Leopoldinia pulchra Mart., Hist. Nat. Palm. 2: 59 (1824)

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Map uses TDWG level 3 distributions (http://www.nhm.ac.uk/hosted_sites/tdwg/geogrphy.html)
Brazil Northpresent (World Checklist of Arecaceae)B
Colombiapresent (World Checklist of Arecaceae)B
Venezuelapresent (World Checklist of Arecaceae)B
From 6°48'N-7°58'S and 54°04'-68°03'W in the central Amazon region of Brazil (Amazonas, Pará), Colombia (Guainía, Vichada), and Venezuela (Amazonas, Apure) at (35-)112(-200) m elevation along the margins of black water rivers, the bases of the stems often underwater at highest water. (Henderson, A.J., A revision of Leopoldinia (Arecaceae) in Phytotaxa 32. 2011)A


  • Taxonomic notes: - Leopoldinia pulchra differs from L. major in its solid, woody leaf sheath apices, narrow pinnae bases with abaxial, distal and proximal swellings adjacent to rachis, monomorphic inflorescences, and fruits with raised, reticulate ridges from mesocarp fibers, giving a wrinkled appearance.

    Subspecific variation: - There remain three problems in Leopoldinia pulchra; variation in stem branching, pinnae aspect, and fruit size. For stem branching, here treated as a trait, stems are described as solitary or clustered, based on specimen labels. However, Bernal & Galeano (2010) described L. pulchra as always having clustered stems, and those plants that appeared to have solitary stems (and were so recorded on specimen labels) were in fact joined to others by rhizomes.
    For pinnae aspect, here treated as a character, pinnae are described as spreading horizontally, based on specimen labels. In southern Venezuela, Wessels Boer (1988) described pinnae of Leopoldinia pulchra as horizontally spreading; Kubitzki (1991) as pendulous; and Guánchez (1997) as subhorizontal. In adjacent Colombia, Bernal & Galeano (2010) described pinnae as "horizontally spreading or occasionally somewhat pendulous". It seems the problem is a semantic one. Based on illustrations in Bernal & Galeano (2010) and Guánchez & Romero (1995), and images supplied by Gustavo Romero (pers. comm.), the leaves of Colombian and Venezuelan plants appear slightly more pendulous than those of Brazilian plants, possibly leading to the description of the pinnae as pendulous or somewhat pendulous. However, in Colombia, Venezuela, and Brazil the pinnae of L. pulchra, in distinct contrast to those of L. major, spread horizontally relative to the rachis.
    For fruit size, some but not all specimens from Venezuela and Colombia have unusually large fruits, similar in size and shape to those of L. major, with which they have frequently been confused. Bernal & Galeano (2010) explained this by including L. major a synonym of L. pulchra and positing great variation in fruit size within this broadly conceived species. This hypothesis is here rejected; the six characters used in this study clearly and unequivocally distinguish two species. Nevertheless, there remains the problem of the large-fruited specimens of L. pulchra from Venezuela and Colombia.
    Another possible explanation of fruit size variation is that there is hybridization between Leopoldinia pulchra and L. major, and thus intermediate specimens could be present. This hypothesis is also rejected. Although it is difficult to recognize hybrids from herbarium specimens, they have been identified based on two criteria (Henderson in press). First, that specimens exhibit intermediate morphology and second that they occur sympatrically with both putative parent species. The large-fruited specimens do not exhibit intermediate morphology, and most of them are from areas where only one species, L. pulchra, is present.
    The large-fruited specimens of Leopoldinia pulchra, confined to southern Venezuela and adjacent Colombia, may be an example of a common phenomenon in palms whereby local populations of a more widespread taxon have much larger fruits. Examples are found in Geonoma maxima subsp. chelidonura(Henderson 2011) and Desmoncus polyacanthos (Henderson in press).
    Nevertheless, there is some evidence that specimens from southern Venezuela and adjacent Colombia differ somewhat from those from Brazil (apart from pinnae aspect, discussed above). For quantitative variables, Venezuelan/Colombian specimens differ significantly from those from Brazil in six variables (rachis length, rachis width, number of pinnae, basal pinnae angle, fruit length, fruit diameter) (t-test, P<0.05). However, it is not clear if this is clinal variation from south to north or the result of two different populations. The distribution of the species appears continuous and there is no evidence of two separate geographic populations. In conclusion, it can be stated that there are several potential differences between Venezuelan/Colombian and Brazilian specimens of L. pulchra but many more specimens and other sources of data are needed to resolve this problem. (Henderson, A.J., A revision of Leopoldinia (Arecaceae) in Phytotaxa 32. 2011)A


  • Plants (2.0-)4.0(-7.0) m tall; stems (2.0-)3.8(-7.0) m tall, (4.0-)7.2(-10.0) cm diameter, solitary or clustered.
    Leaves (5-)13(-25) per stem; sheaths (20.0-)27.0(-37.0) cm long, fibers from apices short, joined into a solid, woody tip; petioles (31.0-)46.2(-63.0) cm long; rachises (48.5-)85.1(-150.0) cm long, (4.9-)7.8(-12.6) mm diameter; pinnae (14-)22(-40) per side of rachis, spreading horizontally, the bases narrowed with abaxial, distal and proximal swellings adjacent to rachis, midveins prominent and raised in cross-section adaxially; basal pinna (23.5-)35.6(-67.0) cm long, (0.1-)0.5(-1.5) cm wide, forming an angle of (66-)102(-130)° with the rachis; apical pinna (9.6-)17.3(-28.5) cm long, (0.2-)1.2(-4.0) cm wide, forming an angle of (1-)8(-24)° with the rachis. Inflorescences monomorphic; prophylls (21.0-)32.0(-40.0) cm long; peduncular bracts (15.0-)25.0(-35.0) cm long, inserted (3.5-)6.1(-8.8) cm above the prophyll; peduncles (21.0-)28.5(-35.0) cm long, (7.6-)13.9(-18.5) mm diameter; staminate rachillae (0.9-)1.7(-2.7) cm long; pistillate rachillae (2.5-)4.6(-8.0) cm long; fruits (20.4-)28.4(-40.6) mm long, (18.1-)26.4(-36.2) mm diameter, flattened, globose to obovoid in side view, the surfaces with raised, reticulate ridges from mesocarp fibers, giving a wrinkled appearance. (Henderson, A.J., A revision of Leopoldinia (Arecaceae) in Phytotaxa 32. 2011)A