Ceroxylon quindiuense (H.Karst.) H.Wendl., Bonplandia (Hannover) 8: 70 (1860)

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Disjunct, with populations in the Andes of Colombia, along the central and eastern Cordillera (near the border with Venezuela), scarcely on the western Cordillera, and elsewhere forming populations in the Andes of northern Peru. (Maria Jose Sanin & Gloria Geleano in Phytotaxa 34 (2011))A


  • It grows in humid montane forest, usually at 2000-3000 m, rarely up to 3150 m. It usually forms large and dense populations, many of which remain on pastures and forest remnants, especially on very steep slopes. (Maria Jose Sanin & Gloria Geleano in Phytotaxa 34 (2011))A


  • Ceroxylon quindiuense is diagnosed by its robust and white stem, its regularly arranged, completely pendulous and silverish pinnae, staminate flowers with 9-12(-17) stamens (anther connective not projected), and minutely warted fruits. These characters are constant even among the two very widely disjunct Peruvian and Colombian populations, with very slight variations in flower size that may be due to sampling effects. (Maria Jose Sanin & Gloria Geleano in Phytotaxa 34 (2011))A


  • Ceroxylon quindiuense is known to have been a very abundant species in Colombia until the beginning of the last century, and even if some large populations persist in the Central Cordillera, it has been classified as Endangered (EN; Galeano & Bernal 2005). Most of the forests where this species grows have been turned into pastures, and while hundreds of adult palms are still left standing, the young seedlings do not grow. Besides that, the cutting of young leaves for Palm Sunday during many years, caused the death of many individuals, and a delay in normal growth of the palms. Additionally, in the last decade a new and unknown disease has been causing the death of many adult palms (Cardozo & Guzmán 1993). In Peru, although a formal evaluation has not been made, it is believed that the situation does not differ substantially from the Colombian one (Galeano et al. 2008). (Maria Jose Sanin & Gloria Geleano in Phytotaxa 34 (2011))A

Common Name

  • Palma de cera, palma de ramo (Colombia). (Maria Jose Sanin & Gloria Geleano in Phytotaxa 34 (2011))A


  • Since 1985, C. quindiuense is the national tree of Colombia (Galeano & Bernal 2005). Until few years ago, the young leaves were cut in large quantities to be used on Palm Sunday during Easter. This practice had become widely commercial, threatening the species, but has been reduced severely in the last few years as a result of law enforcement and widespread campaign. The stems are cut and used for posts, houses and fencing, or split to cover indoor walls. In Colombia, the extraction of wax covering the stems was an economically important activity during the XIXth century, since it was used for manufacturing candles and matches, which were sold at local markets. In order to extract the wax, locals climbed up the stem, but most commonly they felled the palm. Indigenous peoples sold the wax in small "cakes" (Boussingault 1849). The death of hundreds of palms was caused by this practice (Galeano & Bernal 2005). Still today in Peru (Amazonas), adult individuals are felled and laid on black cloths, then pounded until the waxy litter covering the trunk gathers on the cloths as small flakes. These flakes are molten and combined with beeswax to impregnate on linens which are twisted to make torches for outdoor lighting. Also in Peru, the populations of this species are being widely harvested for housing and posts, and the stem ripped for covering indoor walls (Galeano et al. 2008). C. quindiuense is cultivated as ornamental in Colombia. (Maria Jose Sanin & Gloria Geleano in Phytotaxa 34 (2011))A


  • Stem (13-)20-45(-60) m tall, 25-40 cm diam., white, with prominent leaf scars, covered with a very thick layer of wax.
    Leaves 14-20, in a dense, hemispheric crown; sheath 70-120(-176) cm, covered with thick, light brown indumentum; petiole (29-)44-80 cm long, 8.5-10.0 cm wide at the apex, abaxially covered with white indumentum of deciduous scales with persistent, thick, waxy bases; rachis 185-350(-540) cm long, adaxially flattened in ½-? of its lenght, 2 mm hastula-like projection, glabrescent, abaxial surface covered with thick indumentum of white to cream, fibrous scales; pinnae 70-128 on each side, regularly arranged in one plane, completely pendulous, adaxial surface glossy, olive-green but appearing grayish from a distance, the midrib covered with persistent scale base scars, abaxial surface and midrib densely covered with persistent, linear, white to cream, padded scales, never revealing the surface beneath in age; the most basal filiform pinnae 34-56 × 0.3-0.4 mm, basal pinnae (10th from base) 49-130 × 1.1-2.0 cm, middle pinnae 70-154 × (3.2-)4.4-6.0 cm, apical pinnae 41-62 × 0.7-2.5 cm, free.
    Staminate inflorescences 1-2 at one time; peduncular bracts 6-7, with an additional smaller bract inserted at base of peduncle; rachis 102 cm long, with about 91 branches, each subtended by a small, membranaceous, acuminate bract, rachis and branches glabrescent, longest branches 42 cm long.
    Pistillate inflorescences 2-5 at one time; peduncle 150-280 cm long, 4 cm wide at apex, covered with scattered, brown, eroded, appressed scales; prophyll 35-70 cm long, 17 cm wide; peduncular bracts 5-7, prophyll and peduncle bracts covered with persistent, brown to ferrugineous scales; rachis 90-163 cm long, with 63-76 branches, each subtended by a 0.2-2.0 cm long, membranous bract, longest branches 68-80 cm long; rachis and rachillae glabrous.
    Staminate flowers: sepals 3(-4), broadly triangular, 1.0-1.2 mm long, connate for 0.4 mm (1/3-½ of total length), reaching or exceeding total length of corolla tube; petals 3(-5), elliptical, long-acuminate, 4-7 mm long, including an acumen of 1.0-1.5(-3.5) mm long, connate for 1 mm; stamens 9-12(-17), 3-6 antisepalous stamens, and 3-9(-11) antipetalous stamens, filaments 1.0-3.5(-4.5) mm long, inserted at basal central portion of anther, anthers 2.2 mm long, anther connective not projected.
    Pistillate flowers: sepals 3, broadly-triangular-acuminate, 1.5 mm long, connate for 1 mm (2/3 of total length), not reaching corolla tube, petals 3, elliptical-acuminate, 4.0-7.5 mm long, connate for up to 1 mm, acumen narrow, 2-3 mm long; staminodes 12, 1-2 antisepalous, 2-3 antipetalous, filaments 3 mm long, abortive anthers 1.2 mm long, pistil trifid, 2-3 mm diam.
    Fruits globose, orange-red when ripe, 1.6-2.0 cm diam., exocarp very minutely warted; fruting perianth with sepals 1-2 mm long, connate in 0.2-0.5 mm, lobes reaching or exceeding corolla tube.
    Seeds ca.1 cm diam. (Maria Jose Sanin & Gloria Geleano in Phytotaxa 34 (2011))A

Materials Examined

  • COLOMBIA. Antioquia: Municipality of Guarne, Vereda Mejía, ca. 2300 m, 15 August 1979, R. Bernal & G. Galeano 1 (COL); 1 Km NE of Guarne, ca. 2100 m, 26 August 1979, R. Bernal & G. Galeano 5 (mat.fr.) (COL). Municipality of Yarumal, Corregimiento Llanos de Cuivá, sobre la Finca la Argentina, Área Protectora de Humedales, 121 km NE of Medellín on the road to Atlantic Coast on pluvial montane forest, 2865 m, 1 March 2010, M.J. Sanín & R. Callejas 8 (sterile) (HUA).Boyacá: municipality of Duitama, Vereda Santa Elena, farm La Sierra, forest near La Rusia river, Quercus forest, 2450 m, 13 November 1997, J. Betancur et al. 7600 (juvenile) (COL). Caldas: Manizales, Neighborhood Palermo, 2150 m, 14 November 1986, B. Villegas 1 (st.fl.) (COL). Caquetá: Florencia-Suaza road, km 45, 1° 45' 18" N 75° 44' 57" W, 2432 m, 24 February 2002, W. Malagón 33 (juvenile) (COL). Cundinamarca: Municipality of Granada, Vereda San José, 2700 m, 16 June 1987, G. Morales et al. 953 (immat.fr.) (COL); Bogotá, 2640 m, cultivated, 5 June 1941, Jaramillo s.n.(COL). Meta: Road from San Juanito and the National Natural Park (PNN) Chingaza, 18 September 1997, E. Acero 39 (juvenile) (COL). Quindío: "montañas del Quindío", Karsten, s.n. (st.fl.) (L). Risaralda: Municipality of Pereira, Ucumarí Reserve, up from La Pastora, 2610 m alt., 10 October 1989, O. Rangel et al. 5237 (juvenile) (COL). Santander: municipality of Charalá, place El Bogotacito, after El Taladero, El Carmen-Virolín road, 2300 m, 23 September 1994, J. Betancur et al. 5830 (juvenile) (COL). Tolima: "provincia de Mariquita, Páramo del Quindío", 3000 m, 1851-1857, Triana 720(st.fl.) (BM, P); J.Triana 723 (US); Quindío-Las Cruces, 9 March 1876, E.André 2426 (st.fl.) (K, NY); along road from Cajamarca and summit of Divide, 2438 m, 27-28 March 1939, E.Killip & Varela 34540 (fr.) (COL, US); 2970 m, 27-28 March 1939, E.Killip & Varela 34687 (COL); between Fresno and Manizales, Km 57, 29 September 1941, D.Fairchild 53 (fr.) (COL); "La Ceja" to "Agua Bonita", old Quindío trail, 2500-3100 m, 2 August 1922, E. Killip & Hazen 9525 (US); Bermellón River, slopes near road Ibagué-La Línea, 2000 m, 18 November 1974, H.E. Moore et al. 10193 (fr.) (BH, COL, K, NY, US). Municipality of Roncesvalles, Vereda Cucuanita, Finca El Reflejo, 04°00'09,8"N 75°36'38,9" W, 2600 m, 13 April 2010. M.J. Sanín et al. 9(mat.fr.) (COL, HUA). Valle: Near Mares, on road Cali-Buenaventura, ca. 2000 m, 22 June 1944, E.Killip et al. 39175 (COL, US); slopes up from Tenerife, ca. 3000 m, 15 September 1970, H.E. Moore & Dietz 9879 (pist.fl.) (BH, COL); valley of the Bugalagrande river, slope of Barragán, over Quebrada de Los Osos, towards Los Cauchos, 3000 m, 21 April 1946, J.Cuatrecasas 20964 (st.fl.) (BH, MO); Western Cordillera, Los Farallones, NW slope of Quebrada del Ratón, El Diamante mine, 2950-3000 m, 29-30 July 1946, J. Cuatrecasas et al. 21748 (BH); municipality of Tuluá, 2-3 km of Santa Lucía, towards the Alto (summit) of La Italia, Central Cordillera, 2950-3130 m, 17 March 1988, R.Bernal et al. 1436 (fr.) (COL). PERU. Amazonas: Province Chachapoyas, District Leimebamba, road to the Archeological Museum, 06°45-14.7" S 77°48'3.7" W, 2523 m, 13 November 2007, B. Millán et al. 1487 (immat.fr.) (AAU, COL, P, USM); locality Ocol, 06°15'48" S 77° 34'41" W, 2373 m, 20 September 2007, K. Mejía et al. 4301 (st.fl.) (USM); 06°15'45.5" S 77° 34'06" W, 2244 m, 28 October 2009, M.J. Sanín & J.C. Pintaud 7 (immat. fr.) (USM); District Molinopampa, locality Puma Armana near Ocol, 06°15'27.72" S 77°34'24.54" W, 2360 m, 16 March 2006, B. Millán & J.C. Pintaud 1352 (immat.fr.) (USM). Cajamarca: Province Santa Cruz, District Pulán, locality El Molino, 10°49'46,6"S 63°46'14,9"W, 2132 m, 18 October 2009, M.J. Sanín et al. 2 (sterile) (USM); Province Santa Cruz, District Pulán, Locality Succhapampa, Farm of Segundo Santacruz, 06°43'51,5"S 78°57'01,6"W, 2389 m, 19 October 2009, M.J. Sanín et al. 3 (immat.fr.) (USM). (Maria Jose Sanin & Gloria Geleano in Phytotaxa 34 (2011))A

Use Record

  • Ceroxylon quindiuense (H.Karst.) H.Wendl.: Waxes extracted from trunk (Ceroxylon quindiuense). (...). Ornamental baskets made from leaves at Easter time (Ceroxylon quindiuense). (Balslev, H., and A. Barfod 1987: Ecuadorean palms- an overview)
    Use CategoryUse Sub CategoryPlant PartHuman GroupEthnic GroupCountry
    FuelFire starterStemNot identifiedN/AEcuador
    CulturalRitualEntire leafNot identifiedN/AEcuador


    A. Maria Jose Sanin & Gloria Geleano in Phytotaxa 34 (2011)