apex of rachis, slender, widely spreading or ± recurved or drooping, flexuous, greenish in flower. Pistillate spicate or forked; rachis or flower-bearing portion 10 cm long, curved, pale greenish in flower, orange and swollen in fruit. Flowers: Staminate remotely arranged, green, fragrant, sessile; Calyx 1x 1.5 mm, shallowly lobed, sepals connate in basal 3/4, rounded apically; petals 3 mm long, oblong-obovate, valvate, free nearly to base, broadly obtuse or nearly rotund to acute, fleshy. brownish in dried state; stamens 1/2-3/4 as high as petals, filaments short, thick, anthers elongate. Pistillate fairly densely arranged, green; calyx lobed, sepals bluntly rounded apically; petals elongated, short-pointed, imbricate basally, spreading apically; staminodes 6, broadly uniform; pistil depressed-globose, 3-lobed, stigma lobes sessile, recurved slightly. Fruits: 6-8 mm long, ± oblong, black; eophyll pinnate. (Hodel, D. 1992. Chamaedorea Palms, The Species and Their Cultivation. The International Palm Society.)A

Materials Examined