Chamaedorea pumila H.Wendl. ex Dammer, Gard. Chron. , III, 36: 246 (1904)

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Map uses TDWG level 3 distributions (
Colombiapresent (World Checklist of Arecaceae)B
Costa Ricapresent (World Checklist of Arecaceae)B
Panamápresent (World Checklist of Arecaceae)B
COSTA RICA. Alajuela. Cartago. Guanacaste. Heredia. San Jose. Puntarenas. (Hodel, D. 1992. Chamaedorea Palms, The Species and Their Cultivation. The International Palm Society.)A


  • Wendland discovered C. pumila near San Miguel in the valley of the Rio Sarapiqui in Costa Rica. He returned to Germany and grew it in his greenhouses at Herrenhausen. Dammer (l904b) formally described and named the species after Wendland's death using the name that Wendland had suggested. In 1914, Brown described and named C. nana from a plant he received at Kew from the horticultural firm of Sanders & Sons Nurseries. Sanders & Sons had introduced this plant from Costa Rica and distributed it under the name C. pumila.
    Because of its smaller habit and leaf blades and shorter petioles, Brown felt that C. nana was distinct from C. pumila. I have examined Wendland's type of C. pumila and Brown's type of C. nana, both from Kew, and can find no distinguishing differences. The flowers of the two are essentially identical. Wendland's type has leaves that are incised apically to about the middle of the leaf blade while Brown's C. nana is incised slightly more than half way. Also, other specimens from Costa Rica at the Missouri Botanical Garden exhibit a range of foliar variation that tends to bridge the small gap between Wendland's and Brown's specimens.
    Chamaedorea pumila is similar to C. sullivaniorum and C. minima; it is somewhat intermediate between the two. C. sullivaniorum differs in the blade bifid apically only one-fourth to one-third its length, more nerves, staminate flowers with much thinner petals and pistillode not buttressed and grooved basally, and the pistillate flowers with the stigma lobes situated in a depression at the apex of the pistil. C. minima differs in its smaller, gray-green, not mottled or iridescent blades with no more than seven nerves on each side of the rachis.
    All forms of C. pumila are very handsome plants because of their virtually stemless habit and rosette of numerous, thick, bifid leaves with a corrugated texture and elevated nerves. They would be very striking as a single specimen in a container or as a mass planting. Although cultivated to some extent in Costa Rica, the species is relatively unknown elsewhere. (Hodel, D. 1992. Chamaedorea Palms, The Species and Their Cultivation. The International Palm Society.)A

Biology And Ecology



  • Habit: solitary, erect to decumbent, often appearing stemless, to 50 cm tall. Stem: 8-20 mm diam., often creeping at or near ground level, dark green, densely and prominently ringed, internodes no more than I cm long and usually much shorter, often covered with adventitious roots. Leaves: 6-10, erect-spreading, bifid; sheath to 10 cm long, very open, splitting deeply opposite petiole and clasping in a tubular manner only near base for 1-3 cm, remainder or upper 1/2 of sheath not clasping stem and appearing as extension of petiole, gray-green, densely and minutely white-spotted, whitish-margined and there green longitudinally striate-nerved; petiole 2-5 cm long, flat, gray-green, and channeled above, margins ofsheath extending upward on either side to form sides ofchannel, rounded and gray-green below with minute white spots; rachis 6-15 cm long, angled and green above, rounded and gray-green below with minute white spots; blade to 30 x 10-15 cm, obovate to subobovate- elliptic, incised apically 1/2 or more its length, lobes 10-15 cm long, thick and leathery, velvety iridescent dark gray-green, plicate, sometimes slightly mottled, acute, exterior margin toothed toward apex, decurrent on petiole, 9-13 prominent primary nerves on each side of rachis, these elevated above, pale below. Inflorescences: interfoliar, erect-spreading, equalling or slightly exceeding leaves; peduncles 15-20 cm long, 2.5-4 mm wide, enclosed by revolute decurrent margin of leaf sheath and then emerging above petiole, green or whitish in flower, orange in fruit; bracts 5-6, tubular, membranous, green but rotting away before anthesis, acute, bifid, longitudinally striate-nerved. Staminate with rachis 2.5 em long, green in flower; rachillae 4-10, these 8-15 cm long, 1-2 mm diam., green, recurved-drooping, simple. Pistillate spicate or rarely furcate; rachis or flower-bearing portion to 8-15 em long, recurved, ± stiff, 2 mm diam. and green in flower, becoming swollen to 3-5 mm diam. and reddish orange in fruit. Flowers: Staminate in moderately dense spirals, 4-5 x 4 mm, globose, greenish yellow, slightly sunken; calyx 1 x 2.5 mm, deeply lobed, green, sepals connate in basal 1/2, rounded to acute apically; petals 3-4 x 3 mm, ovate, valvate, free nearly to base and there briefly connate, thick, fleshy, acute and incurved apically; stamens 2 mm high, filaments to 1 mm long, adnate basally to pistillode in a buttresslike structure, anthers 0.75 mm long, light yellow or pale, bilobed; pistillode 2.5-3.5 mm long, shorter than petals, columnar with a broad 3-angled cap, buttressed basally, light greenish yellow. Pistillate in moderate spirals, 2.5-3 x 2-2.5 mm, conic or subglobose, greenish or greenish yellow, slightly sunken; calyx 1 x 2.5 mm, deeply lobed, green, sepals connate in basal 1/3, broadly acute apically; petals 3 x 3 mm, cup-shaped, imbricate nearly to apex, thick, fleshy, acute, slightly erect apically; pistil 1.5-2 x 2 mm, globose or subglobose, flattened apically, stigma lobes sessile, very short, slightly separated, whitish. Fruits: 6-10 mm, globose, black. (Hodel, D. 1992. Chamaedorea Palms, The Species and Their Cultivation. The International Palm Society.)A

Materials Examined