By PHIL BERGMAN
THIS ARTICLE DESCRIBES DIFFERENT SPECIES OF CHAMAEDOREA
INCLUDING THE REED PALM, PARLOR PALM, BAMBOO PALM AND OTHER SHADE PALMS
SPECIES DESCRIPTIONS AND PHOTOS
BELOW IS A LIST OF MANY CHAMAEDOREA SPECIES
WITH PHOTOS AND DESCRIPTIONS
This presentation includes many species of Chamaedorea. I have tried to include both common species one might encounter as well as other exotic, interesting and more rare types. A brief description of the species is given along with photos from either nursery plants, garden habitats or native habitat if available. Comments will be given on the basic characteristics of the species and cultural aspects where it is felt to be relevant. For more specific information on this genus in general, see our article linked at the base of this presentation.
This is a solitary trunk dwarf species from Guatemala and Belize. It was only introduced into the trade in the past two decades. Stems are thin and a white-tan color. Leaves are blue green with an iridescent sheen. Leaves are pinnate and sometimes simple. Height of this palm is usually under three feet, but plants in the wild have been reported to be five to six feet. It is cold hardy to about a freeze and prefers filtered light. Planting in small colonies is very attractive. This is a very attractive shade palm.
This is another dwarf to semi-dwarf species from Panama and Costa Rica. It has a thin trunk and entire leaves that are bifid and pointed at the terminal ends. Height is usually under three feet, but native habitats have specimens to five or six feet. Culture is difficult with this species because it does not tolerate anywhere near freezing temperatures and it likes humidity. It prefers filtered light. The leaves are very thin in texture and toothed at the apical leaf tips. It is considered a collector palm.
This single trunk species is from Mexico and Central America. It is pinnate like other Chamaedoreas with a trunk diameter of an inch or a bit more. The leaves a five feet long with wide leaflets and prominent drip tips. The trunks are dark green and prominent trunk rings are present. Low temperatures tolerated are about to a freeze and this species likes filtered light. The second photo shows the unusual clustering of seeds on a female flower attached to the trunk below the leaves. These seeds are green and have not yet turned color.
This is a solitary trunk species that resembles an overgrown Chamaedorea radicalis. Unlike the radicalis, this species forms a short trunk and gets to about 8 perhaps 10 feet plant height. It was named after IPS member Jim Benze from California. It is a very gratifying species because it is quite easy to grow. It can tolerate filtered light or full sun along the coast. Trunks are one to one and a half inches and leaves are about five feet. They tend to be held in an upright position. Cold tolerance appears to be into the upper 20’s f. This is another species that looks good as a colony of multiple plants together as seen in the second photo showing the base of the trunks.
This is a suckering species from Honduras that is considered semi-dwarf and only gets to a height of about 6 feet. Its trunks are very thin and the leaves entire and simple apically bifid leaves. The leaves are a dark green and sometimes mottled in different shades of green. Cold tolerance is to about a freeze. it wants filtered light. It also seems to brown tip with poor quality municipal water. If well grown, this is a gorgeous species
Commonly known as the Cat Palm, this multi-stemmed species from Mexico lives along rivers and has a real affinity for water. It doesn’t like to go dry. It is not a tall palm, usually getting to six feet tall. But, it can become bushy and wide. If the plant doesn’t see enough moisture or humidity, it tends to brown tip. It is graceful in a way and can be attractive if well grown. Cold tolerance is into the upper twenties F. It prefers filtered light or shade. Its main attribute is that the clump never gets over about six feet, making it one of the shorter suckering pinnate Bamboo Palms. Photos 2,3 below by C.W.
This is a very beautiful multi-stem specimen from southern Mexico and further into Central America. It is a good sized species, typically about fourteen to sixteen feet, but can get taller. Average trunk diameter is one inch, although some plants are thinner, others thicker. It is cold tolerant into the mid-twenties F. and likes filtered light. There are reports of people along the coast growing it in full sun, so this might be possible. It likes well draining rich soil and adequate moisture. This species makes a great Bamboo Palm or Reed Palm.
This is a rare, single stem, exotic appearing species from Costa Rica and Panama. It has a thin trunk and entire leaf with a bifid terminal end. It is a semi-dwarf species, attaining a typical height of six feet or a bit more. The leaf is very thin and will show brown tipping with high salt content in the water. Its cold tolerance is down to about a freeze. It is a shade species. It is a rare palm and difficult to find. I don’t have any habitat pictures, but below is a 5 g plant from the nursery. The other photos by Colin Wilson.
This is a species known for a very long time to the trade. Known as the Parlor Palm because of its rather small size, this is a single trunk species that has a petite crown; thus its popularity. Commercially, it is usually planted as several plants in one pot, giving it more of a fullness. It’s trunk is typically about one half an inch and its leaves are seldom over two feet. It is slow growing. A very old plant may have four to five feet of trunk. It is a popular houseplant and sold worldwide. It is easy to grow in the garden, likes filtered light, and tolerates temperatures into the upper 20’s F.
To many, this is one of their favorite Chamaedorea . This is because it has such a gorgeous leaf. This leaf is an entire leaf with a divided apical tip. It is known as the Whale Tail Palm because of the shape of the leaf. It is petite. A plant with a six foot trunk is very old. the leaves are typically 12 inches long and sometimes up to 20 inches. Its trunk is about one half an inch. It likes shade and will burn in sun. cold tolerance is into the upper twenties F.
This is a very rare suckering species from high elevation in the lower areas of the Andes Mountains in Peru. It has very thin trunks and gets to a height of about ten feet. Most of the specimens grown in the United States are male as they have been propagated by vegetative cuttings from male plants within the country. It is near impossible to get seeds from habitat. This plant looks best in filtered light but can take some degree of coastal sun. It is a simple leaf Chamaedorea with small and somewhat pointed leaves. Cold tolerance is about to a freeze, perhaps a bit lower. It is very sought after by collectors. On looking at the last photo below, you will see that it definitely resembles Bamboo and would qualify as a type of Reed Palm. Another interesting thing is the flowers are fragrant, thus giving this species its name. I shown five pictures because this species is very rare. The 4th to 6th photos by Colin Wilson, one showing a juvenile colony.
This is a very petite single trunk species from Mexico and Central America. It is reminiscent of Chamaedorea ernesti-augustii but with smaller and somewhat thinner leaves. It is a dwarf species and a very old plant will be three to four feet. It has a very thin trunk and simple leaves with apical points as shown. It is definitely a “cute and small” Chamaedorea. This species wants shade and adequate moisture. It is cold tolerant into the upper twenties F. In my experience, plants that are over twenty years old are still under three feet tall.
This is a single trunk, plumose leaf, tall Chamaedorea species that can get over fifteen feet tall. It is a Mexican species and gets its name from a white waxy substance found on the leaf stems and the crownshaft. The leaves are grass-like and fluffy. The trunk diameter is about one inch and the leaf length is four to five feet. They are very quick growers and can tolerate some coastal sun. I’ve found that growing them in groups of multiple plants avoids the “leaves on a stick” look. This species can be confused with a newer introduction to the market: Chamaedorea plumosa, which has a slightly thicker trunk and a fluffier leaf. Cold tolerance is into the mid to upper twenties F
This is a multi-stemmed species from Central America that I think is one of the more exciting species and probably the best Bamboo Palm one can grow. It is pinnate, has trunk diameters of about one inch, and gets to about 12 feet height. It is a vigorous grower and has leaves four to five feet long that arch gracefully. It is a full, lush looking plant. Cold hardiness appears to be into the mid-twenties F. It prefers filtered light or perhaps a little morning sun along the coast. It appears to have less of a tendency to get red spider and is not susceptible to the fungal problems seen with Chamaedorea seifritzii. The last picture shows an easily shippable size. This species is our favorite to be used as a Bamboo Palm or Reed Palm.
This is a single trunk species from Mexico that is most known for having grouped leaflets along the rachis. It has a thin trunk about an inch in diameter and a somewhat open crown. The leaflets are attached to the rachis at irregular angles so that the leaflets look as if they were a group of bow ties attached to the leaf stem. Cold hardiness is into the mid-twenties F. It likes filtered light or perhaps a little bit of sun. I think this is a species that would look better planted as a small colony with multiple plants. I’ve shown two close-ups of the leaflets as this is the most charming characteristic of this species.
This attractive larger species is native to the northern countries of South America including Venezuela, Columbia, and Ecuador. In habitat it grows at very high elevation. Consequently, this species has surprising cold hardiness, probably into he mid to lower twenties F. It is a tall species with a two to three inch thick trunk. It can grow to over 20 feet in height. The trunk and crownshaft have various colors of green or yellow and there are prominent light colored rings on the trunk. Sometimes the crown shaft is mottled in color including green, white and yellow. I have seen trunks of this species that also are mottled with green and black. So, one has a chameleon type of plant as these colors change over time. The leaves are long and the leaflets wide. This is a great species, but very difficult to locate if you want to try one.
This is a semi-dwarf species from Mexico that gets its name from he fact that the leaves have a metallic sheen. Thus the Latin name. The plants are small, seldom over 4 feet unless they are extremely old. The leaves are small and entire with bifid apical points. The trunks are thin, about half an inch. The crowns are small. They look best if planted in a colony. Filtered light is preferable. They also make an interesting house plant. Cold hardiness is into the upper twenties F.
This is a suckering, medium sized pinnate palm from Mexico. It has extremely thin trunks and only gets to about eight feet tall. As they age, the trunks may lean out from the center of the clump. Leaflets are small and often have a gray sheen, especially on the underside of the leaves. this is a surprisingly cold hardy species and goes into the lower twenties F, perhaps even a bit lower. It likes filtered light and makes an excellent houseplant for people who have low ceilings. The fruit on females is an attractive red and hands in bunches from the trunks. This is another example of a wonderful species to serve as a Bamboo palm.
This is a thin trunked pinnate species, single trunk, with wide leaflets. Its natural habitat is southern Mexico and Belize. Its trunk is about an inch in diameter and overall height is 10 to 15 feet. The leaflets have prominent drip tips. It is quite rare and difficult to find.
This is a solitary species native to southern Mexico and parts of Central America. It has a small crown of leaves with wide leaflets above a thin trunk about 1 inch in diameter or a bit more. The leaves are long and a bit puffy and come to a prominent drip tip. When younger, a white color to the central stem is evident just around the leaf stem’s attachment. It is a good grower with a cold tolerance to about a freeze. It prefers filtered light.
This is a tall, single trunk, plumose leaf species native to Mexico. The trunk diameter is 1/5 to 2 inch, and height is 15 feet or more. The leaves are very fluffy or plumose. This species is quick growing and looks better planted as colonies. It is similar to Chamaedorea glaucifolia in appearance but has a thicker trunk and the leaves look a bit different. In recent times it has been called the “Baby Queen Palm” but in no way other than plumose leaves does it resemble a Queen Palm. It can be grown in full sun along the coast and is a quick grower. Its cold tolerance is into the mid twenties F.
CHAMAEDOREA RADICALIS, REGULAR FORM AND TRUNKING FORM
This is an interesting species that has two forms: a trunk-less form and one with a small to medium sized trunk. It is from Mexico. All forms are single trunk. The trunkless form has leaves three feet or less and never gets tall. When this form blossoms, the flowers shoot up from he base of the plant and are typically taller than the leaves. If you have a female, very pretty red seeds form if pollinated. The trunking form has a similar look but has thinner leaflets and a trunk with a diameter of one to one and a half inches. It can get up to 10 feet or more. Both forms are fairly cold hardy and it’s been reported that the trunk-less form will tolerate temperatures into the upper teens F. Also a unique thing about the dwarf and possibly the trunking form is that they tolerate a fair amount of sun and perhaps full sun along the coast. The upper three photos below are the trunk-less form. Below these are the trunking form.
This is a single trunk species from Mexico and Central America. In his book on the genus, D. Hodel mentions morphologically that this species is similar to C. oblongata and neurochlamys. It has a thin trunk and gets to a height of about ten feet. It’s flower bracts are orange, its seeds are black. The flowers are similar to C. ernesti-agustii as presented by Don Hodel. Although not clear, I anticipate cold tolerance to be the upper twenties F. Like other Chamadoreas, this species likes filtered light or shade.
This species is a very tall plant with an extremely thin trunk for its height. In my experience, they get to at least fifteen feet tall with a trunk diameter of 3/4 of an inch. The trunks are dark green and the leaflets are somewhat wide and puffy. Native to Mexico, this species has a green color to the leaves. It gets so tall that planting these as a colony or in multiples would give a nicer result. Otherwise, one gets the “leaves on a stick appearance”. Although, like others of the genus, this species would like filtered light, I have had some success with partial day sun. Cold tolerance may be into the upper 20’s f.
This species has been around for many decades. I must admit it is not one of my favorites. It is a thin trunked, suckering species that comes from southern Mexico and parts of Central America. The reason I am not too fond of it is because the plant, as it grows, looks sparse and is susceptible to fungal infections. I feet there are much better candidates for a Bamboo Palm type of species. it’s trunks are about one half an inch in diameter, its leaves are very short, typically under two feet and anticipated height is under ten feet. It is cold hardy into the upper twenties F. and likes filtered light.
This is a clumping, semi-dwarf species that has very thin trunks and forms small groups of stems. It is native to Panama and extremely rare in cultivation. Similar to the growth habit of C. stolinifera, stems will become decumbent, lay on the ground, root out and form new vertical stems. The difference culturally between this species and stolinifera is that the latter puts out growths from the base that crawl along the ground and root out. C. serpens, by reports, gets tall stems that then lean over and root. Plant height is one to two meters. The terminal leaflets are wider and more prominent than proximal leaflets. This is a shade species and never gets too tall. It is nearly impossible to find for purchase. The photos below are from the garden of Colin Wilson in Australia. Over time this plant will form trunks that will lean over and attempt to root out in the ground. This characteristic is where the name “serpens” (snake-like) comes from.
This is a great species from elevation in Mexico and named after the fact that this species reproduces by forming stolins. These are running suckers that will go underground and then grow vertically as a new stem to the plant. It is a simple, entire leaf species with very narrow trunks under one half inch. It never gets much over six feet in height. It likes shady conditions and is easy to propagate by removing a leafed out stolin that has formed roots. It naturally forms a colony and is very beautiful. Cold tolerance is into the mid-twenties F. It also makes an attractive houseplant. Its leaves are small and entire with blunt or pointed apical tips.
This cute dwarf species from Panama and Costa Rica is highly sought after and named after IPS member Pauleen Sullivan. There are two forms of this plant with one being somewhat more silver in leaf color than the other. It is very short with a trunk under one foot; it is very thin. The overall plant size is typically under two feet. The leaves are entire, thick in substance, plicate, and have a very short petiole. Sometimes the leaves are mottled in different colors of green. It wants a shady environment and doesn’t go below freezing temperatures. This species is very sought after and extremely difficult to obtain. The first and third photos are from habitat. The middle photo is from the nursery. If you look carefully you will see a small blossom. This plant is more of the green form while the others are the blue green form.
This is a very small species from Mexico and Central America. In habitat it comes from higher elevations. Because of this it does possess some cold hardiness. It has a thin trunk under one half inch and typically is under three feet in height. Therefore I consider it a dwarf species although some specimens can get a bit taller. It has small entire leaves six to eight inches long with bifid tips. It is green in color and likes moisture. I’d estimate cold hardiness into the upper twenties F., perhaps a bit lower. These are very cute plants. Photos below by HJD from habitat. the fourth picture is a female with seeds and the last photo a male plant.
This is a very attractive single trunk Chamaedorea whose natural habitat spreads from Mexico through Central America and down into northern South America. It is most commonly seen as a single trunk species, buck a suckering species does exist. As a single trunk species, it is quite tall, getting up to 20 feet or more. The trunk is thick and even gets u to three inches. The leaves are long and somewhat flexed toward the ground with a length of four to five feet. The leaflets can be up to two feet long, have an “S” shape coming to a point, a flat in cross section and dark green in color. Likewise, the trunks are very dark green with prominent white rings. An interesting thing is that almost always one sees a faint yellow stripe down the dorsal side of the petiole and rachis. This can help identify this species but is also seen in other species. The blossoms are large and branched. A male blossom can explode with pollen, almost like a cloud of dust. Pollination usually occurs without assistance if males and female plants are nearby. The inflorescent of this species are edible. The seeds are dark black in color (when mature) on orange bracts. This species is easy to grow, cold tolerant into the mid to upper twenties F, and likes only shade. Direct sunlight will burn it. It is an excellent houseplant if one has enough overhead room.
This is an extremely rare and hard to find species that is known as the “Potato Chip Palm”. It is a miniature palms and seldom over a foot or two tall. It has plicated, simple, small leaves that are entire with a rippled texture. Once you’ve seen it, you won’t forget it. The stems are very thin and the color is green, sometimes a silver green. Some feel there are two forms: green and blue green with the latter having a white frost to the leaves. This species is coveted by collectors. It wants shade and is not cold hardy below a freeze. The most notable natural habitat is in Panama, but the green form is found in Mexico. This species is super cute. Both male and female blossoms are very tiny and hard to pollinate. Stem cuttings have been successfully propagated by some. The second and third photos are by Colin Wilson and show the typical mottling of the leaf color seen on the green form.
This is a single trunk pinnate Chamadorea from Costa Rica and Panama. It has a think trun about an inch in diameter and gets to an overall height of ten to twelve feet. On many Chamaedorea, on the stem below the leaves is a visible crown shaft. On this species, the crown shaft is minimally evident. The leaves are rather short and irregular in shape. Growth is not difficult on this species but it prefers filtered light and adequate moisture. Cold tolerance is in the upper 20’s F. Because of the thin trunks and small to medium size crown of leaves, this species might look best planted as a multiple. The first two photos below points out a characteristic of this species: that the terminal leaflets are typically wider than the more proximal leaflets closer to the stem. The third photo is a nursery specimen and the last 2 photos are of juvenile garden plants.
This is a very large, single trunk species that is native to a long range, spanning from Mexico into the northern parts of South America. it is known as one of the tallest of all Chamaedoreas, reaching heights of possibly over forty feet. The trunk has a prominent crownshaft and is four inches thick or more. It’s leaves are four to five feet long with a prominent petiole. Leaf color is a deep green and, in cross section, the leaves are slightly keeled. In Southern California, this species prefers sun and adequate hydration. It has been said that this species cannot take a freeze. More recent reports suggest this species can tolerate temperatures into the upper 20’s F. It is known to be growing in the San Francisco Bay area. It is a quick grower and sometimes the base of the trunk is swollen.
Thank you for reading this article. Note that not all species of Chamaedorea have been included.
We’ll try to update some photos over time. For more information on Chamaedorea as a group with more precise information
on usage and care,click below on two more articles on the subject.
OF NOTE: WE HAVE MANY OR ALL OF THE ABOVE SPECIES EITHER AVAILABLE NOW OR IN THE FUTURE
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