Chamaedorea serpens Hodel, Principes 35: 77 (1991)

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


  • C. serpens is one ofthe most unusual members of the genus with its sprawling, decumbent, slender stems rooting and sprouting at the nodes along their length. The stems appear to grow upright until about a meter tall at which point they tend to fall over. In this manner, they form a rather loose colony oftangled stems several meters across and a meter high. The only other member of the genus approaching it in the branching habit of the stems is a form of C. elatior from Veracruz and Oaxaca, Mexico, that is easily distinguished by its long, vining, climbing stems and leaves with 10 or more often reflexed pinnae on each side of the rachis.
    Florally, C. serpens is close to C. pinnatifrons and related species, like C. warscewiczii and C. murriensis. However, C. serpens is amply distinct in its creeping stems rooting and sprouting at the nodes and generally much smaller overall habit.
    Apparently not cultivated except for a few plants in the research collection in Los Angeles, C. serpens occurs in wet forest and cloud forest at about 1,000 meters elevation in western central Panama. It is not a common plant; we found it on the sides of steep ravines near El Valle where it occurs in dense forest often shrouded in clouds. (Hodel, D. 1992. Chamaedorea Palms, The Species and Their Cultivation. The International Palm Society.)A

Biology And Ecology



  • Habit: cespitose, often branching up to I m up stem, decumbent, to 1.5 m tall, forming clumps 1-2 m across. Stem: 5-10 mm diam., rooting and sprouting at nodes, sprawling and twisting along ground and through adjacent vegetation, smooth, green, prominently ringed, internodes 5-10 cm long. Leaves: 4-5, erect-spreading, pinnate or rarely bifid; sheath to 20 cm long, tubular, obliquely open apically, green, longitudinally striated; petiole to 20 cm long, flat and green above, rounded and pale below; rachis to 25 cm long, angled and green above, rounded and with a pale yellow or light green band below extending onto sheath; pinnae 2-5 on each side of rachis, all but apical pair 12-18 x 2.5-4 cm, lanceolate, sigmoid, acuminate, narrowed basally, 4-5 prominent primary nerves above, I secondary between each pair of primaries, tertiaries numerous, faint, apical pair of pinnae (or if bifid) 27-30 x 8-12 cm, slightly sigmoid, acuminate, 9-12 prominent nerves above, these 1-2 cm apart, all pinnae ± thick, glossy green. Inflorescences: inter- or infrafoliar, often emerging from persistent sheaths, erect; peduncles 15-25 cm long, 5-10 mm wide at base and there flattened, 1.8-3 mm diam. at apex and there ± rounded, pale to green in flower; bracts 4-5, prophyll 2 cm long, 2nd bract 8 cm, 3rd 12 cm, 4th 15 cm and exceeding peduncle, 5th 4 cm and sometimes concealed by the larger 4th, long-lanceolate, obliquely open apically, finely longitudinally striate- nerved, papery, greenish to brown in flower, lower ones acute, upper ones acute-acuminate; rachises to 3 cm long, greenish in flower. Staminate with 6-10 rachillae, these to 10 cm long, slightly drooping. Pistillate with 10 rachillae, these to 15 cm long, erect-spreading, greenish in flower. Flowers: Staminate in ± dense spirals, 1-2 mm apart, 2-2.5 x 1.8-2.5 mm, ± globose, greenish yellow in flower, drying brownish, only slightly sunken in superficial elliptic depressions 3 x 1.5 mm; calyx 0.8-1 x 1.8-2 mm, deeply lobed, only lightly nerved, sepals connate only briefly at base, rounded to acute apically; petals 2.5 x 2 mm, valvate, connate apically and basally and adnate apically to pistillode and corolla opening by basal and lateral apertures, acute, ± thin, lightly longitudinally striatenerved; stamens 1.25-2 mm high, anthers 2 mm long, sessile or nearly so, longitudinally bilobed; pistillode 2-2.5 mm high, columnar, very slender, slightly flared apically. Pistillate in dense spirals, 1-1.25 x 2 mm, subconic, nearly shieldlike, yellowish, sunken in elliptic to rounded depressions 2 mm long; calyx 0.75-1 x 2 mm, lobed, nerved when dry, sepals imbricate in basal 1/2, truncate to broadly rounded apically; petals 1.5 x 1.5 mm, imbricate nearly to apex, straight or acute; pistil 1 x 1 mm, depressed-ovoid to globose, styles short or lacking, stigma lobes recurved, short, not exceeding petals. Fruits: not known (Hodel, D. 1992. Chamaedorea Palms, The Species and Their Cultivation. The International Palm Society.)A

Materials Examined