Chamaedorea stolonifera H.Wendl. ex Hook.f., Bot. Mag. 188: t. 7265 (1892)

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Map uses TDWG level 3 distributions (
Mexico Southeast present (World Checklist of Arecaceae)A
MEXICO. Chiapas.


  • Wendland cultivated C. stolonifera at Herrenhausen at least as early as 1882 from material originating in Mexico. In 1882, Wendland sent plants to the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, England, where they flowered during the spring months. Joseph Hooker of Kew then named the species from these flowering plants. C. stolonifera seemed to have disappeared in the wild until Faustino Miranda rediscovered it in 1949 in Chiapas. The late Harold E. Moore, Jr. also collected it there in 1952. In 1989, we found several clumps of C. stolonifera growing on limestone rocks in a wet forested area ofChiapas. The clumps of one sex only were about 10 meters across and possessed stolons emerging from cracks and crevices in the limestone rocks. We returned with living staminate material and seeds to augment the few staminate plants recently produced in cultivation.
    Chamaedorea stolonifera should be considered endangered. It is known from only a few collections and the remaining populations are unprotected and precariously near to cultivated areas. Also, commercial growers have recently expressed a desire to exploit the wild populations for propagative material, a situation that would certainly lead to the demise of the species in the wild.?Today, C. stolonifera is widely cultivated and appears in gardens and collections in California, Florida, Australia, and Europe. It is somewhat similar to C. brachypoda with which it is often confused in cultivation but the rhizomatous habit, thinner texture of the leaves, and the green flowers easily distinguish the latter species. Braun (1983, p. 63) illustrated C. brachypoda but labeled it erroneously as C. stolonifera?
    Chamaedorea stolonifera is one ofthe most striking and distinctive members of the genus due to its exceedingly?stoloniferous habit resulting in the formation of relatively dense clusters of stems through and out of which creep the spreading stolons. These stolons give rise to new plants often at a considerable distance from the original plant. Normally, stolons originate at basal nodes and move across the top of the soil but they have been observed originating at nodes as high up the main stem as 15 cm, arching downward and submerging below the soil, and then reemerging 1/2-1 meter distant. They have been known to cross under narrow sidewalks of concrete and brick and other such obstructions in this manner. The plant makes an attractive potted specimen and is especially striking when stolons have climbed over the lip of the pot and are holding plantlets at their ends suspended in midair, often with aerial roots. Sometimes stolons will even emerge through the drainage holes in the bottoms of pots. C. stolonifera is a neat and clean palm. It is self-cleaning, the senescing leaf, petiole, and sheath falling as a single unit, leaving no dry, brown leaf bases on the stem.
    Chamaedorea stolonifera is readily propagated vegetatively by severing the stolons that have produced rooted plantlets at their ends and then excising and replanting or potting these plantlets. Perhaps this ease of vegetative propagation was one of the factors that contributed to the virtual disappearance of staminate plants from cultivation. Essentially, all plants in cultivation today are pistillate although it appears that several clones are present. These clones vary in the shape and size of the leaf, the serrations on the margin, and the angle at which the foliar lobes diverge. As more staminate plants become available, seed propagation will be possible.
    By the early 1970s only three staminate plants were known to exist. Two of them, one in Delaware at Longwood Gardens and one in Florida, subsequently died. The third plant was in Richard Palmer's garden in Whittier near Los Angeles. Palmer obtained his plant in the 1960s from the late David Barry, Jr. of Los Angeles. It was very old and at the base bore visible evidence of numerous stolons having been removed at one time. It had ceased to send out new stolons and had become a single-stemmed, spindly plant, perhaps nearing the end of its natural life. In the early and middle 1980s, Palmer hand-pollinated his pistillate plants and gave pollen to Lou Hooper of La Habra, California. Palmer and Hooper were successful in setting fruits. In 1989, Hooper reported that at least three of his dozen or so seedlings grown from the seeds resulting from his pollination efforts produced staminate inflorescences. These and the recent rediscovery of C. stolonifera in the wild should serve to perpetuate the staminate of the species.

Biology And Ecology

  • Wet forest on the Atlantic slope; 600-800 m elevation; usually on limestone.


  • From the Latin stolo, meaning a stolon, in reference to the stoloniferous habit.


  • Habit: stoloniferous, 1-2 m tall, forming colonies of the same sex to 10m across. Stems: separated, new stems arising at a considerable distance from old ones, erect, 5-8 mm diam., green, prominently ringed, internodes 3-6 cm long. Leaves: 5-8, spreading, bifid; sheath to 10 cm long, tubular, slightly oblique apically, longitudinally striate-nerved; petiole 5 cm long, flattened or faintly grooved and green above, rounded and pale below; rachis to 10 cm long, slightly angled and green above, rounded below with a yellowish band extending onto sheath; blade 30 x 25 cm, incised apically to 213 its length, lobes divergent, oblong-lanceolate, 25-30 x 9-10 cm, deep green, acute, outer margin toothed along upper half, teeth becoming more closely spaced apically, IO prominent primary nerves on each side of rachis, these pale and keeled above, 2 secondaries between each pair of primaries, tertiaries numerous, inconspicuous, closely spaced. Inflorescences: usually infrafoliar but sometimes interfoliar initially, solitary, erect-spreading, to 25-30 cm long; peduncles to 20 cm long, slender, erect, green in flower, orange in fruit; bracts 3-5, uppermost reaching or just extending onto rachis slightly, fibrous, lanceolate, acuminate, imbricate, green in flower, brown in fruit, longitudinally striate-nerved; rachis 1-2 cm long, green in flower, red-orange in fruit. Staminate with 2-7 rachillae, these 7-13 cm long, 1.5-2 mm diam., spreading and flexuous, more or less rounded but slightly longitudinally angled, light green, minutely white-spotted. Pistillate with 2-4 rachillae, these to 10 cm long, slightly angled longitudinally and green in flower, becoming thickened, rounded, and orange in fruit. Flowers: Staminate in ± dense spirals, 2.5-3 x 3.5-4.5 mm, strongly depressed-globose, flattened apically, brick-red to yellow- orange, slightly sunken; calyx 1 x 2.5-3 mm, obscurely lobed, pale green to white, membranous, sepals imbricate in basal 1/2-3/4, rounded to acute apically; petals 2 x 3 mm, connate in basal 3/4, free and valvate apically, strongly cup-shaped, slightly bilobed, acute, thick, ± fleshy; stamens shorter than pistillode, filaments connate in a fleshy broad 6-toothed ring, whitish tinged with orange near apex, anthers 1 mm long, on teeth of filament ring, divaricate, pistillode barely exserted beyond petals, columnar, truncate and abruptly flared apically, orange. Pistillate in ± remote spirals, 2 x 3.5-4 mm, broadly obconical, red-orange, sunken in broadly elliptic pits; calyx 0.5 x 2.53 mm, deeply lobed, pale green, membranous, sepals imbricate in basal 1/4-1/2, rounded to acute apically; petals 2.5 x 2.5, briefly imbricate basally, free and valvate apically, acute, cup-shaped, thick, fleshy; pistil 1-1.5 mm high, depressed-globose, whitish; stigma lobes sessile, recurved, clear-colored. Fruits: 7-9 mm diam., globose, black.

Materials Examined

  • MEXICO. Chiapas: Hodel 933A, 933B (BH, MEXU); Miranda 5712, 6145 (MEXU); Moore 6323 (BH). (Hodel, D. 1992. Chamaedorea Palms, The Species and Their Cultivation. The International Palm Society.)B


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