Chamaedorea alternans H.Wendl., Gartenflora 29: 104 (1880)

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Map uses TDWG level 3 distributions (
Mexico Gulfpresent (World Checklist of Arecaceae)B


  • The description is from Wendland (1880) and supplemented from material in cultivation. C. alternans is a handsome plant with large leaves and broad, dark green pinnae. Linden apparently discovered it in Chiapas, Mexico and introduced it to European gardens in 1875. Wendland named the species from cultivated material growing at Herrenhausen that he had obtained from Linden. Apparently the type has been destroyed or lost, therefore C. alternans is retypified here. Although Linden stated that he collected C. alternans in Chiapas, I have not seen collections of it from there; however, the term Chiapas was rather loosely applied in the 19th century or perhaps there was a mix-up in labels of Linden's material.
    An interesting feature of this species is the manner in which the inflorescences occur at the nodes, usually in multiples but occasionally alternating to solitary on the same individual, hence the specific epithet.
    Chamaedorea alternans is close to C. tepejilote but the generally more numerous and broader pinnae, solitary inflorescences, and green-margined leaf sheaths distinguish the latter species. Some students of palms consider C. alternans to be included in C. tepejilote. While the latter is a highly variable species, the differences between the two are fairly constant and, at least at this time, seem to warrant their being maintained as separate species.
    Several workers (Ibarra-Manriquez 1988, Oyama and Dirzo 1988,1991, Oyama 1990,1991, Oyama and Mendoza 1990) have discussed various ecological aspects of C. tepejilote in the rain forest at the Las Tuxtla Biological Station in Veracruz, Mexico. However, according to my interpretation of C. alternans and C. tepejilote, the above workers appear to be referring to C. alternans.?Fischer and Moore (1977) reported in detail about the development of multiple inflorescences in C. alternans and other species. Chamaedorea alternans occurs sparingly in collections in California, Florida, Tahiti and perhaps elsewhere. Most plants now in cultivation originated from seeds distributed by the International Palm Society Seed Bank in the early 1980s.? (Hodel, D. 1992. Chamaedorea Palms, The Species and Their Cultivation. The International Palm Society.)A

Biology And Ecology



  • Habit: solitary, rarely cespitose? and then with few stems, erect, to 3 m or more. Stem: 3-4 cm diam., light green, smooth, conspicuously ringed, internodes 5-15 cm long, often with adventitious prop roots at base. Leaves: 3-5, spreading, pinnate, to 1.75 m long; sheath 45 cm long, green, splitting opposite the petiole, obliquely open apically and whitish and green striate-nerved, margin brownish and ragged; petiole 50 cm long, ± rounded but becoming furrowed and channeled toward base and light green above, rounded and pale below; rachis to 0.8-1.5 m long, obtusely angled and green above, rounded below with a distinct pale band extending onto sheath; pinnae 6-12 on each side of rachis, lower ones largest, these 40-50 x 11-14 cm, middle ones 30-40 x 5-10 cm, elliptic-lanceolate, slightly sigmoid, falcate, acuminate, ± thin, alternate, drooping apically, well spaced, 15 cm apart, a prominent midrib and 3-4 primary nerves on each side of this, end pair wider, and 12-15- nerved. Inflorescences: infrafoliar, erect, staminate 2-5 and pistillate 1-4 per node; peduncles 15-25 cm long, 1-1.5 cm wide at base, 5-8 mm wide at apex, erect, green in flower, reddish orange and nodding in fruit; bracts 4-6, prophyll 5 cm long, 2nd bract 12 cm, 3rd to 30 cm, 4th to 35 cm long and exceeding peduncle, sometimes a small rudimentary one concealed by largest upper bract, finely longitudinally striate-nerved, ± leathery and becoming tattered and/or deciduous in fruit, upper broad and yellow inside; rachis greenish in flower, reddish orange in fruit. Staminate with 8-15 rachillae, these 15-25 cm long, pendulous, greenish in flower. Pistillate with 8-12 rachillae, these 10-15 cm long, ± stiff, erect and greenish white in flower, light orange and horizontal or downward-pointing in fruit. Flowers: Staminate in dense rows, contiguous in bud, yellow; calyx short, ringlike; petals connate basally, valvate and spreading apically; filaments cylindric, longer than anthers, these ovoid; pistillode not exceeding stamens, briefly 3-lobed apically or sometimes lacking. Pistillate greenish, sunken in elliptic depressions 3 mm long; calyx 1.5 mm high, shallowly 3-lobed; petals 2.5 x 3.5 mm, imbricate, acute, yellow with greenish tips. Fruits: 2 x 1 cm, ellipsoid, black. (Hodel, D. 1992. Chamaedorea Palms, The Species and Their Cultivation. The International Palm Society.)A

Materials Examined