Chamaedorea woodsoniana L.H.Bailey, Gentes Herb. 6: 238 (1943)

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PANAMA. Chiriqui. Cocle. Darien. Panama. Veraguas. COSTA RICA. Alajuela. NICARAGUA. Matagalpa. HONDURAS. Atlantida. GUATEMALA. Baja Verapaz. El Pregreso. Huehuetenango. Zacapa. MEXICO. Chiapas. Oaxaca. Veracruz. COLOMBIA? (Hodel, D. 1992. Chamaedorea Palms, The Species and Their Cultivation. The International Palm Society.)A


  • Bailey (1943a) described and named C. woodsoniana from material Paul Allen collected near El Valle de Anton in Panama. With stems to 10 cm in diameter, it is one ofthe largest species of the genus. Only C. linearis and some forms of C costaricana and C. tepejilote have stems as stout as those of C. woodsoniana.
    Chamaedorea woodsoniana is a handsome and rather robust species. It is particularly striking when pistillate plants are bearing clusters of not-yet-mature, golden-orange fruits at the ends oflong, arching peduncles. It differs from all other members of the genus in its combination of orange-yellow pistillate flowers, long-pedunculate inflorescences, long-pinnate leaves with pinnae prominently nerved below, and solitary habit. C. woodsoniana appears closest to C. carchensis from the Atlantic slope of Guatemala and Mexico but the black indument densely covering the petioles, fewer pinnae with fewer and less prominent primary nerves, and smaller staminate inflorescence with much fewer rachillae distinguish the latter species. Also, C. woodsoniana quickly develops a prominent above-ground stem while C. carchensis remains stemless and flowers and fruits at this stage until forming a short stem much later. Botanists and horticulturists, me included, have confused C. woodsoniana with some of the larger growing forms of Chamaedorea costaricana, a species with cespitose stems. C. costaricana also differs in the ligules at the apex of the leaf sheath, shorter peduncles, rounded fruits maturing from green to black, and usually sigmoid or falcate pinnae.
    The material presently cultivated as C. woodsoniana is actually C. costaricana. These plants originated from numerous introductions of seeds and young plants from the late 1960s through the 1980s from Costa Rica and Panama. Robert Wilson provided most of these from plants he had established in his garden or that he or others had collected in that part of Costa Rica or adjacent Panama. Krempin (1990, p. 97) illustrated C. costaricana but erroneously captioned the photograph as C. woodsoniana.
    However, C. woodsoniana is frequently cultivated but under another name, C. vistae. The misapplication of the name C. woodsoniana to a cespitose plant and naming of a species, C. vistae, later reduced to synonymy, is a good example of how nomenclatural problems originate. I had always assumed that C. woodsoniana was a cespitose species because I had encountered cespitose plants labeled as such in collections and botanical gardens and read of it in the literature. Thus, I formed a biased, preconceived idea of the habit of C. woodsoniana. The fact that Bailey's description and label on the type specimen of C. woodsoniana stated nothing of a cespitose habit did not alarm me since the habit of palms is often lacking in collection data and Bailey never saw the plant in the wild. Also, only portions of inflorescences were in the type, giving a much smaller impression of the size of these organs, and foliar material, while large, was not substantially different from that of the larger forms of C. costaricana.
    When C. vistae was described and named (Hodel & Uhl 1990a), I did not consider the relationship of this solitary-stemmed species to C. woodsoniana since I assumed the latter was a cespitose species. I began to suspect that C. woodsoniana was actually solitary-stemmed upon examining additional material noted as being solitary from Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Guatemala, and the type locality in Panama that matched up very well with the type specimen of C. woodsoniana. I reassessed my interpretation of the habit of C. woodsoniana to that of solitary, leading me to suspect that C. vistae was not distinct.
    My suspicions were confirmed when in April, 1991 we were able to collect material of a stout, solitarystemmed Chamaedorea in Guatemala and at the type locality of C. woodsoniana in Panama that matched up well with the type of C. woodsoniana and yet was apparently identical to C. vistae. Thus, here I have the onerous task of including C. vistae in synonymy with C. woodsoniana and am reminded of what Bailey (l943a, p. 236) eloquently stated prior to naming new chamaedoreas: "Under such circumstances the adventurer in new species assumes unusual risks."
    Chamaedorea woodsoniana is cultivated in gardens and collections in Hawaii, California, Florida, Australia, Costa Rica, and, perhaps, elsewhere. Krempin (1990, p. 97) illustrated C. woodsoniana as Chamaedorea sp. 9087 in the Sydney Botanical Garden. Fruiting plants occur in Hawaii at Wahiawa Botanic Garden of the Honolulu Botanic Gardens, Waimea Arboretum, and Lyon Arboretum and at Jardin Botanico Robert y Catherine Wilson near San Vito de Coto Brus in Costa Rica, and probably elsewhere. These plants have been grown from seeds collected from plants growing in the conservatory ofthe L. H. Bailey Hortorium at Cornell University as BH61-1178. The latter were grown from seeds that Moore gathered when he first collected this species in Mexico. From time to time, Moore and the Seed Bank of the International Palm Society distributed seeds produced on the plants at Cornell. Recently, Lyon Arboretum has begun to distribute seeds and seedlings of C. woodsoniana under the number BH61-1178 as C. vistae.
    Chamaedorea woodsoniana has been collected on the border of Panama and Colombia, thus I tentatively list it here as occurring in Colombia. (Hodel, D. 1992. Chamaedorea Palms, The Species and Their Cultivation. The International Palm Society.)A

Biology And Ecology

  • Wet montane forest and cloud forest; 800-2,000 m elevation. (Hodel, D. 1992. Chamaedorea Palms, The Species and Their Cultivation. The International Palm Society.)A


  • Honors R. L. Woodson, collector of many Panamanian plants. (Hodel, D. 1992. Chamaedorea Palms, The Species and Their Cultivation. The International Palm Society.)A


  • Habit: solitary, erect, ± stout, 5-12 m tall. Stem: 5-10 cm diam., green, ringed, nodes white and prominent, to 2.5 cm wide, internodes to 20 cm long, prop roots evident (at least in some cultivated material) to 60 cm up stem. Leaves: 4-6, erect-spreading, pinnate; sheath 30-80 cm long, swollen, tubular, clasping, obliquely open apically, green, strongly longitudinally striate-nerved; petiole to 30 cm long, flattened or grooved especially toward base and green above, rounded and green below with a pale yellow or yellow-green band extending onto rachis; rachis 1-1.5 m long, sharply angled and green above, rounded and pale below; petiole and underside of rachis densely covered with small, irregular pits giving living material a rough texture; pinnae to 36 on each side of rachis, these 30-65 x 3.5-5 cm, linear-Ianceolate, ± straight or only slightly falcate, acuminate, horizontal or ascending off rachis, dull dark green, a prominent midrib and 2 primary nerves on each side of this, these conspicuous but not much raised above (only midrib prominent above in dried material), all 5 nerves strongly elevated and prominent below, secondaries numerous and faint. Inflorescences: inter- or infrafoliar in flower, infrafoliar in fruit, erect but nodding when laden with fruits; peduncles to 75 cm long, ± stout, 2.5-3 cm wide at base and there flattened, 1-1.5 cm diam. at apex and there ± rounded, erect and greenish in flower, orange apically and nodding in mature fruit; bracts 5, prophyll to 12 cm long, 2nd bract to 30 cm, 3rd to 35 cm, 4th to 60 cm, this exceeding peduncle and concealing smaller 5th bract to 12 cm, tubular, fibrous, shredded and brownish at anthesis, often fallen in mature fruit, acute-acuminate, bifid, longitudinally striate-nerved. Staminate large with a rachis to 75 cm long, erect, straight, green, longitudinally ridged; rachillae to 100, basal ones largest, to 50 cm long, 1-2 mm diam., mostly unbranched but sometimes forked, becoming progressively shorter toward apex of rachis, drooping, green. Pistillate with rachis to 40 cm long, greenish and erect in flower, orange and downward-pointing in mature fruit, basal branches ramified 1-2 times; rachillae to 50, these to 30 cm long, erect or ascending and dark green in flower, orange and downward- pointing in mature fruit. Flowers: Staminate in ± dense spirals, 2.5-3 x 2.5-3.5 mm, ± globose, slightly sunken in elliptic depressions to 4 mm long; calyx 0.5-0.75 x 2.5-3.5 mm, prominently lobed, membranous, brown-margined, sepals connate and/or imbricate in basal 1/4-1/3, rounded apically; petals 2.5-3.0 x 2.5-3 mm, broadly ovate, valvate, free nearly to base, spreading apically, acute, ± thick, margins thicker, lightly nerved on inside only; stamens shorter than pistillode, filaments to 0.3 mm long, angled, adnate basally to petals, anthers 1.5 x 1 mm, shorter than pistillode and tightly apressed around it, basifixed; pistillode 1.5-2.0 mm high, columnar- conic, nearly equalling petals, broadly flared and buttressed basally, longitudinally grooved, tip small, ± 3-lobed. Pistillate 1.5 mm apart in 4 irregular rows, 2.5 x 2.5 mm, ± globose, orange-yellow; calyx 0.5-1 x 2.5 mm, prominently lobed, brown-margined, sepals connate and/or imbricate in basal 1/4-1/2, rounded apically; petals 2-2.5 x 2-3 mm, broadly ovate, strongly imbricate nearly to apex, white-margined; staminodes lacking or 6, minute. toothlike, adnate to petals, white; pistil 2 x 1.5 mm, ovoid-globose, greenish, styles short or lacking, stigma lobes just exceeding petals, erect, pointed, reflexed, yellowish. Fruits: to 2 x 1 cm or 1 cm diam., oblong to ± globose, golden orange ripening black. (Hodel, D. 1992. Chamaedorea Palms, The Species and Their Cultivation. The International Palm Society.)A

Materials Examined

  • COSTA RICA. Alajuela: Molina 17333 (GH). GUATEMALA. Baja Verapaz: Hodel 1107A, 1107B (AGUAT, BH). El Progreso: Farther 2334 (M). Huehuetenango: Steyermark 48737 (F). Zacapa: Steyermark 42875 (F). HONDURAS. Atlantida: Standley 56742 (F, GH, US); Zuniga 442. 1452 (UNAH). MEXICO. Chiapas: Breedlove 33069 (CAS). Oaxaca: Hodel 945 (BH, MEXU). Veracruz: Beaman 6520 (BH); Diggs 2697 (BH, F); Gomez-Pompa 5475 (F); Nee 25030 (BH, F); Nevling 2514 (F); Sousa 3499 (CAS). NICARAGUA. Matagalpa: Williams 23948, 29268 (F). PANAMA. Chiriqui: Churchill 5396, 6199 (MO), 6167 (MEXU); Croat 66743.66746 (MO); de Nevers 6802 (MO); Hampshire 10 (BM, PMA); Knapp 2098 (MO). Code: Croat 13470 (MO); de Nevers 6329 (MO); Hodel 1112 (BH, PMA). Darien: Gentry 7037 (MO); Hammel 1321 (MO). Panama: Croat 12128, 22828, 25246 (MO); Fairchild s.n. (BH). Veraguas: Allen 4377 (BH); Hamilton 3966 (MO). (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.