Palm Key Images

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Asterogyne martiana

Understory, simple bifid leaves, young leaves orange, petiole with rufous fuzz, branched inflorescence, star-like flowers.

Deeply forked simple leafs and orange-yellow color to youngest leaves distinguish Asterogyne martiana.
Ferruginous (rusty) coating on petiole and base of leaf of Asterogyne martiana.
Branched inflorescence of Asterogyne martiana with flowers resembling white stars.
The name Asterogyne refers to its star-shaped flowers.
Asterogyne martiana rarely grows more than 2 m tall, simple bifid leaves with pointy tips, rusty coating on the petioles, and young leaves with an orange tint.
Branched infructescence of Asterogyne.

Astrocaryum alatum

Understory to medium size, solitary, pinnate leaves of varying widths in a single plane, spines on petiole, branched inflorescence, often in swamps.

Astrocaryum alatum is a subcanopy palm (to 6 m) with spiny petioles, pinnate leaves with unequal leafets oriented in a single plane, and found growing in swamps. Photo by R. Aguilar courtesy of La Flora Digital de la Selva.
Astrocaryum alatum is an understory palm with spines on the petiole and leaflets oriented in the same plane. Often in swampy areas.
'Midvein of leaf is armed with flattened black spines.
Persistent leaf bases on Astrocaryum alatum stem.
Petiole covered with black flattened spines.
Whitish leaf undersides and flattened spines along the petiole are characteristic features of Astrocaryum alatum.
Hard fruits of Astrocaryum alatum (spines have worn off).
Spiny fruits and spathe of Astrocaryum alatum.
Astrocaryum alatum leaves are pinnate with leaflets oriented in the same plane.

Astrocaryum confertum

Subcanopy to canopy, pinnate leaves with leaflets in multiple planes, spines often flattened, branched inflorescence.

Astrocaryum confertum is the only solitary subcanopy palm with a spiny trunk. Leaves are pinnate with leaflets in multiple planes and spines on the petiole and rachis. Photo by O. Vargas courtesy of La Flora Digital de la Selva.
A tall Astrocaryum confertum as seen from above the canopy. Note pinnate leaves with pointy leaflets oriented in multiple directions.
Juvenile Astrocaryum confertum with spines on petiole.
Spines on petiole of Astrocaryum confertum may be have an orange coloration.

Bactris caudata

Understory to medium size, clonal or solitary, pinnate leaves with sparselty distributed leaflets, tapered tips of leaflets droop, some spines on petiole, fruits orange and tightly clustered, uncommon.

Bactris caudata has pinnate leaves with sparsely distributed leaflets that droop at their tips.
Bactris caudata showing characteristic leaflets with drooping pointy tips.

Bactris coloradonis

Understory to medium size, clonal, very straight stems, pinnate leaves with leaflets in multiple planes, leaflets often in clusters, spines on stems usually in rings, branched stems, fruit orange-red.

Bactris coloradonis growing in the arboretum. Note the dense cluster of straight stems, leaves with leaflets in clusters and splayed out in multiple directions.
The stems of Bactris coloradonis are very straight and covered by rings of spines.
Rings of spines on the trunk are a key feature of the genus Bactris.
Leaves of Bactris coloradonis bearing spirally arranged leaflets that are irregularly spaced.
Leaflets often bear a few needle-like spines and droop at the tip.
Bactris coloradonis fruit. Note orange-red color and highly branched inflorescence.

Bactris Gasipaes

Bactris gasipaes (Peach palm or pejibaye) is native to South America and widely planted for its edible orange fruit. Reaches 20 m in height with robust rings of spines on trunk. Large (3 m) pinnate leaves. Clonal, resprouts if cut for heart of palm. Found in open areas, not in the forest.


Bactris hondurensis

Understory, clonal with few stems, spines on stem and leaves often turn black, simple leaves, inflorescence branched, fruit orange-red, only palm with simple leaves and spines.

Bactris hondurensis is the only palm with simple leaves and spines.
Spiny spathe and bright red fruits.
Bactris hondurensis with rings of spines on stem.
2m tall Bactris hondurensis.
Bactris hondurensis showing spines along the midvein and white hairs on the underside of the leaf.
The broad simple leaf blades of Bactris hondurensis are fuzzy underneath.
Bactris hondurensis growing in the understory. Note the shape of the simple leaf and the abundance of spines.
Bactris hondurensis fruits.


Bactris longiseta

Small clonal palm to 6 m tall, spiny stems, pinnate leaves with leaflets in a single plane, spines along margins of leaflets, tips of leaflets form elongated point. Endemic to Costa Rica and on IUCN Red List due to habitat loss.

Bactris longiseta is a small clonal palm.
Leaflets are in a single plane, may bear thin spines along margins, and have elongated tips.
Rings of stems along trunk of Bactris longiseta.


Calyptrogyne gheisbreghtiana

Understory, no stem, simple paper thin leaves that split unevenly (may resemble a pinnate leaf), inflorescence a single spike with a distinctive ring left by the spathe, bat pollinated flowers have a garlic odor, often in swamps.

The inflorescence of Calyptrogyne consists of a tall unbranched spike with a distinct ring-shaped scar left behind by the spathe. The inflorescence on the left is bearing flowers while the one on the right is maturing fruits.
The inflorescence of Calyptrogyne consists of a tall unbranched spike with a distinct ring-shaped scar left behind by the spathe. The inflorescence on the left is bearing flowers while the one on the right is maturing fruits.
Unevenly split leaves with leaflets asymmetrical at the base typify Calyptrogyne gheisbreghtiana.
Inflorescence of Calyptrogyne in bloom.

Chamaedorea spp.

Understory to medium size, characterized by pinnate leaves (most species) in which leaflets are sigmoid (with an S-curve), branching inflorescence has orange stalks and fruits that are red or more commonly black at maturity. The 4 species found at La Selva are distinguished by leaflet shape, numbers of leaflets, and spacing of leaflets. May be confused with Synechanthus which also has sigmoid leaves, however Synechanthus is clonal and has clusters of stems. All Chamaedorea are solitary.


C. deckeriana - Differs from the other 3 species by having simple bifid leaves (which may split with age, but maintain the bifid tip). Solitary with slender stems to 2 m, fruits orange.

C. lucidifrons - Pinnate leaf with roughly 8 sets of sigmoid leaflets. Fruits black.

C. pinnatifrons - Understory to 4 m, pinnate with up to 30 sets of sigmoid leaflets, very narrow point of attachment of leaflet to rachis, fruits black, most common Chamaedorea species in Costa Rica.

Chamaedorea tepijilote - Easy to identify thanks to a yellow stripe along the petiole. Understory to 5 m tall, pinnate with roughly 20 sets of sigmoid leaflets, fruit black.


Chamaedorea lucidifrons has roughly 8 sets of sigmoid leaflets. (The reddish leaf in the background is a different species of palm.)
Chamaedorea tepejilote leaf showing distinctive yellow stripe on underside of the leaf.
Chamaedorea lucidifrons inflorescence.
Chamaedorea lucidifrons leaf with sigmoid leaflets.
Chamaedorea tepejilote exhibiting the sigmoid leaflets that are characteristic of the genus.
Orange branched inflorescence of Chamaedorea tepejilote.
Chamaedorea tepejilote is a solitary palm that grows to 5 m, often has basal prop roots, has large pinnate leaves with 10-20 leaflets per side, and has a prominent yellow stripe on the underside of the petioles. Photo by O. Vargas courtesy of La Flora Digital de la Selva.
Male inflorescence of Chamaedorea tepijilote.
Chamaedorea pinnatifrons is a solitary palm that grows to 4 m tall, has pinnate leaves with leaflets that are sigmoid and few in number. Photo by O. Vargas courtesy of La Flora Digital de la Selva.

Cryosophila warscewiczii

Subcanopy, solitary, only palm at La Selva with palmate (fan-shaped) leaves, undersides of leaves white, spiny stems, large branched spines.

Cryosophila is a subcanopy palm (to 10 m) characterized by a trunk that is covered with branched spines and leaves that are palmate with white undersides. Photo by R. Aguilar courtesy of La Flora Digital de la Selva.
The trunk of Cryosophila is densely armored with spines. Photo by R. Aguilar courtesy of La Flora Digital de la Selva.
Cryosophila showing silvery undersides of palmate leaves.
Cryosophila is the only palm at La Selva with palmate or fan-shaped leaves.
Branched spines of Crysosophila. Note how some spines are oriented upward and how spines trap leaf litter at base of plant.
Inflorescence of Cryosophila.


Desmoncus schippii

Desmoncus schippii starts out as a free-standing sapling, but becomes more vinelike with age.
Desmoncus stems are armed with an abundance of sharp spines.
A distinguishing feature of Desmoncus is how the leaflets at the end of the leaf form stiff recurved spines that act like grappling hooks as the palm climbs over other plants.
Desmoncus leaf showing the change in leaflet shape.


Euterpe macrospadix

Tall skinny subcanopy palm, large pinnate leaves.

Euterpe macrospadix (formerly E. precatoria) is a tall (25 m) subcanopy palm with skinny stems, large pinnate leaves (4 m), and orange stilt roots at the base of the trunk. Photo by O. Vargas courtesy of La Flora Digital de la Selva.
Small tree with pinnate leaves, skinny stem, and prop roots.
Large pinnate leaves with many leaflets.
Finger-sized prop-roots of Euterpe.

Geonoma congesta

Understory, obviously clonal with clusters of 10-20 green stems with conspicuous petiole scars (rings), pinnate leaves, stubby branching inflorescence with 3-5 “fingers”.

Branching inflorescence of Geonoma congesta. Note that the flower spike is orange and that fruits become black as they ripen.
The stems of Geonoma congesta are green with distinct scars left behind by old leaves.
The leaves of Geonoma congesta are always split at the tip and then split into irregular leaflets of varying width over time.
A Geonoma congesta clone typically consists of 10-20 closely spaced stems.
Geonoma congesta in flower.
Geonoma congesta leaves often split into three pairs of leaflets with distinct spacing beteween the leaflets.
Comparison of two clonal palms. The straight stout spiny trunks in the foreground belong to Bactris coloradonis while the dense cluster of leaning stems belong to Geonoma congesta.


Geonoma cuneata

Understory, simple bifid leaf, strongly plated, new leaves light green, inflorescence a single spike originating from side of stem.

Geonoma cuneata is an understory palm with simple bifid leaves that are wedge-shaped at the base.
The inflorescence of Geonoma cuneata is a single spike (to 1 m) that originates from the side of the stem.
Geonoma cuneata inflorescence and pollinator.
Geonoma cuneata in flower.
The fruits of Geonoma cuneata turn yellow-orange and are borne on a purple stalk. Photo by N. Zamora courtesy of La Flora Digital de la Selva.
Geonoma cuneata with unbranched inflorescence. Note that the simple leaves of this palm may split with age and appear to be pinnate!


Geonoma longevaginata

Clonal to 6 m tall with hard woody stems, pinnate leaves with sigmoid leaflets, common at La Selva, but otherwise rare.

Clonal stems and pinnate leaves of Geonoma longevaginata.
Geonoma longevaginata leaf with sigmoid leaflets. (Note how the stem has fallen over and reoriented itself.)
Geonoma longevaginata leaf with sigmoid leaflets.


Iriartea deltoidea

Subcanopy to canopy, dense cone of black stilt roots make this species easy to identify, pinnate leaves have leaflets with ragged edges, bud resembles a downcurved bull’s horn, large multiply branched inflorescence.

The stilt roots of Iriartea deltoidea are typically 1-2 m long, black in color, not spiny, and form a very dense root cone.
Iriartea in bud, flower, and fruit. The downward curved “bulls horn” bud is diagnostic of the species.
Iriartea is a subcanopy species that can reach 30 m in height.
Leaf of Iriartea showing leaflets with ragged edges and a terminal leaflet that does not split.

Prestoea decurrens

Medium to subcanopy, clonal (but sometimes with a single stem), green stems, pinnate leaves, leaflets terminate in a sharp point, pocket at leaf tip can be felt by fingertips, large spicate inflorescence usually off-white, may have small pink prop roots.

A mature leaf of Prestoea decurrens featuring many leaflets (>20 on each side) with sharply pointed tips.
The inflorescence of Prestoea is erect and bushy and initially white in color. Note the green trunk.
Fallen flowers of Prestoea decurrens.
Pink prop roots occur at the base of the trunk of Prestoea. Photo by R. Aguilar courtesy of La Flora Digital de la Selva.
Prestoea clones often include a mix of large and small stems. Sometimes Prestoea will have only a single stem that could be confused with a solitary species.
Presotea fruits ripen black.

Reinhardtia gracilis

Understory, unusual divided leaves (4 sections) that resemble Christmas bows, clusters of many leaves, small “windows” on leaves are unique to this species, branching inflorescence, Reinhardtia simplex has irregularly divided leaeves with toothy margins and lacks “windows.”

A palm with unusually divided leaves resembling a Christmas bow belongs in the genus Reinhardtia. The tiny “windows” at the base of the leaflets identify this species as Reinhardtia gracilis.
The tiny “windows” at the base of the leaflets identify this species as Reinhardtia gracilis.
Inflorescence and fruit of Reinhardtia gracilis.


Socratea exorrhiza

Subcanopy, long stilt roots form open root cone (you can see through it, unlike in Iriartea), stubby spines on stilt roots, large pinnate leaves, leaflets have ragged edges, upright bud, large branching inflorescence, one of the easiest species to identify.

Socratea is a subcanopy tree that can reach up to 30 m in height. Note the prominent crownshaft just below the leaves.
The stilt roots of Socratea exorrhiza are typically 1-3 m long, spiny, and form an open root cone that you can see through.
Spines on the stilt roots of a sapling Socratea.
Pinnate leaf of Socratea showing leaflets with ragged edges and a split in the terminal leaflet.
Leaflet showing the ragged edges that are typical for Socratea.

Synechanthus warscewiczianus

Understory, clonal (but may have only a single stem), stems green, pinnate leaves with leaflets of varyng widths (some wide and some very narrow), distinctive drooping bottlebrush (spicate) inflorescence with orange-red fruits that resemble kumquats, may have small prop roots.

Synechanthus warscewiczianus is a clonal palm consisting of clusters of stems.
Leaf of Synechanthus warscewiczianus showing irregular leaflets of varying width.
Bottlebrush inflorescence with orange-red fruits that resemble jellybeans distinguish Synechanthus warscewiczianus.
Dissected fruit of Synecanthus showing grooved seeds resembling miniature brains. Photo by D. Solano courtesy of La Flora Digital de la Selva.
Bottlebrush inflorescences (spicate) are initially oriented upward, but droop under the weight of the fruit as they mature. Note the unusual “pairing” of leaflets near the leaf tip.
Synechanthus fruits look like orange jellybeans suspended on a drooping bottlebrush.

Welfia regia

Subcanopy, large stems orangy with distinctive rings, very large pinnate leaves, huge hanging antler-like inflorescence (persist on ground below tree), 2nd most common tree at La Selva. Young plants lack stems, consist of a cluster of huge upright leaves, youngest leaves are deep reddish brown.

Welfia regia is a large subcanopy palm (to 25 m tall) with very large pinnate leaves (to 6 m long) and prominent leaf scars ringing the trunk.
Inflorescence stalk and mature fruits of Welfia regia. Flowers and fruits are partially embeded in the stalk. Photo by O. Vargas courtesy of La Flora Digital de la Selva.
Juvenile Welfia produce huge leaves, but no stem. Young leaves are red in color and provide a useful way to identify Welfia
Welfia trunks have an orange tint and are ringed by large leaf scars


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