A Field Key to the Palms of Belize[1]

Steven W. Brewer
Biology Department, Rhodes College
2000 N Parkway, Memphis, TN 38112
e-mail: Brewer_Steven@rhodes.edu and pachira23@hotmail.com

Comments, caveats, and an invitation for suggested improvements:  The following key is part of an on-going project to create a field guide to the woody plants of Belize.  The present key is a modification of Brewer (1999); it includes a nested-hierarchical format, species additions, and some changes to the character information based on recent field experience.  Highly recommended companion literature includes Henderson et al.’s (1995) Field Guide to the Palms of the Americas and Hodel’s (1992) work on Chamaedorea.  The latter includes many outstanding photographs of species in their natural environment, and is a valuable aid to identification of this diverse and often-difficult genus.

As keys are human constructs, they are not fool-proof tools for field identification.  Please email comments on better characters for separating taxa, information regarding new species to Belize, or any other suggestions for improving this key to me at one of the addresses given above.

Please remember that, when visiting Belize, permission to collect herbarium specimens or other plant material is required via a research/collection permit from the Belize Forest Department (Conservation Division, Forestry Drive, Belmopan, Belize).

Acknowledgements:  I thank the Conservation Division of the Belize Forest Department for permission to conduct research in Belize. Greg de Nevers first encouraged me to publish this key, and he patiently read and provided helpful comments on earlier versions. Jody Haynes did the tedious work of turning a dichotomous key into a web page. Donald Hodel provided valuable comments on the genus Chamaedorea. C. Bijleveld, J. Meerman, and D. Hodel provided suggestions for improvements and comments on potential and actual species.


Balick, M. J., M. Nee & D. E. Atha. 2000. A Checklist of the Flora of Belize, With Common Names and Uses.  Mem. N. Y. Bot. Gard. 85:1-246

Bijleveld, C.F.A. 1998. The Vegetation of the Shipstern Nature Reserve: a structural and floristic approach.  International Tropical Conservation Foundation, Switzerland. 136 pp.

Brewer, S.W.  1999.  The Palms of Belize: Species Richness and a Key Based on Vegetative Characters.  Palms (formerly Principes 43(3): 109–113)

Henderson, A.H., G. Galeano, R. Bernal.  1995.  Field guide to the palms of the Americas. Princeton University Press, Princeton, N.J.

Hodel, D.R.  1992.  Chamaedorea Palms: The Species and Their Cultivation.  Allen Press, Lawrence, Kansas

[1]Last modified February 2003.  Modified from Brewer, S.W.  1999.  The Palms of Belize: Species Richness and a Key Based on Vegetative Characters.  Palms (formerly Principes) 43(3): 109–113.


Palm Taxa of Belize

26 genera, 49 species total (25 genera, 41 species found plus 1 genus, 8 species potential*)
: Species in boldface are additions or changes to the previous version of this key.  Nomenclature follows Henderson et al. (1995) except where noted.

Acoelorraphe wrightii (Griseb. & H. Wendl.) H. Wendl. ex Becc.
Acrocomia aculeata
(Jacq.) Lodd. ex Mart.
Asterogyne martiana
(H. Wendl.) H. Wendl. ex Hemsl.
Astrocaryum mexicanum
Liebm. ex Mart.
*Attalea butyracea (Mutis ex L. f.) Wess. Boer
Attalea cohune Mart.
Bactris major Jacq. var. major
Bactris mexicana Mart.
Brahea dulcis (Kunth) Mart.
Calyptrogyne ghiesbreghtiana (Linden & H. Wendl.) H. Wendl.
Chamaedorea adscendens (Dammer) Burret
Chamaedorea arenbergiana H. Wendl.
*Chamaedorea brachypoda Standl. & Steyerm.
*Chamaedorea elatior Mart.
Chamaedorea elegans Mart.
Chamaedorea ernesti-augustii H. Wendl.
Chamaedorea geonomiformis H. Wendl.
*Chamaedorea nationsiana Hodel & Castillo
Chamaedorea schippii Burret (distinct from C. graminifolia
.....H. Wendl acc. to D. Hodel)
*Chamaedorea pygmaea H. Wendl.
*Chamaedorea sartorii Liebm. in Mart.
Chamaedorea oblongata Mart.
Chamaedorea pinnatifrons (Jacq.) Oerst.
Chamaedorea seifrizii Burret
Chamaedorea tepejilote Liebm.
Chamaedorea woodsoniana L. H. Bailey
Cocos nucifera L.
Coccothrinax argentata (Jacq.) L. H. Bailey (reported by
.....Bijleveld, 1998, & pers. comm.)
Colpothrinax cookii Read

Cryosophila stauracantha (Heynhold) R. Evans
Desmoncus orthacanthos Mart.
Euterpe precatoria Mart. var. longevaginata (Mart.) Henderson
Gaussia maya (O. F. Cook) Quero & Read
Geonoma deversa (Poit.) Kunth
Geonoma interrupta (Ruiz & Pav.) Mart. var. interrupta
Geonoma undata Klotzsch
Manicaria saccifera Gaertn.
*Prestoea acuminata (Willd.) H.E. Moore
Pseudophoenix sargentii H. Wendl. subsp. sargentii
Reinhardtia gracilis (H. Wendl.) Drude ex Dammer var. gracilior
.....(Burret) H. E. Moore
Reinhardtia gracilis (H. Wendl.) Drude ex Dammer var. gracilis
Reinhardtia latisecta (H. Wendl.) Burret
Roystonea regia (Kunth) O. F. Cook
*Roystonea dunlapiana Allen
Sabal mauritiiformis (H. Karst.) Griseb. ex H. Wendl.
Sabal yapa C. Wright ex Becc.
Sabal mexicana Mart. (reported by Jan Meerman, pers. comm.)
Schippia concolor Burret
Synechanthus fibrosus (H. Wendl.) H. Wendl.
Thrinax radiata Lodd. ex Schult. & Schult. f. 

Cultivated Species
(not included in key; this list is likely to be very incomplete)

Bactris gasipaes Kunth (unconfirmed, reportedly cultivated)
Dypsis lutescens (H. Wendl.) Beentje & J. Dransf.
Elaeis guineensis Jacq.
Pseudophoenix sp.
Veitchia merrillii (Becc.) H. E. Moore

* denotes potential species

Click here to enter the key

PACSOF Home Page

VPE Home Page

VPE Table of Contents

VPE Photo gallery

Virtual Palm Encyclopedia Site Map
Powered by FreeFind.

This site is copyrighted © 1998-2006, Palm & Cycad Societies of Florida, Inc.
For questions or comments, e-mail the webmaster.
Internet hosting provided by Zone 10, Inc.