Aiphanes simplex Burret, Notizbl. Bot. Gart. Berlin-Dahlem 11: 567 (1932)

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Map uses TDWG level 3 distributions (
Colombiapresent (World Checklist of Arecaceae)B
Grows throughout the Río Cauca basin in Colombia extending into the upper Río Patia basin. It passes the Cordillera Occidental only in two places: in the north near Frontino (Río Verde, type locality) and near Cali where the passes are relatively low. (Borchsenius, F. and Bernal, R. 1996. Aiphanes (Palmae). Flora Neotropica 70. pp 1-95)A



  • This species, endemic to Colombia, was known only from the Río Cauca basin, and from some isolated populations on the western slopes of the Western Cordillera in Antioquia and Valle, where the mountain chain has elevations lower than 2000 m (Borchsenius & Bernal 1996). Recent exploration of the Eastern Cordillera has revealed its occurrence at two localities, in Caquetá and Santander, separated from each other ca. 550 km. Comparison of specimens from both localities with specimens of A. simplex from the basin of río Cauca leaves no doubt as to their identity. There are, however, some differences that are worth being discussed.
    First, in the specimens from the Eastern Cordillera, the bracts subtending the flower triads are short, with smooth margins, and they do not cover the pistillate buds. Most specimens from the río Cauca basin have large bracts, with spinulose margins, that cover the pistillate bud almost completely. But even within the specimens of A. simplex treated by Borchsenius & Bernal (1996) there is variation in this character. One of the specimens with branched inflorescence collected on the western slopes of the Western Cordillera (Idrobo & Fernández 198, COL) also has poorly developed bracts, reminiscent of those found in some specimens of A. erinacea (Karst.) H. Wendl.

    Second, in the specimens from Santander the staminate flowers of each triad are arranged perpendicular to the axis, so that flowers appear triangular and compressed from above. In all other specimens, both from the río Cauca basin and from the population in Caquetá the staminate flowers in each triad are appressed to the rachilla axis and they are elongate. The significance of this variation in respect to pollinators cannot be ruled out. Otherwise, floral morphology is similar in plants from the three localities, except for a greater density of spinules on the inflorescence axes of plants from Caquetá.

    Third, plants from Santander have a solitary and thicker stem, whereas stems in the palms from Caquetá are cespitose and thin, like in plants from the río Cauca Basin. The yellowish spines on the leaf sheath and the petiole, which are so characteristic of A. simplex in the río Cauca basin do not occur on the plants from Santander, and they are only occasionally present on individuals from Caquetá.

    Finally, the number of pinnae of plants from Caquetá (15-22 per side) is larger than the range so far known for A. simplex (9-16).

    Aiphanes simplex was considered by Borchsenius & Bernal (1996) as closely related to A. erinacea, and these authors suggested that specimens of A. simplex with a branched inflorescence might represent a transition between both species. As A. erinacea grows also on the western slopes of the Andes in Ecuador, the finding of A. simplex farther north on the same slope is an additional evidence of the continuous distribution of both species, suggesting that A. simplex might be only a reduced form of A. erinacea on the northern portion of its range. Collections from the Amazonian slopes of the Andes near the border between Colombia and Ecuador would help to understand the pattern of variation in this complex. (Galeano and Bernal. 2002. New species and records of Colombian palms. Caldasia 24(2) 277-292)C


  • Caespitose, with up to 20 stems, these 2-4 m tall, 1-2 cm diam., with scattered black spines, to 4 cm long, Leaves 4-9, erect and arching; sheath 11-29 cm long, covered with yellow spines, to 4 cm long; petiole 7-26 cm, with a thin, brown, scaly indument, unarmed or with yellow spines, to 6 cm long; rachis 26-67 cm long, with an indument like that on petiole, unarmed or with scattered, yellow spines and spinules; pinnae 9-16 per side, inserted in groups of (1-)2-4 separated by up to 12 cm, in different planes, cuneate to broadly cuneate, 1.2-4.5 times as long as wide, truncate or briefly incised praemorse at apex, with an up to 7 cm finger-like projection on the distal margin, glabrous on both sides or with few, minute spinules abaxially, margins lined with small spinules; basal pinnae 5.5-13 x 0,7-4 cm; middle pinnae 8.5-27 x 3-9 cm; apical pinnae 2-4 ribbed, 8.5-19.5 x 3.5- 11 cm. Inflorescence spicate or rarely branched
    to 1 order, with up to 12 rachillae; prophyll 9-34 x 1 cm; peduncular bract up to 95 cm long, ca, 1 cm wide, thin, with a white or brown indument, unarmed or with few yellow spines; peduncle 21-77 cm long; 2-3 mm diam. at apex, with a brown-violet indument, unarmed or sparsely armed with yellow, to 15 mm long spines; spike 10-32 cm long, 3-4 mm diam. covered with short, yellow to violet spinules; branched inflorescences with a 1.5-15 cm long rachis, bearing 4-12 rachillae, 7-28 cm long, 1-1.5 mm diam. with spinules like the spike; rachillae or spike with triads for ½-? of the length, distally staminate; triads sunken into pits in the rachillae, each subtended by a bract covering the pistillate flower before anthesis. Staminate flowers brownish purple outside, becoming nearly white at anthesis, white inside, with yellow anthers, 2-2,7 mm long; sepals narrowly triangular to ovate, carinate, 1-1.5 x 1.5-2 mm; petals ovate, acuminate, 2.1-2.5 x 1.2-2 mm; filaments 0,6-1 mm long, anthers oval, 0.4-0.7 x 0.3-0.8 mm; pistillode trifid, distinct, ca. 0.5 mm high. Pistillate flowers 4-5 mm long; sepals broadly ovate, 2-2.5 x 3-4 mm, ½ as long as petals, enclosed in the pit; petals 4-5 x ca. 3 mm, connate for ½ their length, valvate distally, lobes recurved at anthesis; staminodial cup 3-4 mm high, truncate, with 6 minute teeth; pistil ca. 4 x 2.5 mm, glabrous. Fruits bright red, globose, strongly rostrate, 8-10 mm diam.; endocarp ca. 8 mm diam, pitted-grooved. (Borchsenius, F. and Bernal, R. 1996. Aiphanes (Palmae). Flora Neotropica 70. pp 1-95)A

Materials Examined

  • COLOMBIA. ANTIOQUIA: Mun. de Medellín, 5 km E of the city, quebrada Santa Helena, 1800 m, 30 Oct 1980 (imm fr), Galeano el al. 262 (COL, K), 266 (COL); rd. to Santa Helena, km 8-12, 1600 m, 26 Mar 1987 (fern fl), Callejas & Escobar 3280 (HUA, NY); Fredonia, 20 Dec 1920 (fl), Toro 852 (MEDEL, NY); Palmitas, quebrada Miserengo, 1900-2000 m, 18 Mar 1979 (fl, imm fr), Galeano et al. 14 (COL, HUA). CAUCA: EI Tambo, basin of Río Patía, Alto Los Angeles, 1100-1700 m, 20 Aug 1949 (fl), Idrobo & Fernandez 198 (COL); Palacé, Oct 1945 (st), Yepes 1070 (COL); Popayan, 1700-1800 m, Nov 1889 (fem fl , fr), Lehmann B.T. 383 (GH, K, NY). QUINDIO: Bremen, 15 km N of Armenia, 1950 m, 29 Jan 1989 (fem fl), Gentry et al. 65315 (HUQ, MO); Circasia, finca El Bosque, quebrada EI Bosque, 1185 m, 21 Dec 1989 (fr), Vélez et al. 817 (HUQ); Vereda Barcelona Alta, finca Buenos Aires, 1605 m. 7 Apr 1991 (imm fr), Agudelo el al. 1126 (COL, HUQ n.v.); Córdoba, Vercda EI Jardín Alto, 1860 m, 31 Mar 1987 (fl), Arbeáez et al. 2424 (HUQ); Quimbaya, vereda La Carmelita, 1430 m, 30 Jul 1987 (fl), Arbeláez 2216 (HUQ). RISARALDA: Pereira, La Suiza, trail to Callejones, 1950 m, 3 Jun 1989 (fl), Franco et al. 2672 (COL). VALLE: Alto Mercedes, 2000 m (fl), Dryander 1288 (B); Argelia, vereda Las Brisas, 2140 m, 21 Jan 1983 (fem fl), Franco et al. 1681 (COL); Bitaco, I Apr 1959 (fl, fr), De Leon 126 (BH); Cali, basin of Río Pichindé, Peñas Blancas, 1700-1900 m, Jul 1938 (fem fl, imm fr), Duque-Jaramillo 1320 (COL); 15 Jan 1947 (imm fr), Duque-Jaramillo 4531
    (COL); 8 May 1977 (fl, fr), Benalcázar & Silva 11 (COL); 1 Oct 1977 (fr), Benalcázar & Silva 101 (COL); ibid., 3 km N of EI 18 on rd. to Pavas, 1870 m, 19 Mar 1988 (fl, fr), Bernal 1442 (COL, TULV); EI Cairo, rd. La Carbonera-Perla Roja, km 3.5, 1950 m, 16 Mar 1991 ( fl, fr), Bernal & Borchsenius 1964 (AAU, BH, COL, NY, TULV); EI Silencio, Yanaconas, 1900-2200 m, 28 Feb 1939 (fem fl), Killip & García 33804 (COL); Mun. de Yumbo, finca La Samaria, NE of Darien, near Jago Calima, 1700 m, 14 Feb 1984 (ab fr), Juncosa 2172 (MO, NY); Santa Helena, above Topacio, edge of Los Farallones de Cali National Park, 1970 m, 11 Dec 1985, Gentry et al. 53102 (NY); Tuluá, km 6 from La Morelia toward Monteloro, 1600 m, 16 Mar 1988 (fl), Bernal et al. 1435 (COL, CUVC, FTG, TULV); Baga de la Tulia, 1850 m, 30 Oct 1944 (fr), Cuatrecasas 18377 (BH, COL, F); rd. Cali- Buenaventura, km 22, 1800 m, 13 Oct 1983, Escobar 2673 (HUA); rd. Río Frio-Salonika km 8, quebrada EI Almendronal, 21 Nov 1974 (st), Moore el al. 10197 (BH, COL); upper Río Calima, between EI Pital and quebrada La Cristalina, 830 m, 22 Feb 1989 (fl), Bernal et 1538 (COL, TULV). (Borchsenius, F. and Bernal, R. 1996. Aiphanes (Palmae). Flora Neotropica 70. pp 1-95)A