Chamaedorea stenocarpa Standl. & Steyerm., Publ. Field Mus. Nat. Hist., Bot. Ser. 23: 206 (1947)

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Map uses TDWG level 3 distributions (
Costa Ricapresent (World Checklist of Arecaceae)B
Guatemalapresent (World Checklist of Arecaceae)B
Panamápresent (World Checklist of Arecaceae)B
GUATEMALA. Izabal. COSTA RICA. Alajuela. Heredia. Puntarenas. PANAMA. Panama. Veraguas. (Hodel, D. 1992. Chamaedorea Palms, The Species and Their Cultivation. The International Palm Society.)A


  • Standley and Steyermark (1947) described and named C. stenocarpa from a pistillate collection only from Izabal, Guatemala. They stated that it is one of the smallest of Guatemalan palms. Although the authors made note of its distinctive oblong-ellipsoid fruits, in the mature state these become more rounded. Material from Guatemala tends to have more elongated fruits than that from Panama or Costa Rica. However, when considered over its whole range, the shape of the fruits does not seem to be a reliable diagnostic character.
    Somewhat rare and locally distributed in the wild, C. stenocarpa is known from only a few collections from Guatemala, Costa Rica, and Panama. It inhabits wet forests at or near the Continental Divide in the latter two countries and in Guatemala is apparently restricted to Cerro San Gil in Izabal on the Atlantic slope.
    Chamaedorea stenocarpa is allied to C. pygmaea, C. scheryi, C. brachyclada, and C. undulatifolia. These species form a more or less natural subgroup of Chamaedoropsis (Hodel and Uhl 1990b). C. stenocarpa is closest to C. pygmaea but the latter differs in the fewer pinnae that do not decrease markedly in length toward the apex of the rachis. Robert G. Wilson of San Vito in southeastern Costa Rica was responsible for introducing C. stenocarpa to cultivation. In the 1960s he established fruiting populations in his garden. Hodge (1981, cover and fig. 5) handsomely illustrated one of these plants in Wilson's garden and another of Hodge's photographs ofthis species appeared in Genera Palmarum (p. 126, pl. 50D). Wilson and/or local collectors found the plants in forest remnants in the mountains above San Vito. Over the years, Wilson distributed seeds and plants as the "Las Cruces el fin dwarf' or "dwarf pinnate" Chamaedorea to interested collectors and hobbyists. Today, C. stenocarpa is cultivated in Costa Rica, Hawaii, California, florida, Australia, and probably elsewhere.
    A handsome species when well grown, C. stenocarpa is very effective when used as a mass planting or ground cover in a shady and humid area. Unfortunately, it and its relatives are among the most difficult of Chamaedorea to cultivate, at least in California. They tend to brown-tip severely due to the high mineral content of the water and low humidity. They appear somewhat stunted, bear very few leaves, and are susceptible to damage by mites and thrips. They also seem to perform better in subtropical or cooler tropical regions as opposed to hot, low elevation tropical areas. In the latter regions, the plants seem to languish and go into a slow decline eventually resulting in their demise. (Hodel, D. 1992. Chamaedorea Palms, The Species and Their Cultivation. The International Palm Society.)A

Biology And Ecology



  • Habit: solitary, erect, appearing stemless, to 75 cm tall. Stem: 1-2 cm diam., very short, creeping, 15 cm long, at or below ground or leaf litter, green, densely ringed, internodes 2-10 mm long. Leaves: 3-5 erect-spreading, pinnate, 40-60 cm long but often flowering when much shorter; sheath 3-8 cm long, split deeply opposite petiole, clasping in a tubular manner only near base, narrowed upward and there not clasping at all and appearing as part of petiole, striate-nerved, green, drying brownish, persistent; petiole 5-25 cm long, flat or channeled toward base and green above, rounded and green below; rachis 14-27 cm long, angled and/or strongly verrucose and green above, pale and rounded and verrucose-margined toward apex below, narrowly margined with decurrent lower margins of pinnae; blade 14-32 x 10-20 cm, pinnae 10-20 on each side of rachis, middle ones 5-18 x 1.2-2.5 cm, apical pinnae 5-7.5 x 0.8-1.5 cm, narrowly oblong-lanceolate to lanceolate, spreading, thin, concolorous, glabrous, regularly distributed, acuminate, narrowed to 1/2 their width at base, basal attachment 8 mm long, slightly sigmoid, falcate, lower margin decurrent on rachis, midrib and marginal primary nerves on each side prominent above and below, these slender but prominently keeled, secondaries solitary between midrib and primaries, these very slender and inconspicuous, lower margin shallowly and often inconspicuously toothed toward apex, end pinnae 2-3-nerved, all pinnae decreasing in length noticeably in a progressive manner toward the apex of rachis. Inflorescences: interfoliar, often emerging from below leaves at or below ground or leaf litter, erect-spreading, not exceeding leaves; peduncles 15-20 cm long, 1.5 mm diam. at apex, straight or slightly arcuate, erect or spreading, greenish or pale in flower, orange in fruit; bracts 4-5, narrowly tubular, 3 mm diam., obliquely open apically, conspicuously nerved, membranous, brownish in flower, uppermost not exceeding peduncle. Staminate with rachis to 15 cm long, green; rachillae 10-25, these 6-8 cm long, simple, slender, filiform, soft, ± pendulous or flexible, green. Pistillate spicate or sometimes forked, ± stiff; rachis or flower-bearing portion 4-15 cm long, straight or slightly curved, green and thicker than staminate, 3 mm diam., much thicker and deep orange in fruit. Flowers: Staminate in moderate to ± lax spirals, ovoid-globose, greenish, ± superficial; calyx low, lobed, sepals connate basally, rounded apically; petals briefly connate and/or imbricate basally, ovoid, free and spreading apically, acute; stamens 1/2-3/4 as high as petals, filaments pale; pistillode exceeding stamens, greenish. Pistillate in rather dense spirals, 3 x 3 mm, globose to subglobose, light green, scarcely sunken in elliptic depressions 1.8 mm long; calyx 1-1.5 x 2.5-3 mm, deeply lobed, light green with dark green toward margins, sepals connate and/or imbricate in basal 1/4, rounded to acute apically; petals 3 x 2.5-3 mm, roundovate to oblong, cup-shaped, imbricate nearly to apex, free and acute or obtuse and shortly erect apically, dark green toward apex; pistil 1.5 x 2.5 mm, depressed-globose, green, stigma lobes short, not equalling petals, pointed, erect, brown. Fruits: 6-8 mm diam. or long, oblong-ellipsoid and green to yellow when immature, black and elongated to ± globose when mature, when elongated obtuse or rounded apically, obtuse basally, abortive carpels adherent to reddish orange and persistent perianth; eophyll pinnate. (Hodel, D. 1992. Chamaedorea Palms, The Species and Their Cultivation. The International Palm Society.)A

Materials Examined