Chamaedorea fragrans Mart., Hist. Nat. Palm. 2: 4 (1823)

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Map uses TDWG level 3 distributions (


  • Ruiz and Pavon (1798) described and named C. fragrans, one ofthe earliest names in the genus, initially as a Nunnezharia. Later, Martius (1823) made the transfer to Chamaedorea. Spruce (1871) gave a fine account ofthis species as he found it during his travels in South America. It was apparently widely distributed in Amazonian Peru along the eastern slopes of the Andes especially between the Huallaga and Ucayali Rivers. It formed rather large colonies under the canopy of tall trees. The orange-colored, extremely fragrant flowers were said to perfume the forest for quite a distance. Peruvian girls, who called it sangapilla, would place the flowers in their hair, put them under their pillows, or use them to decorate small crosses that marked paths in the forest. Although much of the forest in this area has been destroyed, colonies of C. fragrans have been observed in their native habitat as recently as the late 1980s.
    Chamaedorea fragrans appeared in cultivation in Europe on several occasions in the 18th and early 19th centuries. Linden introduced it there from Peru erroneously under the name C. cataractarum and Verschaffelt had it in his nursery catalog as C. verschaffelti. This latter name was applied to material cultivated at the Berlin Botanical Garden about 1888. Dammer (1904b), based on Wendland's notes, treated some ofthese introductions as separate species and described and named C. pavoniana and C. ruizii. Guillaumin (1923b) reported material cultivated under this latter name at the Musee de Paris, France in 1903. Burret (1933a) seemed to concur that these latter two species were somewhat distinct although very close to C. fragrans. The main differences seemed to be in the size and nervation of leaves, characters that appear to be variable. Unfortunately, I have not been able to locate the types of C. pavoniana and C. ruizii.
    The staminate flowers of C. fragrans must rank among the most attractive in the genus. The snowwhite stamens incurved to touch the pistillode are a perfect complement to the intense orange petals. Added to this is the sweet, heady fragrance, conjuring up images of a delicate, herbal soap.?Chamaedorea fragrans is fairly widespread in cultivation, appearing in gardens and collections in Hawaii, California, Florida, and Australia. Although both staminate and pistillate plants appear to be in cultivation, fruit is rarely, if at all, produced. Although scarce, seeds germinate readily; however, it is possible to propagate C. fragrans vegetatively by dividing the clustered stems with care. When well grown, this species is very attractive and sure to drawadmiring attention with its neat, clustered stems and stiffdark green, v-shaped leaves. It is very striking as a potted specimen and can be maintained in such a manner for many years. C. fragrans is susceptible to mites and tends to brown-tip rather badly when subjected to low humidity and/or prolonged cool spells.? (Hodel, D. 1992. Chamaedorea Palms, The Species and Their Cultivation. The International Palm Society.)A

Biology And Ecology



  • Habit: cespitose, erect, sometimes decumbent, forming clumps 2 x 3-6 m. Stems: 0.5-1.5 cm diam., green, ringed, internodes 5-15 cm long. Leaves: 4-7, spreading, bifid; sheath 10-15 cm long, tubular, mottled green, drying brown, persistent, longitudinally striate-nerved; petiole 2-5 cm long, slightly furrowed and green above, rounded and light green below; rachis to 20 cm long, angled and green above, rounded and with a faint light green band below extending onto petiole; blade 40-50 x 15-20 cm, narrowed to 6-10 cm wide at apex, incised apically to 3/4 its length, cleft narrowly v-shaped, lobes 35--45 x 6-8 cm, linear-rhombic, ± straight, only slightly falcate, acuminate, green, glabrous, ± stiff, papery, rough or raspy texture, rich darkgreen, outer margin lightly toothed apically, 12 primary nerves on each side ofrachis, one secondary . between each pair of primaries, tertiaries numerous, very faint. Inflorescences: infrafoliar, often bursting through old, persistent leaf sheaths, erect in flower, nodding in fruit; peduncles 5-10 cm long, 3-4 mm wide at base, 2-3 mm wide at apex, greenish in flower, orange in fruit; bracts 3-5, prophyll 8 mm long, 2nd bract 1 cm, 3rd 1.5 cm, 4th 2.5-3 cm, 5th 4 cm and less than to exceeding peduncle, tubular, papery-membranous, compressed, short-acuminate, bifid, brown in flower, longitudinally striate-nerved; if branched, rachises 0.5-3 cm long, greenish in flower, orange in fruit. Staminate with 2-6 rachillae, or much less frequently spicate, these 10-15 cm long, slender, 2-2.5 mm diam., spreading, flexuous, glabrous, ± rounded but sometimes slightly furrowed, green. Pistillate with rachillae similar to those of staminate only orange and nodding in fruit. Flowers: Staminate in dense or ± remote spirals, 4 x 3-3.5 mm, ovoid, bright orange with fragrance ofa delicate herbal soap, slightly sunken; calyx 0.75-1 x 2.5-3 mm, lobed, greenish orange, sepals connate basally, rounded and dark-margined apically; petals 4 x 2-2.5 mm, ovate, valvate, free and spreading apically, acute, thick, fleshy; stamens 1/2 as high as petals, filaments united briefly basally, whitish, membranous, fleshy, anthers inwardly curved and touching pistillode; pistillode 3.5--4 mm high, columnar, deeply 3-parted, whitish tinged with orange. Pistillate in ± remote spirals, 4 x 2.5-3 mm, bullet-shaped in bud, oblong-obovoid at anthesis, orange, slightly sunken; calyx 1 x 3 mm, deeply lobed, ± thick, green, sepals connate only briefly basally, broadly rounded to acute and dark-margined apically; petals 4 x 2.5 mm, ovate, valvate, free nearly to base, spreading and erect or slightly recurved apically, thick, fleshy, acute; staminodes present or lacking, ifpresent then conspicuous, nearly equalling pistil, ovate, orange; pistil 2 x 2-2.5 mm, depressed- globose, whitish, 3-parted, stigma lobes sessile, very short, brownish, acute-rounded. Fruits: 12 mm long, globose-ellipsoid, black, lustrous; seeds black, raphe laxly reticulate. (Hodel, D. 1992. Chamaedorea Palms, The Species and Their Cultivation. The International Palm Society.)A

Materials Examined

Use Record