Chamaedorea seifrizii Burret, Notizbl. Bot. Gart. Berlin-Dahlem 14: 268 (1938)

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Map uses TDWG level 3 distributions (
Belize present (World Checklist of Arecaceae)B
Florida present (World Checklist of Arecaceae)B
Guatemala present (World Checklist of Arecaceae)B
Honduras present (World Checklist of Arecaceae)B
Mexico Southeast present (World Checklist of Arecaceae)B
MEXICO. Campeche. Quintana Roo. Tabasco. Yucatan. BELIZE. Belize. Cayo. Corozal. Orange Walk. GUATEMALA. Peten. HONDURAS. Islas de la Bahia. (Hodel, D. 1992. Chamaedorea Palms, The Species and Their Cultivation. The International Palm Society.)A


  • Burret (1938) described and named C. seifrizii from material that William Seifriz collected near the Mayan ruins at Chichen Itza in the state of Yucatan in Mexico. Mayans cultivated it around their villages and temples as ornament and possibly for religious purposes. The Mayan names xiat and chiat mean near the edge of water, in apparent allusion to the habitat. I have observed C. seifrizii in Peten, Guatemala and at several localities in Belize. In each place, it occurred in low, seasonally swampy or boggy situations. In fact, local people state that it is mainly confined to baja tierra or low land. However, these low wet areas are only damp during the rainy season. At other times of the year they can be exceedingly dry, a situation that we found in northern Belize in May, 1991. In some instances, adjacent vegetation was actually wilting although the palms did not seem to be suffering. Along with C. graminifolia, C. seifrizii is certainly one of the most drought tolerant of chamaedoreas.
    Although C. seifrizii was not named until 1938, Millspaugh (1898) and Standley (1930) encountered it at earlier dates but listed it under other names.
    As interpreted here, C. seifrizii displays a tremendous amount of foliar variation in the wild although the flowers are essentially the same in the various types and forms. Burret's C. seifrizii is typified by stiffish leaves with narrow, linear, and upright pinnae. Moore's C. erumpens has softer leaves with broader pinnae. Moore (1951) described and named C. erumpens from plants cultivated at Fairchild Tropical Garden in Miami, Florida. These plants had apparently been brought in from Belize or grown from seeds that William Schipp sent and by 1950 had become quite popular in southern florida and were used extensively as an indoor decorative as well as in the exterior landscape. Moore noted two leafforms in C. erumpens. That with the pinnae regularly arranged was selected as the type. The other, with the terminal ones united and much broader, was designated as a horticultural variety honoring Dr. David Fairchild. Both types were growing together at Fairchild Tropical Garden and Moore presumed that they had come from the same lot of seeds. Moore stated that he found no differences other than in the foliage. Since both staminate and pistillate plants bore the same type of foliage and came from wild stock, the designation ofa horticultural variety was probably more than a clonal selection; it did breed true from seeds.
    Moore (1951) continued in his discussion and stated that C. erumpens was similar in floral morphology to its close relative C. seifrizii, and that the differences were mainly in the shape and nervation of the pinnae. C. erumpens had lanceolate rather than linear pinnae that were at least twice as broad as those of C. seifrizii. Also, C. seifrizii was noted as being a scrambling palm. When considered over its entire range, the shape and size ofthe pinnae are variable characters and of dubious merit in distinguishing between these two taxa. In fact, there is less foliar variation between Burret's typical C. seifrizii and Moore's typical C. erumpens than between the latter and its horticultural variety 'Fairchild.' In Belize, I have observed leaves ofboth extreme types ofpinnae (seifrizii and erumpens) on the same plant. The scrambling nature ofcertain forms is probably not a reliable character either. Rather, it seems to be a function ofage and ofthe amount oflight; older lower light seem to lean and scramble more while those in higher light are more compact, stiff, and upright. The amount of light also affects the stiffness of the leaves. Those in higher light have stiffish, somewhat v-shaped (in cross-section), upright pinnae while those in lower light have drooping, flat, softer pinnae.
    Since Seifriz's holotype was destroyed and no isotypes have been found and C. seifrizii is common in cultivation and herbaria, it is appropriate to retypify this taxon here.
    Not abundant in the wild, C. seifrizii is found as scattered clumps in disturbed woodland or forest. In Orange Walk, Belize, we found it growing in disturbed forest or woodland on the margins of sugarcane?fields. Today, it is very widely cultivated and appears in gardens and collections in California, Hawaii, Florida, Europe, Australia, the Far East, and elsewhere. In fact, it is highly likely that more plants are in cultivation than in the wild. Often occurring naturally on limestone outcroppings in its native habitat, C. seifrizii is well adapted to culture in southern Florida where it has been cultivated for some time and extensive plantings now exist.
    Krempin (1990, p. 91) illustrated C. microspadix but erroneously captioned the photograph as C. erumpens. Krempin (p. 92, 93) also discussed and illustrated C. graminifolia but the description and photograph depict C. seifrizii. After C. elegans, C. seifrizii is the most important member ofthe genus commercially and is grown in large quantities as a potted specimen for indoor use or as an outdoor landscape subject in subtropical areas. About 18,200 kgs (40,000 Ibs) of seeds of C. seifrizii are collected for commercial purposes annually, the majority originating from Mexico although a significant amount comes from plants cultivated in Florida. Recently, commercial plantations of C. seifrizii for seed production have been established in Hawaii, Belize, Australia, and the Orient.
    The commercial industry recognizes two forms of C. seifrizii. One, the most popular, more or less corresponds to Burret's type with stiffish leaves and narrow, linear, upright pinnae, while the other falls into Moore's type with softer leaves and broader, flat pinnae. Extensive plantings of both forms have existed in southern Florida for years and have served as a source of breeding stock for commercial seed production. Much cross-breeding has occurred between the two and this, coupled with the natural variation within the species, has resulted in innumerable variants or breeding lines in the trade. In fact, most of the material produced commercially in Florida is called, for lack of a better term, "Florida Hybrid."
    With tightly clustering, somewhat stiffand upright habit and dense foliage, C. seifrizii is useful as a hedge, background, or screen in either shade or sun. It is very tolerant of low light, where it takes on a softer and more open and graceful habit, often with leaning stems. It also tolerates nearly full-sun without yellowing or browning. In this situation it becomes stiffish, less graceful, and with straight erect stems; pinnae ascend offthe rachis, making the blade v-shaped in cross-section. C. seifrizii also makes a fine potted specimen as a landscape accent. It is one of the best palms for indoor use due to its tolerance of low light and resistance to infestations of mites and is more resistant to nematodes than C. elegans. Chamaedorea seifrizii is easily propagated by seeds which germinate readily within 100 days. However, some seeds may be delayed in germination or continue to germinate somewhat irregularly in cycles for two to three years after planting. The exact reason for this phenomenon is not known. A possible explanation is that the species occurs naturally in an area of definite seasonality in rainfall and on a porous substrate that is subject to fairly extensive and, at times, lengthy drying. The delayed germination or germination in cycles or spurts over several seasons may be a mechanism to ensure establishment of a sufficient number of seedlings for adequate regeneration of the species in a relatively harsh environment punctuated by dry periods. Subjecting the seeds to bottom heat of 30-32.5C (85-90° F) may increase the speed of germination and make it more regular. (Hodel, D. 1992. Chamaedorea Palms, The Species and Their Cultivation. The International Palm Society.)A

Biology And Ecology

  • Open or dense, moist woodland or forest; to 500 m elevation; often on limestone. (Hodel, D. 1992. Chamaedorea Palms, The Species and Their Cultivation. The International Palm Society.)A


  • Honors the collector of the type, William Seifriz. (Hodel, D. 1992. Chamaedorea Palms, The Species and Their Cultivation. The International Palm Society.)A

Common Name

  • Bamboo palm, Florida Hybrid. Xate, xiat, chiat (Mayan) - Guatemala, Belize. (Hodel, D. 1992. Chamaedorea Palms, The Species and Their Cultivation. The International Palm Society.)A


    • Habit: cespitose, erect to leaning, forming fairly dense and tight clumps of 40 or more stems to 3 x 1-2 m. Stems: 1-2 cm diam., green, shining, white-spotted, ageing with a thin glaucous covering, conspicuously ringed, internodes 5-20 cm long. Leaves: 4-5, erect-spreading, pinnate; sheath to 30 cm long, obliquely open apically, tubular, gray-green, densely and very minutely white-spotted, longitudinally striate-nerved, drying brownish, persistent; petiole to 10 cm long, flat and very lightly grooved near base and green or gray-green above, rounded and pale below; rachis 3G-45 cm long, sharply angled and green above, rounded and with very faint light green band extending onto sheath; pinnae 5-18 on each side of rachis, median ones largest, these to 20-35 x 0.8-3 cm, basal ones smaller, these 14-20 x 0.5-1.8 cm, subapical ones 10-15 x 1-1.5 cm, apical pair 8-15 x 2.5-3 or to 9 cm wide, generally the more numerous the pinnae the narrower they are, lanceolate or long-lanceolate or linear, straight, only slightly falcate, short-acuminate or the upper merely acute, contracted basally, regularly arranged, opposite or alternate, horizontal or drooping or ascending off rachis, ± stiff or not, flat or very slightly v-shaped, concolorous, terminal ones 2-3 nerved or occasionally very broad and then to 9-nerved, remainder 1-nerved with conspicuous primary nerve and numerous closely spaced and fine and ± inconspicuous secondaries on each side of midrib, midrib prominent below, keeled, yellow. Inflorescences: infrafoliar, bursting through base ofold sheaths, erect, short, stiff. Staminate with peduncle 3.5-5.5 cm long, ascending and erect, yellow-green in flower; bracts 5, brown, papery, tubular, spreading apically, longitudinally striated, slightly bifid apically, lowest the shortest, upper ones largest, fourth exceeding peduncle and often concealing rudimentary 5th; rachis 2-4.5 cm long, erect, yellow-green in flower; rachillae 5-12, these 7.5-15 cm long, 2.3 mm diam., stiff, erect, mostly simple or lower ones rarely once or twice forked. Pistillate up to 7 per stem in flower and fruit at once; peduncle 3.5-8.8 cm long, stiff and erect, green in flower, orange in fruit; bracts 5, similar to those of staminate; rachis 1-3 cm long, green in flower, orange in fruit; rachillae 4-6, these to 10 cm long, 3 mm diam., stiff, erect, green in flower, becoming swollen and orange in fruit. Flowers: Staminate in fairly dense spirals, 3 x 3 mm, subglobose yellow, aromatic, ± sunken; calyx 1-1.5 x 3 mm, deeply lobed, green, sepals free nearly to base and there very briefly connate, sharply rounded to triangular apically; petals 3 x 3 mm, broadly ovate, valvate, free nearly to base and there briefly connate, spreading slightly apically but incurved, ± thickened, acute; stamens 2 mm high, tightly fixed around pistillode, filaments 11.5 mm long, connate basally, abruptly-narrowed from a broad base, pale, anthers I mm long, brownish, dorsifixed at middle; pistillode 3 mm high, broadly columnar, just slightly shorter than petals, broadly 3-lobed apically, tip visible at anthesis, light yellow. Pistillate in moderate spirals, 2-2.5 x 2.5-3 mm, depressedglobose, yellow, slightly sunken; calyx 1-2 x 3-3.5 mm, lobed, green with clear membranous margins, sepals imbricate in basal 1/2-2/3, broadly rounded apically; petals 2.5 x 2.5-3 mm, ovate, imbricate nearly to apex, cup-shaped, erect and ± acute apically, ± thick, drying brown; staminodes 6, minute and scalelike, bilobed; pistil 2 x 2-2.5 mm, subglobose, green, stigma lobes sessile, erect or slightly recurved, blunt. Fruits: 8 mm diam., globose, black, epicarp thin, finely reticulate, mesocarp thin, yellow, pulpy with few slender fibers adherent to thin endocarp; seeds 6 mm diam., globose. (Hodel, D. 1992. Chamaedorea Palms, The Species and Their Cultivation. The International Palm Society.)A

    Materials Examined

    • BELIZE. Belize: O'Neill 8334 (WIS). Corozal: Davidse 32751, 32605 (CAS); Gentle 824 (MICH, WIS). OrailgeWalk: Hodel lI31A, lI31B(BH). GUATEMALA. Peten: Bartlett 12446 (MICH); Hodel 847, 850 (BH). HONDURAS. Islas de la Bahia: Jordahn s.n. (F); Molina 20715 (F). MEXICO. Campeche: Cabrera 6990 (MEXU); Reznicek 222 (MICH); Shepherd 111, 209 (WIS). Qintana Roo: Cabrera 1165 (MEXU); Tellez 145, 3142 (MEXU), 3557 (CAS). Tabasco: Matuda 3153 (F, GH, MEXU, MICH). Yucatan: Gaumer 420 (F), 23215,24083 (F, GH); Lundell 7318,7529 (MICH); Ortega 349 (RSA, UCR). CULTIVATED. Belize: Cayo, Hodel. 1133A, 1133B (BH), ex Cayo, Belize. (Hodel, D. 1992. Chamaedorea Palms, The Species and Their Cultivation. The International Palm Society.)A


      A. Hodel, D. 1992. Chamaedorea Palms, The Species and Their Cultivation. The International Palm Society.
      B. World Checklist of Arecaceae