Prestoea ensiformis (Ruiz & Pav.) H.E.Moore, Gentes Herb. 9: 286 (1963)

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Map uses TDWG level 3 distributions (
Colombiapresent (World Checklist of Arecaceae)C
Costa Ricapresent (World Checklist of Arecaceae)C
Ecuadorpresent (World Checklist of Arecaceae)C
Panamápresent (World Checklist of Arecaceae)C
Costa Rica (Alajuela, Puntarenas), Panama (Chiriquí, Coclé, Colón, Panamá, San Blas, Veraguas), western Andean slopes of Colombia (Chocó, Nariño, Risaralda, Valle) and Ecuador (El Oro, Esmeraldas, Los Rios, Morona-Santiago, Pastaza, Zamora-Chinchipc), and eastern Andean slopes of Peru (Cusco, Húanuco); rain forest on steep slopes at 100-1300 m, occasionally reaching 1800 m. Like other Andean palms, this species crosses over from western Andean slopes in Colombia and Ecuador to eastern slopes in Peru. (Gloria Galeano & A. Henderson, Flora Neotropica Monograph 72)B


  • This is a rather variable species. Most specimens from Central America have a dense covering of scales on the abaxial surface of the leaf rachis , whereas those from South America are usually glabrous. As noted and illustrated by Henderson & de Nevers (1988), there are two inflorescence types in this species; at higher elevations the inflorescence is elongate and erect in bud, whereas at lower elevations it is shorter and curved in bud. Some populations in Panama and Colombia have simple leaves (de Nevers et al. 7738. Hammel et al. 14473, de Nevers 7212 [type of Prestoea integrifolia], and R. Bernal et al. 1525), or almost simple leaves with a few separate pinnae at the apex, rather than at the base. which is more usual in palms. (Gloria Galeano & A. Henderson, Flora Neotropica Monograph 72)B

Common Name



  • Understorey or subcanopy palm. Stem solitary, to 10 m tall, and 8-12 cm in diameter, distally with some persisting, black leaf sheaths. Leaves with petiole 50-100 cm long; blade 150-250 cm long; pinnae 40-60 on each side, the central ones 50-80 cm long and 3-5 cm wide, gradually tapering at apex into a short point. Inflorescence with peduncle 30-100 cm long; rachis 30-80 cm long; branches 20-60, 45-75 cm long, and 2-3 mm in diameter. Fruits black, globose, 7-10 mm in diameter. Seedling leaves bifid. (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
  • Stems cespitose or solitary, erect, 2.5-9 m tall, 3-13 cm diam., brown or gray, often covered with persistent leaf bases, with reddish roots visible at base.
    Leaves 5-14, erect or arching, pinnate or rarely irregularly pinnate or simple; sheath closed for ca. ½ its length, rarely forming a crownshaft, persistent on the stem, 0.3-1 m long including a short, blunt, fibrous ligule less than 1 cm long, often reddish, fibrous at the margins distally, densely to moderately covered abaxially with appressed, white or brown peltate-lacerate scales, glabrescent, leaving punctations; petiole 0.15-1.1 m long, with scales like those of sheath, or sometimes glabrous abaxially, glabrescent; rachis 0.4-2.3 m long, with scales like those of sheath, glabrescent; pinnae 36-49 per side, regularly arranged and spreading horizontally in the same plane, subopposite to alternate, linear-lanceolate, long acuminate, with a prominent midvein and several lateral veins, with midvein essentially glabrous abaxially or with a few small ramenta, with punctations abaxially; basal pinna 36-55 x 0.5-1 cm; middle pinnae 50-82 x 3-5 cm; apical pinna 22-44 x 1.3-4.5 cm, or rarely the leaves simple or almost simple, then 1-l.l m long, 30-35 cm wide, with 1-4 separate pinnae distally and with 14-15 prominent veins each side and deeply bifid apically.
    Inflorescences infrafoliar or interfoliar (usually in the axils of old pcrsistent leaf sheaths), erect or arching or horizontal, straight or curved in bud; peduncle 27-93 cm long, 1-2 cm diam., terete, densely covered with brown tomentum, glabrescent; prophyll 13-60 cm long, 4-5 cm diam., reddish, sparsely covered with whitish brown scales; peduncular bract 0.7-2.2 m long including a 2-4(-8) cm long umbo, inserted either near prophyll or halfway up the peduncle, densely covered abaxially with brown tomentum persistent; rachis 0.2-1.4 m long, white at anthesis, with similar tomentum to that of peduncle; rachillae (13-)18-60, 35-72 cm long distally, 21-45 cm long proximally, 1-2 mm diam. at anthesis, 2-3 mm diam. in fruit, swollen at base, with loose to sometimes dense clusters of brownish, rarely whitish, flexuous, flattened, deciduous hairs to 0.5 mm long, occasionally almost glabrous or with crustose hairs, glabrescent; flowers in triads proximally, paired or solitary staminate distally, superficial on the rachillae; triad bracteole short, apiculate; first flower bracteole obscure, second and third flower bracteoles ± equal, apiculate, 0.3 mm long; staminate flowers 4-7 mm long, sessile; sepals deltate, 1.5 mm long, gibbous, yellowish brown and lighter-colored than the petals when dry; petals ovate-lanceolate, 3.5-5 mm long; stamens arranged round a very short receptacle; filaments to 2 mm long, linear, flattened; anthers to 2.5 mm long; pistillode 1-1.5 mm long, deeply trifid at the apex; pistillate flowers 2-3.5 mm long; sepals very widely ovate, 2-2.5 mm long, fleshy, minutely ciliate; petals widely ovate, 2.5-3.5 mm long; staminodes minute or absent or well developed, digitate.
    Fruits globose, 0.7-1 cm diam., with lateral stigmatic remains; epicarp purpleblack, minutely tuberculate; seeds globose; endosperm deeply ruminate; eophyll bifid. (Gloria Galeano & A. Henderson, Flora Neotropica Monograph 72)B

Materials Examined

  • COSTA RICA. ALAJUELA: Reserva Biológica de San Ramón, rd. from Las Lagunas to Colonia Palmoreña, 10°04'N, 84°32'W, 850-1100 m, 30 May 1986, de Nevers et al. 7780 (NY).
    PUNTARENAS: 6 km S of San Vito de Java nr. Finca Las Cruces, 1300 m, 11 Feb 1971 , Gillis & Plowman 10158 (MO); Las Cruces, San Vito de Java, ca. 1300 m, 2 Feb 1967, Moore & Parthasarathy 9443 (BH).
    PANAMA. CHIRIQUI: Fortuna Dam area, rd. From Gualaca to Chiriquí Grande, 1150 m, 08°45'N, 82°15'W, 18 Jan 1986, de Nevers & McPherson 6849 (MO, NY).
    COLÓN: Trail from Alto Pacora to Cerro Brewster, 09°18'N, 79°16'W, 700 m, 18 Nov 1985, de Nevers et al. 6223 (MO, NY); Sta. Rita Ridge, km 21.3, 09°20'N, 79°45'W, 350 m, 13 May 1986, de Nevers et al. 7738 (NY); 17 Feb 1986, Hammel et al. 14473 (NY).
    COCLE: El Valle de Antón, La Mesa, ca. 1000 m, 2 Sep 1941, Allen 2740 (BH, MO).
    PANAMA: 3 mi N of Cerro Azul, 26 Jul 1970, Croat 11589 (K, MO); Cerro Jefe, ca. 700 m, 20 Jan 1980, Moore et al. 10522 (BH); Río Pequení, slopes of Cerro San Francisco. 150-300 m, 09°22'N, 79°31'W, 29 Nov 1985, de Nevers & Henderson 6411 (CAS, MO, NY); Cerro Jefe, 5 Jan 1972, Dwyer 9442 (MO); rd. 10 Alto Pacora from Cerro Jefe, 700 m, 28 Nov 1985, Henderson & Brako 505 (MO, NY); Gorgas Memorial Lab's yellow fever research camp, ca. 25 km NE of Cerro Azul on Rio Piedras, 550 m, 20-22 Nov 1974, Mori & Kallunki 3454 (BH, MO).
    SAN BLAS: Cerro Brewster, 09°18'N, 79°16'W, 850 m, 25 Apr 1985, de Nevers et al. 5541 (MO, NY).
    VERAGUAS: Valley of Río Dos Bocas on rd. between Alto Piedra and Calovebora, 350-400 m, 29 Aug 1974, Croat 27440 (MO).
    COLOMBIA: CHOCO: Between Carmen de Atrato and Tutunendo, 500-600 m, 25-26 Jul 1944, García-Barriga 11152 (BH).
    NARIÑO: Mpio. Barbacoas Atlaquer, 01°18'N, 78°08'W, 1325 m, 6 Dec 1993, Franco et al. 4993 (COL, NY).
    RISARALDA: Mpio. Pueblo Rico, Río Taibá, 1350 m, 12 Mar 1986, R. Bernal et al. 953 (COL, NY, TULV); Mpio. Pueblo Rico, Río Taibá, 1350 m, 13 Mar 1986, R. Bernal et al. 955 (COL); Mpio. Pueblo Rico, rd. 10 Cerro Monctezuma, 1350 m, 15 Mar 1986, R. Bernal et al. 998 (COL, NY).
    VALLE: Cordillera Occidental, Río Calima, campamento Calima III, 450-600 m, 16-19 Feb 1989, R. Bernal et al. 1525 (COL, TULV); Cordillera Occidental, Río Sanquininí, La Laguna, 1250-1400 m, 10-20 Dec 1943, Cuatreeasas 15686 (COL, F, US); Mpio. Yumbo, NE of Darién nr. Lago Calima, 04°07'N, 76°30'W, 1700-1750 m, 14 Feb 1984, Juncoso 2154 (NY).
    ECUADOR. EL ORO: NE of La Avanzada on rd. to La Piña, 500 m, 18 Nov 1987, Slov et al. 64830 (AAU).
    ESMERALDAS: Rd. from Tulcán to Chical. 5 km below Maldonado, 00°55'N, 78°06'W, 1350 m, 17 May 1986, Balslev et al. 62107 (AAU, COL, K, NY, QCA).
    LOS RIOS: Rio Palenque Biological Station, km 56 on Quevedo-Santo Domingo rd., 150-220 m, Dodson 5805 (MO, QCA); 24 May 1976, Dodson 6057 (AAU, MO, QCA); 2 Oct 1976, Dodson & Gentry 6413 (MO, QCA).
    MORONA-SANTIAGO: W of Macas, 02°18'S, 78°07'E, 1160 m, 24 Feb 1986, Baker 6598 (NY); 31 km N of Yangzatza. rd. between Gualaquiza and Zamora, 04°11'S, 78°49'W, 1000 m, 19 Oct 1980, Croat 50784 (AAU); Indanza-Gualaquiza rd., km 4, 03°05'S, 78°33'W, 850 m, 28 Sep 1987, Skov et al. 64721 (AAU, NY, QCA).
    PASTAZA: 3 km S of shell toward Madre Tierra, just W of Puyo, 01°30?S, 78°03'W, 1050 m, 15 Mar 1983, Balslev & Brako 4274 (AAU, NY); ca. 10 km S of Puyo on La Isla. just S or bridge on way to Palora, 01°32'S, 78°02'W, 1000 m, 20 Mar 1987, Balslev et al. 62418 (AAU, COL, NY, QCA).
    ZAMORA-CHINCHIPE: Trail to the N across bridge from Zamora, 1100-1400 m, 17 Aug 1982, Clemants 2373 (NY); Cumbacaza, 940 m, 25 Aug 1983, J. Jaramillo & Winnerskjold 5865 (NY).
    PERU: CUSCO: Prov. Quispicanchi, km 18 on rd. from Quincemil to Urcos, ca. 660 m, 12 Jun 1960, Moore et al. 8597 (BH).
    HUANUCO: Nr. confluence of Río Cayumba and Huallaga, 875 m, 13 Oct 1936, Mexia 8294(F, GH, K, MO); Prov. Tingo María, above Prato Saw Mill, 900- 980 m, 2S Apr 1960, Moore et al. 8337 (BH). (Gloria Galeano & A. Henderson, Flora Neotropica Monograph 72)B

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