Chamaedorea tepejilote Liebm., Hist. Nat. Palm. 3: 308 (1849)

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MEXICO. GUATEMALA. BELIZE. HONDURAS. EL SALVADOR. NICARAGUA. COSTA RICA. PANAMA. COLOMBIA. (Hodel, D. 1992. Chamaedorea Palms, The Species and Their Cultivation. The International Palm Society.)A


  • Liebmann apparently discovered C. tepejilote at Matlaluca, Veracruz, Mexico and named and described it in Martius (1849). However, I have been unable to locate any Liebmann collections of C. tepejilote from Veracruz. Strangely, Liebmann material identified as the holotype at Copenhagen is from Oaxaca as are the isotypes at Paris and the Smithsonian Institution.
    Several collectors, including Liebmann, Linden, Warscewicz, and Wendland, sent propagative material of C. tepejilote to Europe, where it has been cultivated since prior to the middle of the 19th century, usually under the various names placed in synonymy here. C. tepejilote is widely cultivated today, appearing in gardens and collections in California, Hawaii, Florida, Australia, Europe, and elsewhere. One of the largest members of the genus, only C. woodsoniana, C. linearis, and the more stout and robust forms of C. costaricana equal or surpass C. tepejilote in size.
    Chamaedorea tepejilote is a variable species throughout its very wide range. It occurs in moist or wet forests on a variety of substrates from southern Mexico to northern Colombia. Separate taxa have been proposed based principally on size, number of parts, and nervature of pinnae. According to Standley and Steyermark (1958), it is difficult to find constant distinguishing features and, essentially, differences are of size, not of character. They placed C. wendlandiana and C. anomospadix in synonymy with C. tepejilote.
    In an earlier paper (Hodel 1990d) I treated C. exorrhiza, C. sphaerocarpa, and C. columbica as synonyms of C. tepejilote. In that paper, I maintained C. casperiana as separate from C. tepejilote. Klotzsch (1852) described and named c. casperiana from plants cultivated at the botanic gardens in Schonhausen near Berlin. These were grown from seeds that Warscewicz had collected in Guatemala and sent to Europe in 1849. I had not seen type material of C. casperiana and, based on Standley and Steyermark's (1958) assertion that the staminate calyx of C. casperiana was prominent and well developed, I felt the two species to be distinct. However, I have since seen good type material of C. casperiana at Goettingen, Copenhagen, and Leiden and the staminate calyx is variable, but not well developed and prominent. In most cases, the calyx is low, ringlike and more or less inconspicuous, like that of C. tepejilote. Occasionally, there will be a shriveled, membranous, toothlike sepal in the ringlike calyx, an uncommon but not unknown condition in C. tepejilote. When considering the highly variable nature of C. tepejilote though, this distinction seems insignificant.
    Chamaedorea tepejilote is widely cultivated for food in southern Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. The unopened staminate inflorescences, resembling ears of com, are sold in markets and used as a vegetable or in salads. They are called pacaya, a term also used for the entire plant. In Guatemala it is more intensely cultivated and exploited for market than in any other part of Central America. See the chapter on economic uses for a more extensive account of pacaya.
    A handsome ornamental when well grown, C. tepejilote is a striking specimen for a background planting or as a solitary or group accent. Pistillate plants are especially attractive when bearing their heavy and relatively massive, red-orange, branched infructescences with black fruits. Although requiring some protection from the sun, C. tepejilote tolerates relatively high light. Its large, spreading leaves easily provide denser shade for smaller chamaedoreas requiring lower light. C. tepejilote is susceptible to damage from wind and infestations of mites.
    Krempin (1990, p. 94) discussed and illustrated C. neurochlamys but the description and photograph depict C. tepejilote. Krempin (p. 96) also illustrated what appears to be a Ptychosperma but erroneously captioned the photograph as C. tepejilote? (Hodel, D. 1992. Chamaedorea Palms, The Species and Their Cultivation. The International Palm Society.)A

Biology And Ecology

  • Moist or wet forest on the Atlantic and Pacific slopes; 0-1,600 m elevation; often on limestone. (Hodel, D. 1992. Chamaedorea Palms, The Species and Their Cultivation. The International Palm Society.)A


  • Is the vernacular name for the species. (Hodel, D. 1992. Chamaedorea Palms, The Species and Their Cultivation. The International Palm Society.)A

Common Name

  • Tepejilote, pacaya, guaya, chiib, cana verde, ixquil-quib, chimp, bojon, aula-te, chern-chern, ternero, pacaya grande - Guatemala and Mexico; palmito dulce-Costa Rica; boda, bola, nuru, cana verde - Panama. (Hodel, D. 1992. Chamaedorea Palms, The Species and Their Cultivation. The International Palm Society.)A


    • Habit: solitary, sometimes cespitose, erect, sometimes decumbent, 2-7 m tall or more, if cespitose forming clumps to 3-4 m wide. Stems: 2-10 cm diam., green, prominently ringed, internodes 2-15 cm long, often with more or less prominent prop roots basally. Leaves: 3-7, spreading, pinnate; sheath 20-40 cm long, tubular, obliquely open apically, green, striate-nerved; petiole 10-30 cm long, slightly grooved and green above, rounded and pale below; rachis 0.5-1.4 m long, angled and green above, rounded below with a distinct yellow band extending onto sheath; pinnae (6-) 12-25 on each side of rachis, middle pinnae the largest, these 16-70 x 3.5-7.5 cm, broadly linear-lanceolate to long-lanceolate, sigmoid, falcate, narrowed basally, long-acuminate apically, sub-opposite, spreading or sometimes drooping, thin, lustrous green, 5-10 primary nerves keeled above, yellowish and shining below with 4-5 or even more secondaries interspaced, often nearly as prominent as primaries, tertiaries fine and numerous especially in large pinnae. Inflorescences: infrafoliar, erect-spreading, solitary, 25-60 cm long; peduncles 6-27 cm long, stout, thick; bracts 4-5, to 20 cm long, lower short and truncate, upper rather prominently inflated and hoodlike, ± fibrous, drying ± woody, longitudinally striatenerved, green becoming brownish in flower and fruit; rachises 1-30 cm long, green to yellow in flower, red-orange in fruit. Staminate with 7-50 rachillae, these 6-17 cm long, spreading or pendulous, yellow-green. Pistillate with 5-20 rachillae, these 3-30 cm long, ± thick, spreading, straight or flexuous, ± angled, greenish yellow to green, minutely white-spotted in flower, red-orange in fruit. Flowers: Staminate in 4-8 very dense spirals, contiguous, 22.5 x 3.5-5 mm, depressed-globose, irregularly shaped by mutual pressure, yellow, aromatic, seated in shallow elliptic depressions 2.5-3 mm long; calyx 0.5 x 3.5-5 mm, scarcely lobed, ringlike, membranous, green, partially adnate to sides of depression and similarly shaped, sepals connate nearly to apex, straight apically; petals 2-2.5 x 2.5-3.5 mm, deltoid, valvate, appearing as though connate basally due to crowding but essentially distinct, inflexed in bud, spreading apically at anthesis, ± fleshy, thick, lightly nerved on inside; stamens equalling or barely exceeding petals, filaments 1.25-1.5 mm long, green, anthers 0.5-0.75 mm long, ellipsoid, separated basally, entire apically, yellow; pistillode 0.75-1.25 mm high, shorter than or equalling stamens, slender, 3-lobed apically. Pistillate in dense or lax spirals, 2-2.5 x 4-5 mm, conicsubglobose, greenish to yellow or whitish, slightly sunken in shallow elliptic-rounded depressions 1.5-3 mm diam.; calyx 0.5 x 4-5 mm, deeply or scarcely lobed, greenish, membranous, becoming undulate in fruit, sepals free or briefly connate and/or imbricate basally, broadly rounded apically; petals 2-2.5 x 4-5 mm, broadly ovate to triangular, imbricate nearly to apex, ± thick, fleshy, rounded to acute apically, usually undulate and brown-margined in fruit; staminodes 0-6, small, subtriangular; pistil 2-2.5 x 3-4.5 mm, yellow-green, globose, styles lacking, stigma lobes sessile but exserted well beyond petals, separated, recurved, angled, clear-colored. Fruits: to 10-15(20) x 7-8 mm, ellipsoid to ovoid or nearly globose, blue-green maturing black, abortive carpels generally adherent to fruit, epicarp thin, slightly membranous, mesocarp slightly fleshy, green, aromatic, endocarp slightly membranous, fibrous; seeds 9-11 x 5-6.5 mm, ellipsoid, brownish. (Hodel, D. 1992. Chamaedorea Palms, The Species and Their Cultivation. The International Palm Society.)A

    Materials Examined

    • BELIZE. Cayo: Dwyer 11441 (F); Hodel 843 (BH); Lundell 6285 (MICH). Stann Creek: Schipp 544 (F, GH, MICH); Gentle 2770 MICH). Toledo: Boutin 5003, 5004 (HNT). COLOMBIA. Cauca: Kalbreyer 1512 (GOET). Choco: Gentry 28702 (BH); Leon 1947 (BH). Valle: Cuatrecasas 14991, 15154 (F). COSTA RICA. Alajuela: Dryer 184, 693 (F); Smith 6846, 6847 (GH); Utley 3240 (F). Cartago: Hodel 703A, 703B (BH, CR); Lent 107, 305, 4070 (F). Guanacaste: Barringer 4065 (F); Burger 9lI6 (F). Heredia: Burger 5835 (F); Smith 487 (WIS). Sperry 763 (F). Limon: Baker 1I4 (F, U); Rossbach 3871 (GH). Puntarenas: Hodel 696 (BH, CR); Utley 1175 (F). San Jose: Poveda 1099 (F). EL SALVADOR. San Salvador: Standley 19388 (GH). GUATEMALA. Alta Verapaz: Steyermark 52135 (F). Izabal: Hodel 1020 (AGUAT, BH); Standley 24484 (GH). Peten: Bartlett 12186, 12218 (MICH); Hodel 844 (BH); Lundell 2082, 4335 (MICH). Quetzaltenango: Rodriguez 1628 (P); Steyermark 33830, 33835, 33836 (F). Sacatepequez: Smith 2134 (GH). San Marcos: Standley 68750 (F). Santa Rosa: Smith 4301 (GH); Standley 79065 (F). HONDURAS. AtJantida: Yuncker 8516 (F, GH, MICH, S); Zuniga 448 (UNAH). Cortes: Zuniga 843 (UNAH). Ocotepeque: Nelson 1665 (UNAH). MEXICO. Chiapas: Breedlove 9985 (F, MICH), 57967 (CAS); Dressler 1565 (GH, MEXU); Hansen 1624 (MEXU, MICH, WIS); Matuda 17416, 17534 (F, MEXU); Miranda 6598, 6975 (MEXU). Oaxaca: Bauml 468 (HNT); Galeotti 4978 (GOET), s.n. (K). Tabasco: Matuda 3466 (F, MEXU, MICH). Veracruz: Dorantes 2533, 3035 (F); Hodel 948 (BH, MEXU); Rosas 898 (GH, U); Vera 3898 (MICH). PANAMA. Chiriqui: McPherson 7781 (CAS); Wagner 479 (GOET, M). Code: Bartlett 16680 (MICH). Colon: Folsom 3867 (MEXU). Darien: Gentry 13552 (MO), 28588 (PMA), 28702 (MO). Panama: Bartlett 16741,16786 (MICH); Correa 2987 (PMA); Folsom 7845 (F); Hodel 724 (BH, PMA); Luteyn 1546 (F). Veraguas: Mori 4876 (MEXU). (Hodel, D. 1992. Chamaedorea Palms, The Species and Their Cultivation. The International Palm Society.)A


      A. Hodel, D. 1992. Chamaedorea Palms, The Species and Their Cultivation. The International Palm Society.