Cyclanthaceae

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Cyclanth Family

Dicranopygium wedelii Harling, an occasionally epiphytic understory herb in the Cyclanthaceae. Note the strongly bifid leaves, with veins continuing out to the leaf tips rather than terminating at the margins. Una hierba del sotobosque, a veces epífita. Note las hojas bífidas, con venas que siguen hasta los extremos, no terminan en las márgenes.


Description: Cyclanthaceae have simple, alternate leaves with parallel venation. They are all plants of the forest understory, and many are scandent. Most species have a conspicuously bifid leaf. Carludovica species have a palmate leaf. The inflorescences and infructescences of cyclanths often look like bizarre human artifacts, with geometric patterns or spirals. Cyclanths can be distinguished from palms by a variety of vegetative characters:

  • 1) In cyclanths, the veins always run to the end of the leaf. In bifid-leaved palm seedlings, the veins terminate at the margins.
  • 2) Cyclanth stems are always terete (i.e., round in cross section). Palm stems are almost always flattened on top.
  • 3) Cyclanths always have more than one main vein per leaf, though this may be hard to distinguish in Carludovica. Palms always have a single midrib.
  • 4) There is no thickening of the petiole where it meets the leaf in cyclanths. Palmate-leaved palms have a hastula, a thickened ridge of tissue on the apex of the petiole.

Economic uses: Carludovica species are commonly known as “Panama hat palms.” Although the leaves are actually used to produce the famous hats, this is a misnomer on two counts. First, of course, Carludovica is not a palm. Second, the hats are actually made in Ecuador.


Descripción: Las Cyclanthaceas tienen hojas simples y alternas con venas paralelas. Todos son plantas herbáceas del sotobosque, y algunas son trepadoras. La mayoría tienen hojas bífidas (divididas en dos en el ápice). El género Carludovica tiene hojas palmadas. Las inflorescencias y los frutos de las Cyclanthaceas parecen artefactos humanos, con patrones geométricos en espiral. Hay varias características que se usa para distinguir las Cyclanthaceas y las palmas:

  • 1) En las Cyclanthaceas, las venas siempre corren hasta el extremo de la hoja. Existen algunos brinzales de palmas con hojas bifidas, pero ellos tienen venas que terminan en las márgenes.
  • 2) Los tallos de las Cyclanthaceas son siempre cilíndricos. Los tallos de las palmas usualmente son aplanados por arriba.
  • 3) Las Cyclanthaceas siempre tienen más de una vena principal en cada hoja, aunque a veces es difícil verlo en el genero Carludovica. Las palmas siempre tienen sólo una vena principal en cada hoja.
  • 4) El pecíolo de las Cylanthaceas nunca está engrosado al unirse con la lámina. Las palmas con hojas palmadas tienen una hastula, una protuberancia al extremo del pecíolo que lo separa de la lámina.

Usos económicos: Plantas del género Carludovica se usa para hacer sombreros tejidos. En inglés se llama “Panama hat palms” (palmas “sombrero panameño”). Este nombre es incorrecto por dos razones: primero, por supuesto, Carludovica no es una palma. Segundo, los verdaderos sombreros panameños se hacen en Ecuador.


Genera/species at La Selva: 8/17: Asplundia (8), Carludovica (2), Chorigyne (1), Cyclanthus (1), Dicranopygium (2), Evodianthus (1), Ludovia (1), Sphaeradenia (1).


FIELD MARKS – Palm-like with bifid leaves.


Cyclanthus bipartitus showing leaves that split in two.
Cyclanthus bipartitus inflorescence exhibiting circular arrangement of flowers.
Ripe fruit of Carludovica sulcata being visited by a euphonia.
Carludovica sulcata is unusual in that the leaves split into four sections.
Carludovica sulcata.
Cyclanthus bipartitus is distinguished by being terrestrial and having a thickened midrib in each segment of its bifid leaf.
Epiphytic Cyclanth in flower
Epiphytic Cyclanths dangling from a large tree branch.
Evodianthus funifer with bifid leaves.
Inflorescence of Evodianthus funifer.
Asplundia unicinata is a terrestrial cyclanth with characteristic bifid leaves.
Asplundia exhibiting a typical cyclanth fruit.
Aspludia uncinata with bifid leaves showing parallel veins running to the tip of the leaf.


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Next family: Dilleniaceae > >
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