Chamaedorea whitelockiana Hodel & N.W.Uhl, Principes 34: 61 (1990)

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Map uses TDWG level 3 distributions (
Mexico Southeast present (World Checklist of Arecaceae)B
Mexico Southwest present (World Checklist of Arecaceae)B
MEXICO. Chiapas. Oaxaca. GUATEMALA. Escuintla. Quetzaltenango. Sacatepequez. Solola. (Hodel, D. 1992. Chamaedorea Palms, The Species and Their Cultivation. The International Palm Society.)A


  • Loran M. Whitelock of Los Angeles, California collected this species in 1981 in Oaxaca, Mexico. Whitelock returned to Los Angeles with seeds and plants and established them in his garden where they were first brought to my attention.
    An attractive plant, C. whitelockiana is close to C. parvisecta from the Atlantic slope of Guatemala and Mexico. The pendulous staminate rachillae, distinctly smaller staminate flowers with narrowly ovate petals and erect to spreading tips, and much thicker, blunt-tipped pistillate rachillae with fairly dense flowers distinguish C. parvisecta.
    The current description reflects the substantially larger pinnae, leaves, and stems of Guatemalan material tentatively included here, and thus differs somewhat from the original account of C. whitelockiana in Hodel and Uhl (1990a). Further study may reveal the Guatemalan material to represent a distinct, unnamed species. Standley and Steyermark (1958) referred the Guatemalan material to C. aequalis (= C. liebmannii), but the nerved staminate flowers with petals connate apically and the corolla opening by lateral slits distinguish C. liebmannii. Chamaedorea whitelockiana exhibits a growth phase best typified as juvenile, with plants characterized by their virtually stemless habit and finely divided leaves with numerous, narrow pinnae, not unlike those of C. elegans. Plants are not truly stemless during this period but actually possess a short, curving, rooting subterranean stem with highly congested nodes. They begin to produce much reduced inflorescences during the stemless phase, which lasts for several years, until later forming a visible stem with normal-sized inflorescences and broader pinnae.
    The juvenile phase may anchor the plants securely in their substrate before an erect, aboveground stem develops.
    Not widely cultivated, C. whitelockiana is in only a few collections in California. Plants are susceptible to infestations of thrips. (Hodel, D. 1992. Chamaedorea Palms, The Species and Their Cultivation. The International Palm Society.)A

Biology And Ecology

  • Moist to wet, pine-oak forest on the Pacific slope; 1,400-2,000 m elevation. (Hodel, D. 1992. Chamaedorea Palms, The Species and Their Cultivation. The International Palm Society.)A


  • Honors Loran W. Whitelock who first brought this species to my attention. (Hodel, D. 1992. Chamaedorea Palms, The Species and Their Cultivation. The International Palm Society.)A


  • Habit: solitary, erect, to 4 m tall, often flowering when appearing stemless but then actually with short subterranean stem. Stem: 1-1.3 cm diam., green, ringed, internodes to 10 cm long, often covered with persistent leaf sheaths. Leaves: 5-7, spreading, pinnate; sheath to 35 cm long, tubular, obliquely open apically and there dark-margined and ragged with a brown ligule 5-8 mm long on either side of petiole, below this margin whitish and green longitudinally striate-nerved; petiole 10-40 cm long, finely grooved and green above, rounded and pale below; rachis to 35 cm long, angled and green above, rounded below with a pale band extending onto sheath; blade to 40 x 15 cm; pinnae 7-9(-13) on each side ofrachis, lower middle ones longest, to 17 x 2-3.5 cm, pinnae progressively smaller toward apex of rachis, 2 basal pinnae smaller, apical pair shortest of all with 2 prominent primary nerves, lanceolate, falcate, long-acuminate, opposite or subopposite, thin-papery, apical 1/3 of each pinna drooping and curling down and under, conspicuously contracted basally and there a hard knob or callus at point of attachment, slightly iridescent gray-green above, paler below, prominent midrib and 2 ± inconspicuous primary nerves on each side of this or primaries absent, secondaries faint and inconspicuous; or when in young and stemless phase leaves finely divided, sheath 3-5 cm long, very open, tubular only near base; petiole 5-8 cm long; blade 20 x 12 cm; pinnae linear-lanceolate, straight, slightly falcate, 7 x 0.8 cm, only a midrib prominent, primary and secondary nerves very faint, inconspicuous. Inflorescences: interfoliar but often infrafoliar in fruit, arising from behind old sheaths, erect. Staminate with peduncle 25-30 cm long, 7-9 mm wide at base and there flattened, 3-4 mm wide at apex and there rounded, erect, greenish or pale in flower; bracts 7-8, prophyll to 3.5 cm long, 2nd bract to 6 cm, 3rd to 9 cm, 4th-7th to 10 cm, 8th to 4 cm, tubular, acute-acuminate, obliquely open apically, longitudinally striate-nerved, drying brownish and papery in flower; rachis to 5 cm long, slightly to strongly curved, lime-green in flower; rachillae 12-15, these to 10-12 cm long, 1.5-2 mm diam., erect, ± stiff, lime-green in flower. Pistillate with peduncle to 40 cm long, erect, 5 mm wide at base and there flattened, 2.5 mm diam. at apex and rounded, pale or greenish in flower, orange in fruit where exposed; bracts similar to those of staminate; rachis 1-3 cm long, greenish in flower, orange in fruit; rachillae 6-8, these to 10 cm long, 1-2 mm diam., erect, ± stiff, slender, longitudinally ridged or angled or finely grooved, slightly spinose-tipped, greenish in flower, orange in fruit. Flowers: Staminate in rather dense spirals, 2-3 mm apart, 3 x 4 mm, depressed-globose, yellow, slightly sunken in elliptic depressions; calyx 0.5 x 2.5 mm, lobed, pale yellow-green, membranous, sepals connate in basal 3/4, rounded apically; petals 4 x 3 mm, broadly ovate, valvate, free nearly to base, strongly incurved apically but not connate, broadly acute; stamens 2-2.5 mm high, outward-leaning, filaments 1-1.5 mm long, pale, anthers 1-1.5 mm long; pistillode 2.25-2.75 mm high, broadly columnar, lime-green. Pistillate in lax spirals, 4-5 mm apart, 3 x 2.5-3 mm, ovoidglobose, slightly sunken in elliptic depressions; calyx 1-1.5 x 22.5 mm, deeply lobed, light green, margins pale and membranous, sepals connate in basal 1/2-3/4, broadly rounded apically; petals 3 x 2-2.5mm, broadly triangular, imbricate nearly to apex, erect apically, obtuse to acute; pistil 2 x 2 mm, globose, flattened apically, green, styles short or lacking, stigma lobes short, pointed, dark green or brownish. Fruits: 7-8 mm diam., globose, black. (Hodel, D. 1992. Chamaedorea Palms, The Species and Their Cultivation. The International Palm Society.)A

Materials Examined

  • GUATEMALA. Escuintla: Standley 61298 (F). Quetzaltenango: Hodel 911, 988A, 988B (AGUAT, BH); Skutch 926. 1535 (GH). Sacatepequez: Harmon 2367 (MO). Solola: Steyermark 47411 (F). MEXICO. Chiapas: Matuda 18281 (MEXU). (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