Chamaedorea metallica O.F.Cook ex H.E.Moore, Principes 10: 45 (1966)

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


  • O. F. Cook collected C. metallica as long ago as 1905 at Cordoba, Veracruz, Mexico. Cook also collected it from cultivated plants in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1907 and at the Doheny Estate in Los Angeles, California, in 1912 and 1914. Apart from Cook's collections, no specimens existed in herbaria and it seemed to have escaped the attention of horticulturists and botanists until the 1960s. In 1960, the late Horace Anderson of Leucadia, California, sent seeds he had collected in Mexico to Nat DeLeon in Miami, Florida, who forwarded some to H. E. Moore, Jr. at Cornell. Plants resulting from these seeds matured in 1965 at Cornell, were hand-pollinated, and produced fruits in 1966. Moore (1966) named the species from these plants. Cook had recognized C. metallica as a distinct species and suggested the epithet which Moore adopted when he formally named the species.
    In 1989, we found C. metallica growing on limestone rocks with C. elatior, C. sartorii, C. oblongata, and the cycad Dioon spinulosum near Temazcal, Veracruz. Local residents reported it to be very common on an island in Lake Temazcal. Despite being one of the most distinctive species of the genus due of its dark green, leathery leaves with a metallic sheen, C. metallica has been erroneously referred to C. tenella on several occasions in cultivation and the literature. In fact, Everett (1981, p. 73) illustrated and Lane (1988) listed C. metallica as C. tene/la. C. tenella, close to and possibly not distinct from C. geonomiformis, is uncommon in cultivation. C. tenella differs from C. metallica in the green blades lacking the metallic sheen; the spicate staminate inflorescence; and the yellow staminate flowers with the petals connate apically and the corolla opening by lateral slits. Although normally with bifid leaves, it is not unusual for C. metallica to have leaves that divide with age into 3-8 pairs of pinnae.
    Today, C. metallica is rather common and widespread in cultivation and appears in gardens and collections in Europe, Australia, the Orient, Hawaii, California, Florida, Central America, and elsewhere. Seeds are handled commercially from both wild and cultivated plants in Mexico and distributed worldwide.
    Chamaedorea metallica is a handsome palm that, due to its dwarf habit and relatively slow rate of growth, makes an excellent subject for pots and tubs. It is a durable plant and relatively easy to grow. Extremely tolerant of low light, it performs exceedingly well indoors and is also very resistant to mites. (Hodel, D. 1992. Chamaedorea Palms, The Species and Their Cultivation. The International Palm Society.)A

Biology And Ecology


  • Habit: solitary, slender, erect, 2-3 m tall. Stem: 1.3-1.5 cm diam., green, minutely but distinctly whitespotted, nodes prominent, internodes 1.5-2.5 cm long, adventitious roots often appearing at base. Leaves: 12-16, rather stiffly ascending or ascending-spreading with blades cupped upward toward apex, usually bifid but often variously pinnate, metallic-blue-green; sheath 7-8 cm long, tubular but split opposite petiole to within 1-2 cm of base; petiole 2.5-4 cm long, very slightly grooved and green above, rounded and pale below; rachis 19-32 cm long, angled and green above, rounded below with a yellowish band extending onto sheath; blade 20-30 x 15 cm, 10-12 cm long on upper margin, cuneateobovate, incised apically to 1/3 its length, 8-11 primary nerves on each side of rachis, these prominent but not much elevated above, impressed below, 5-6 secondaries between each pair of primaries, minutely and irregularly toothed along margin at apex of each primary nerve especially toward base; or, sometimes blade pinnate, pinnae 3-8 on each side of rachis, 2.5-6.5 cm wide, sigmoid, 1-3-nerved, toothed along outer margin above middle. Inflorescences: interfoliar but often infrafoliar in fruit, solitary, spreading-erect. Staminate with peduncle 10-25 cm long or more, pale or greenish in flower; bracts 3-4, lowermost 3 cm long, flattened, 2-edged, others 6-14 cm long, uppermost exceeding peduncle, all tubular, greenish, papery; rachis 4-6 cm long, pale or greenish in flower; rachillae 10-12, these 9-15 cm long, 1.5- 2 mm wide at base, simple, ascending to erect, usually flexuous at apex, pale green in flower. Pistillate spicate, sometimes furcate or with 3-4 rachillae; peduncle 12-26 cm long, green where exposed in flower, red-orange in fruit; bracts 6, similar to those of staminate, green in flower, brown in fruit; flower-bearing portion orrachillae 12-14 cm long, 4 mm diam., erect, pale green in flower becoming swollen to 7 mm diam. and red-orange in fruit. Flowers: Staminate in moderate spirals, 3 x 4 mm, depressedglobose, dull purplish brown in bud, bright orange at anthesis, ± sunken in superficial elliptic depressions 1.5-2 mm long; calyx 1.25 x 2.25 mm, shallowly lobed, pale green to white, sepals connate in basal 1/., rounded to acute apically; petals 3 x 3 mm, connate in basal 1/2, valvate apically, bilobed, thick, fleshy, cupped over stamens; stamens nearly equalling petals, white, filaments 1.5-2 mm long, connate, adnate to pistillode, greenish, anthers essentially sessile on the filament tube, incurved, deeply bifid apically and basally, yellow; pistillode slightly exceeding petals, columnar with a broad flat 3-angled irregularly toothed cap apically, expanded basally, white. Pistillate in remote spirals, 3.5 x 3 mm, globose, bright orange, sunken I mm in axis, aromatic; calyx 1-1.5 x 2.75 mm, lobed, pale green, sepals imbricate in basal 1/2 rounded apically; petals 2-3 x 1.5 mm, connate briefly basally, valvate apically, thick, fleshy, strongly cup-shaped; staminodes 6, nearly as long as pistil, white; pistil 1.5-1.75 x 1.5 mm, depressed-globose, of 3 carpels connate in lower half but readily separable, pale green, stigma lobes sessile, recurved, clear-colored. Fruits: 12 x 9 mm, globose-ellipsoid when fresh, drying slightly smaller, dull black at maturity, epicarp smooth, mesocarp thin, fleshy, green with slender elongate or branched flat fibers appressed against thin endocarp; seeds 10 x 7 mm, brown, with 2 arcuately ascending raphe-branches. (Hodel, D. 1992. Chamaedorea Palms, The Species and Their Cultivation. The International Palm Society.)A

Materials Examined