Aiphanes chiribogensis Borchs. & Balslev, Nordic J. Bot. 9: 386 (1990)

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Map uses TDWG level 3 distributions (
Ecuadorpresent (World Checklist of Arecaceae)C
Endemic to western Ecuador, where it grows in premontane to lower montane moist to wet forest at 1500-2100 m altitude. It is fairly common in primary or slightly disturbed forest in an area in the northwestern part of the province of Pichincha. It has never been found in secondary forest or open areas. The area around Molleturo in the province of Azuay, where the species was collected by Steyermark in 1943, is heavily deforested, and an attempt to refind A. chiribogensis there was unsuccessful. (Borchsenius, F. and Bernal, R. 1996. Aiphanes (Palmae). Flora Neotropica 70. pp 1-95)B


  • A variable species including several morphological forms. The typical form, growing in pre-montane and montane wet forest on the west- Andean slopes, has black spines, narrowly wedge shaped, usually grouped pinnae, and pendulous inflorescence branches with a long basal flowerless part. Plants from premontane moist forest in NW Ecuador have yellow spines and inflorescence branches with a short flowerless part. Finally, plants from lowland wet forest in NW Ecuador have almost strap shaped, regularly inserted pinnae, inflorescences with many thin branches and tiny flowers. (Borchsenius F., Borgtoft-Pedersen H. and Baslev H. 1998. Manual to the Palms of Ecuador. AAU Reports 37. Department of Systematic Botany, University of Aarhus, Denmark in collaboration with Pontificia Universidad Catalica del Ecuador)A
  • Aiphanes chiribogensis is unique in its solitary habit and pendulous rachillae, the proximal ones with a long basal flowerless part. The only other species that has developed this feature to a similar or even stronger degree is the Colombian A. duquei. The variability in inflorescence structure observed within the type population of A. chiribogensis is remarkable. Spicate inflorescences are apparently made only by small individuals, and the degree of branching is, to some extent, under environmental control. An individual observed with spicate inflorescences in 1989 had a bifurcate inflorescence in March 1991. Another individual that had inflorescences with six rachillae in 1989 had an inflorescence with 13 rachillae in 1991. However, some of the largest individuals observed at the type locality produced very large, up to 2 m long inflorescences with only three or four rachillae each more than 1 m long, whereas other large individuals produced more densely branched inflorescences with up to 30 rachillae, of which half or so were entirely staminate. Thus the branching pattern of inflorescences seems partly under genetic and partly under environmental control. (Borchsenius, F. and Bernal, R. 1996. Aiphanes (Palmae). Flora Neotropica 70. pp 1-95)B


  • Solitary. Stem 0-3 m tall, 3-6 cm diam., sometimes partly decumbent, fiercely armed with black spines, to 6 cm long. Leaves 5-9, erect and arching, lower ones curving downwards; sheath, petiole, and rachis with a brown, scaly, caducous indument; sheath 20-40 cm long, violet inside, covered with brown or black spines, to 9 cm long; petiole 12-45 cm long, green, with scattered spines, 4-8 cm long; rachis 48-100 cm long, green, unarmed or black spinulose, often with scattered, black spines, 4-5 cm long; pinnae 12- 17 per side, inserted in groups of 1-3, groups occupying 7-14 cm along the rachis, separated by 12-16 cm, pinnae almost in one plane or in different planes, cuneate, 2.5-4.5 times as long as wide, obliquely or rarely incised-praemorse at apex, coarsely dentate, with an up to 5 cm long, 5-10 mm wide finger-like projection on the distal margin, dark green adaxially, pale green abaxially, glabrous or spinulose on both sides, sometimes with short black spines along the margins; basal pinnae 8-14 x 0.5-3 cm; middle pinnae 10-24 x 4-7 cm; apical pinnae 4-6 ribbed, 6-27 x 5-16 cm. Inflorescence interfoliar, branched to 1 order with pendulous rachillae, or rarely spicate; prophyll 20-30 cm long, 1-1.5 cm wide, somewhat violet; peduncular bract 60-100 cm long, 2-3 cm wide, thin, pale rose to violet, with a sparse white indument, unarmed or with black spinules; peduncle 2-90 cm long, 3-6 mm diam. at junction with rachis, light green to pale violet, with a thin, white or light brown indument and numerous spines of very uneven length, the majority 2-5 mm long, the longest to 6.5 cm, sometimes only with short spines; rachis 10-90(-150) cm long, the terminal part forming a 10-40 cm long spike; rachillae up to 30, inserted at long intervals; basal rachilla often inserted almost at base of peduncle, 38-90(-150) cm long, without flowers on the basal (?4-)½-? of the length, in this part flattened, 2-3 mm wide, glabrous, unarmed, flower-bearing part 17-32(-50) cm long, more or less thickened, 2-6 mm diam., minutely spinulose, often strongly flexuose distally, the proximal ?-? with triads, distally with staminate dyads or near apex singles; apical rachillae 12-40(-100) cm long, without flowers for 2-20(-60) cm, the flower-bearing part staminate or with triads for up to ? of the length; flower groups more or less hidden due to strong flexing of rachillae. Staminate flowers deep purple with yellow anthers, ca. 2 mm long; sepals free, whitish, imbricate, covering 3/4 of the petals, ca. 2 x 3 mm; petals connate for ?4 of their length, valvate distally, ca. 2 x 2 mm, recurved at anthesis; filaments ca. 0.5 mm long, anthers slightly longer than broad, 0.6-0.8 x 0.6-0.7 mm; pistillode minute, sunken into the swollen, ca. 0.5 mm thick receptacle. Pistillate flowers pinkish violet with rose pistil, ca. 4 mm long; sepals free, imbricate, ca. 2 x 3-4 mm; petals connate for ½-? of their length, valvate distally, ca. 4 x 3 mm, corolla lobes rounded, recurved at anthesis; staminodial cup ca. 3 mm high, minutely toothed; pistil 3-4 mm high, glabrous. Fruit bright red, 10-12 mm diam. (conserved in alcohol); exocarp glabrous, smooth; mesocarp yellow, fibrous-fleshy, mealy; endocarp ca. 8 x 9 mm, globose to slightly acute at base, prominently pitted-grooved. (Borchsenius, F. and Bernal, R. 1996. Aiphanes (Palmae). Flora Neotropica 70. pp 1-95)B

Materials Examined

  • ECUADOR. AZUAY: Between Río Blanco and Río Norcay on rd. between Chacanceo and Molleturo, 1520 m. 4 Jun 1943 (fl), Steyermark 52832 (F) PICHINCHA: Rd. Quito-Pto. Quito, km 61, 1710 m, 15 Nov 1989 (imm fr). Borehsenius & Luteyn 91422 (AAU, QCA, QCNE); old rd. Quito-Sto. Domingo, km 59. Las Palmeras, 2000 m, 3 Dec 1989 (fr), Borchsenius 91441 (AAU, QCA); (n) 91442 (AAU); 1.5 km N of Las Palmeras, quebrada San Luis, 2040 m, 3 Dec 1989 (fl), Borchsenius 91440 (AAU, QCA. QCNE); below Chiriboga, 2000 m, 13 Aug 1980 (imm fr). Holm-Nielsen et al. 24787 (AAU). (Borchsenius, F. and Bernal, R. 1996. Aiphanes (Palmae). Flora Neotropica 70. pp 1-95)B