Group I Group II Group IV

A Field Key to the Palms of Belize

GROUP III: Plants unarmed, stems stout, often dark to light gray, potentially taller than 5 m
(* potential species)


Climbing palms; leaves with a whip-like extension of the rachis (cirrus) containing barb-like hooks.

*Chamaedorea elatior
1b. Not climbing; leaves without a cirrus.
2a. Cultivated, or naturally-occurring and most often found along beaches; stems often markedly curved; woody “coconuts” >20 cm diameter. Cocos nucifera
2b. Naturally-occurring in a variety of habitats, rarely along beaches; stems usually straight; fleshy or woody fruits <6 cm diameter.
3a. Crownshaft, of closed (or partially closed) leaf sheaths, present; leaflets  spreading in different planes (appearing plumose) or not.
4a. Leaves plumose, with leaflets spreading in different planes.
5a. Stems generally >30 cm (to 60 cm) diameter; crownshaft conspicuous, of closed leaf sheaths; inflorescences borne below the leaves.
6a. Peduncular bract shorter than the crown-shaft; on wet soil in forest or open savanna, disturbed areas, also cultivated. Roystonea regia
6b. Peduncular bract > the crown-shaft; found on flooded soils in coastal swamps and estuaries. *Roystonea dunlapiana
5b. Stems usually smaller; crownshaft open, short; inflorescences borne among the leaves.
7a. Palms of the coastal plain of N. Belize, usually near the sea; leaflets somewhat glaucous, with brown scales beneath; inflorescence branched to 5 orders. Pseudophoenix sargentii
7b. Widespread palms; leaflets not glaucous, without brown scales; inflorescence branched to 1-2 orders. Gaussia maya
4b. Leaves not plumose, leaflets in 1 row per side, not spreading in different planes (the tips may be pendulous, but not plumose).
8a. Montane palms with a partially closed (for 1/3 to 1/2 the length of the leaf sheaths), purplish or purple-green crownshaft; stem brownish; flowering branches not densely pubescent. *Prestoea acuminata
8b.  Montane or lowland palms with conspicuously closed, green or yellowish crownshaft; stem gray; flowering branches densely pubescent. Euterpe precatoria
3b. Crownshaft never present; leaflets not spreading in different planes.
9a. Leaves irregularly divided into wide leaflets with serrated apical margins; stems to 20 cm diameter; fruits covered with pyramidal low, poorly drained soils near the coast. Manicaria saccifera
9b. Leaves regularly divided into many narrow, entire leaflets; stems usually >30 cm diameter; fruits smooth; on slopes or lowlands on moderate to well-drained soil.
10a. Margins of leaf sheath and petiole naked; male flowering branches short, <15 cm; endocarp fibers in clusters. Attalea cohune
10b. Margins of leaf sheath and petiole with stout fibers; male flowering branches long, 30–50 cm; endocarp fibers scattered. *Attalea butyracea

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