Group I Group II Group III

A Field Key to the Palms of Belize

GROUP IV Stems slender, cane like, usually green or brown, rarely taller than 5 m
(* potential species)

9a. Stems solitary.
10a. Apparently acaulescent (stem short, underground); with 8-21 leaves inflorescences spicate. Calyptrogyne ghiesbreghtiana
10b. Stems evident in mature palms; leaves usually <8 (to 12 in Synechanthus) inflorescences branched (except in Chamaedorea nationsiana).
11a. Stems green; leaves clustered at stem apex, often <7.
12a. Leaflets many (>10) per side and arranged in groups of 2–6; sub-apical leaflets with one principal vein, rachis and petiole without a pale to yellow line beneath; monoecious; flowers arranged in rows along the flowering axes. Synechanthus fibrosus
12b. Leaflets few or many per side, not arranged in groups of 2–6, sub-apical leaflets without one principal vein, rachis and petiole often with a distinct, pale to yellow line beneath on the rachis, extending to the sheath; dioecious; flowers solitary or in groups.
13a. Leaves leathery and leaflets <3.5 cm wide, leaflets 2–6 per side, rigid and with a velvety aspect, blue-gray-green; female infl. spicate, male infl. with 2–10 branches; rare, restricted to limestone hilltops. Chamaedorea adscendens
13b. Leaves thin and/or leaflets wider, rigid or not, green in color.
14a. Leaflets mostly <11 per side of the rachis;  stems usually <2 cm diameter.
15a. Apex of leaf sheath white; leaflets thin, with 2-7 angular 10 nerves; stem to 3 cm diameter; female flowers greenish, male flowers joined at the tips, opening by lateral slits; female, male infl. mostly with 5-20 branches. Chamaedorea pinnatifrons
15b. Apex of leaf sheath green; male petals free.
16a. Female infls. with > 2 branches.
17a. Leaves usually drying grayish, submarginal primary veins obscure; stem to 3 cm; male, female greenish. Chamaedorea oblongata
17b. Leaves usually drying green, brown or black, submarginal primary veins conspicuous; stem to 1.6 cm; male, female flowers orange. *Chamaedorea sartorii
16b. Female infls. spicate or bifurcate.  

Inflorescences spicate, male infls. multiple at each node.

*Chamaedorea nationsiana

Inflorescences spicate or bifurcate (female), or 8-10 branched & solitary/node (male).

Chamaedorea arebergiana
14b. Leaflets >11 per side, stems variable.
19a. Small, slender palms <2 cm diameter and <2 m tall; leaf sheaths only tubular near base; leaflets 11-21 per side, linear to lanceolate; female, male infls. with 5-35 branches. Chamaedorea elegans
19b. Medium-sized, + stout palms, 2–10 cm diameter, 2–12 m tall; leaf sheaths tubular for + entire length.
20a. Leaflets linear to linear- lanceolate, to 36 per side of the rachis, with 2 primary veins on each side of a midvein; female infl. with ca. 50 branches. Chamaedorea woodsoniana
20b. Leaflets sigmoid, to 25 per side, with 5-10 primary veins; female infl. with 5–20 flowering branches. Chamaedorea tepejilote
11b. Stems not green, and/or leaves spread loosely along the stem; leaves often >7.
21a. Leaves 7-18, loosely spread apart along the stem; stemsbrown or green, usually clumped, 0.5–3 cm diameter. Geonoma deversa
21b. Leaves 6+, clustered at stem apex; stems not green, usuallysolitary and >3 cm diameter (except Reinhardtia, with openings between leaflet folds).
22a. Leaflets 4-ranked, spreading in 4 different planes and giving leaves a plumose appearance; stem to 15 cm diameter; leaves 6–8; crown open; fruits red; palm of rocky places over limestone at low elevations. Gaussia maya
22b. Leaflets generally spreading in 1-2 planes; stems large or small; leaves often >8; crown usually dense; fruits red or not; on limestone soils or not.
23a. Leaves with brown scales on lower surface; salt-tolerant, found near the sea in N. Belize; stem to 30 cm diameter; fruits red. Pseudophoenix sargentii subsp. sargentii
23b. Leaves without brown scales beneath; most commonly found in wet or moist forest, widespread or S. Belize; fruits brown or blackish.
24a. Leaves very large (2–8 m long), erect and irregularly divided into wide leaflets with serrated apical margins, persistent and forming a skirt around the stem; stems 15–20 cm diameter; fruits large (4–6 cm diameter), brown, covered in pyramidal protrusions; on wet, lowland soils.  Manicaria saccifera
24b. Leaves smaller, generally <3 m long, arching or erect, regularly divided, persistent or not, but never forming a skirt around the stem; leaflets not serrated (but apically toothed in Reinhardtia gracilis); stem diameter large or small; fruits small, <2 cm diameter, black or purple-black, fleshy.

Leaflets few, usually 2 per side; slender palm <2 cm diameter, leaf sheaths closed but not forming a crownshaft (forming interwoven fibers instead).

Reinhardtia gracilis
26a. Leaves large: leaf rachis 11–23 cm long, with 14–22 nerves on each side; the lower pinnae 14.5–25 cm long. Reinhardtia gracilis var. gracilis
26b. Leaves small: leaf rachis 3.5-6 cm long, with 8–11 nerves on each side; the lower pinnae 8.5–12 cm long. Reinhardtia gracilis var. gracilior
25b. Leaflets many, often >10/side; stem much larger; crownshaft present in Euterpe.

Crownshaft (green or purplish) formed by open or closed leaf sheaths; leaves 5-10, leaflets same-shaped and linear flowers not in pits.


Stem gray; green crownshaft formed by closed leaf sheaths; infl. axes densely pubescent.

Euterpe precatoria

Stem brown, green or purplish crown shaft mostly open; infl. axes not densely pubescent.

*Prestoea acuminata

Crownshaft absent (or very short, sometimes a reddish, and open "crownshaft" present in G. undata); to 20 leaves present, leaflets often irregularly-shaped; stem light brown.


Rare, presumably montane (?); reported by Henderson et al. (1995); not seen by the author in Belize; pits in flowering branches with a lower and upper lip; infl. borne below the leaves; leaflets linear.

Geonoma undata

Common, montane or not; pits in flowering branches without a distinct upper lip; most leaflets sigmoid to sickle-shaped.

Geonoma interrupta
9b. Stems clumped. Go to Group IV, p.3


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