Chamaedorea deckeriana (Klotzsch) Hemsl., Biol. Cent.-Amer., Bot. 3: 404 (1885)

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Map uses TDWG level 3 distributions (
Costa Rica present (World Checklist of Arecaceae)B
Nicaragua present (World Checklist of Arecaceae)B
Panamá present (World Checklist of Arecaceae)B
COSTA RICA. Alajuela. Cartago. Guanacaste. Heredia. Limon. Puntarenas. PANAMA. Bocas del Toro. Colon. San Bias. (Hodel, D. 1992. Chamaedorea Palms, The Species and Their Cultivation. The International Palm Society.)A


  • C. deckeriana is a spectacular plant with its large, bifid leaves and spicate infructescences heavily laden with densely packed, bright red-orange fruits. Warscewicz reportedly found it in Guatemala and sent seeds to Europe in 1849. Klotzsch described and named it from cultivated plants grown from these seeds. It is doubtful if its origin is Guatemala, though, since it has never been recollected tl;1ere (Standley and Steyermark 1958) and has apparently never been recorded north of Costa Rica. In the 19th century, the term Guatemala was rather loosely applied to the area from that present-day state south to Costa Rica. Wendland found it in the valley of the Rio Sarapiqui in Costa Rica (Dammer 1904b) where it still occurs today. Although I reported in an earlier paper (Hodel 1990d) that a type had not been located for C. deckeriana, I have since examined good type material at Goettingen, Copenhagen, and Leiden.
    We have successfully established plants of C. deckeriana in the greenhouse in Los Angeles. These were grown from seeds collected along the Rio Sucio on the Atlantic slope ofCosta Rica. Fortunately, we have plants of both sexes and have sucessfully handpollinated them and set fruits. At anthesis, flowers ofboth sexes emit a fragrance best described as spicyanise. Filling the entire greenhouse with its distinctive odor, it conjures up images of a deep, dark, primeval rain forest, just the sort of habitat in which one finds C. deckeriana.
    See the accounts of C. allenii and C. zamorae for species which are similar to C. deckeriana and at times may be difficult to distinguish. Uncommon in cultivation, C. deckeriana occurs in a few collections in California, Florida, Hawaii, and Australia. It is also cultivated in a few gardens in Costa Rica. (Hodel, D. 1992. Chamaedorea Palms, The Species and Their Cultivation. The International Palm Society.)A

Biology And Ecology

  • Wet forest on the Atlantic slope; to 900 m elevation. (Hodel, D. 1992. Chamaedorea Palms, The Species and Their Cultivation. The International Palm Society.)A


  • Honors 19th-century German botanist G. H. Decker, from whose garden the type originated. (Hodel, D. 1992. Chamaedorea Palms, The Species and Their Cultivation. The International Palm Society.)A


  • Habit: solitary, erect but sometimes decumbent, 0.3-2 m tall. Stem: 2-3 cm diam., green, smooth, conspicuously ringed, internodes 2-5 cm long. Leaves: 4-5, spreading, bifid, 90-125 cm long; sheath 15-25 cm long, obliquely long-open, tubular only in basal 2/3; petiole 15-25 cm long, flattened and green above with lower margins of blade faintly visible as they extend on either side to sheath, rounded and pale below; rachis 20-35 cm long, angled and green above, rounded and pale below; blade 50-70 x 25-35 cm, obovate, incised apically to 1/2 its length, lobes broadly lanceolate, 25-35 x 15-20 cm, cuneate basally, outer margins toothed, 20 primary nerves on each side of rachis. Inflorescences: interfoliar, sometimes infrafoliar in fruit, spicate, erect, pendulous when heavily laden with fruits. Staminate 4-10 per node, middle one developing and opening first; peduncle 20-25 x 0.5-1 cm, rounded, green in flower; bracts 4-5, prophyll 3 cm long, 2nd bract 8 cm, 3rd 15 cm, 4th 15-20 cm, ± loosely sheathing, becoming progressively larger distally, slightly inflated, terminal one equalling or exceeding peduncle, acute-acuminate, bifid, slightly flattened, green when young becoming brownish with age, longitudinally striate-nerved; rachis or flower-bearing portion 10 cm long. Pistillate solitary; peduncle to 30 cm long, 1 cm wide at base, 1.5 cm wide at apex, flattened basally and apically, erect and greenish in flower, downward-curved and orange in fruit; bracts 5, green in flower, similar to those of staminate but fibrous and tattered in fruit; rachis or flower-bearing portion to 15 cm long, ± flattened, I cm wide, 5 mm diam., green and erect in flower, nodding, swollen to 2 cm diam., and orange in fruit. Flowers: Staminate in 6-10 dense spirals, contiguous, 1.5-2 x 2.5-3 mm, depressed-globose, 6-angled by mutual pressure, green, emitting a distinct spicy-anise odor at anthesis, sunken; calyx well developed but not always prominent, often hidden by close packing of flowers, 1-1.5 x 3 mm, lobed, membranous, sepals connate basally, rounded apically; petals varying in width from 1-2 mm, usually 2 wider and 1 narrower per flower, valvate and sometimes slightly imbricate apically, erect for 1.5 mm then abruptly inflexed and tapering to flat pointed tips, tips of adjacent petals closely appressed in bud, opening as slits through which anthers are exserted at anthesis, thick, fleshy; stamens with filaments 1 x 0.75 mm, flattened, fleshy, tapering abruptly apically, anthers 0.75 x 0.3 mm, exserted from between petal slits on distal flat top offlower; pistillode 1.5 mm high, columnar, fleshy, distinctly 3-lobed, rounded tip exposed in center of flower at anthesis. Pistillate in 10-12 dense rows of up to 30 flowers per row, contiguous, 3 x 3 mm, depressed-globose, angled by close packing as those of staminate, greenish changing to greenish yellow, slightly sunken; calyx 1 x 2.5-3 mm, shallowly lobed, sepals connate nearly to apex, broadly rounded apically; petals 2 x 2.5 mm, subreniform, imbricate, tips inflexed to I mm, rounded to straight apically; pistil 3 x 2.5 mm, ovoid, ± 3-sided, greenish, styles short or lacking, stigma 1 mm long, exserted well beyond petals, open, erect, only very slightly if at all reflexed, pale to light yellow. Fruits: 1-1.5 x 0.5-1 cm, ± obovoid-globose and stalked in appearance, contiguous, densely packed, flattened and/or angled by mutual pressure, green when immature becoming red-orange when soft-ripe, finally ageing blackish, epicarp smooth, mesocarp fleshy, endocarp thin; seeds 10 x 7 mm, ovoid; perianth persistent, sepals 1 mm long, petals 2 mm long. (Hodel, D. 1992. Chamaedorea Palms, The Species and Their Cultivation. The International Palm Society.)A

Materials Examined

  • COSTA RICA. Alajuela: Hodel 717, 718 (BH, CR); Lent 2781, 2892 (F); de Nevers 7804, 7809, 7811 (MO). Guanacaste: Grayum 5011 (MO). Heredia: Maas 1261 (U). Limon: Grayum 3537 (MO); Jimenez 2130, 2808 (F). Puntarenas: Grayum 9252 (CR). Without specific locality, Wendland 3 (GOET). PANAMA. Colon: de Nevers 4062,6877 (MO). San BIas: de Nevers 7913 (CAS). (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