Phytelephas seemannii O.F.Cook, Bull. Bur. Pl. Industr. U.S.D.A. 242: 68 (1912)

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


Biology And Ecology

  • Cook (1913) described five new species of Phytelephas from Panama and gave a list of valuable distinguishing characters. The characters mentioned were all related to the fruit. Most of them show a large within-population variation and vary even within a single palm. The flat inner mesocarp fibres are characteristic for P. seemannii, as is the large-sized umbo, but the shape of this structure is highly variable. Phytelephas seemannii has 36 stamens per flower according to the original description. That is the same number as shown on Gaudichaud's plate of Phytelephas ruizii (Gaudichaud 1866, pl. 14 [Fig. 3]). This plate may have been available to Seemann several years before it was published (see Johnston 1944) and he may partly have relied on it in his decription of Phytelephas seemannii. I have never observed any species of Phytelephas with less than 150 stamens per flower. Reproduction is often hampered by the masses of dead leaves trapped in the crowns in forest communities with many deciduous species. The pistillate inflorescences abort because they have never been exposed properly and pollinated. (Barfod, A., A monographic study of the subfamily Phytelephantoideae (Arecaceae) in Opera Botanica 105. 1991)B



  • Solitary rosette palm, with prostrate subterranean part of stem and aerial part wanting, or mid-sized palm tree with decumbent, or erect stem up to 4 m tall. Leaves 10-15, semierect to erect, evenly bending from base to apex; leaf sheath split to the base; leaf 60-100 cm long from point of insertion to blade; petiole 4—5 cm wide distally, deeply rounded abaxially, with shallow, sharply edged groove adaxially, or semiterete in cross-section, green on the adaxial face often with a drab-colored waxy covering tapering into a point below the rachis; rachis 350-550 cm long, green, with median ridge adaxially raising gradually from the distal end of the petiole, often with brown tomentum along the median adaxial ridge and the lateral faces bearing the pinnae; pinnae 75-110 per side, often drying to lustrous pale green, midnerve prominent, submarginal veins indistinct, transverse commissures often conspicuous; basal pinnae alternate, 30-60 x 0.3-0.5 cm, 1-3 cm apart or remote and pendent on long petiolate individuals, middle pinnae subalternate, 55-80 x 3.4-4.5 cm, 4-7 cm apart, distal pinnae opposite, 15-25 x 0.8-1 cm, 3-4 cm apart. Staminate peduncle 60-80 cm long, glabrous, compressed, 3.5-5 x 2-2.5 cm in cross-section in the middle part; prophyll 35-65 x 7-10 cm; first peduncular bract inserted 25-35 cm above the peduncle base, 40-55 cm long, bicarinate distally, outside light brown, inside brownish-orange; incomplete peduncular bracts 3-5, oblique, deltoid or elliptic with attenuated base, plicated basally, the proximal one 4—6 cm long; rachis 50-110 cm, compressed, 2x3 cm in cross-section in the middle part; flowers sessile, closely inserted in groups of 4(-5), or fewer proximally on rachis, distal flowers solitary; receptacle covered by masses of 300-600 stamens, expanded in width and flattened, slightly raised, rounded in outline at early anthesis, later extending to ovate or fusiform, 1.5-2 x 1-1.5 cm; perianth fused basally to receptacle and elongated forming a narrow shiny zone, only tips of the perianth segments free; filament 6-12 x 0.2 mm, subulate; anther 2-6 X 0.4-0.6 mm, shortly apiculate. Pistillate peduncle 15-25 cm long, compressed, 1.5-2.5 x 2-3.5 cm in cross-section in the middle part; prophyll 25-35 x 5-7 cm, smooth, drab-colored; first peduncular bract inserted 10-17 cm above the base, 20-30 cm long; incomplete peduncular bract 5-7, spirally arranged and covering 1.5-2.5 cm of peduncle below the bracts subtending flowers, 3-8 x 1.5-2 cm, obliquely ovate to deltoid, the proximal one with short acumen, the others increasingly narrow towards the bracts subtending flowers; flower-bearing zone 1-2 cm long, with 5-8 flowers; floral subtending bracts deltoid 3-5 x 1-1.5 cm, with long acumen; sepa-loid bracts 6-7, 4—6 cm long, narrowly deltoid with long acumen to strap shaped; tepals 6-7, 15-18 cm long, 1-1.5 cm wide basally; non-functional stamens 25-35, 10-25 mm long; anther 6-9 mm long, obliquely sagitate basally, apiculum usually absent; pistil obliquely pyri-form, bulky, smooth, with 6-9 locules; style 11-13 cm long; stigmas 5-6, 5-7 cm long. Infructescences usually numerous, up to 25 on one palm, 17-25 cm in diam.; peduncle 20-30 cm long, 3-4 x 1-2 cm in cross-section in the middle part; prophyll and first peduncular bract 10-15 cm apart, partly resolved; incomplete peduncular bracts with persistent base or caducous; fruit-bearing zone 2-3 cm long, fruits 4—8, perianth early caducous; fruits 6-10 cm long, tangential face rounded in outline, 12-16 cm in diam., flat with central depression, with spiny processes of variable length from 0.5 to 2.5 cm, style residuals usually absent, abscission scar to 3.5 cm in diam.; inner mesocarp thin, with network of flattened fibres adherent to pyrene and exposed upon drying; seeds 6-9 in fully developed fruits; pyrenes rounded with blunt edges; rostrum absent or short; umbo basally on median blunt ridge, occasionally raised considerably, flattened or ridged, ovate in outline with the narrow end pointing up or upper margin emarginate. Seedling robust with three scale leaves, of which two are usually exposed above the ground; eophyll with 32-36 opposite pinnae.
    (Barfod, A., A monographic study of the subfamily Phytelephantoideae (Arecaceae) in Opera Botanica 105. 1991)B

Use Record