Bactris gasipaes

Common name

peach palm, chonta

Description

Stems: Clustering, upright stems to 15 m tall and up to 25 cm in diameter, with rings of black or brown spines. Leaves: Pinnate, reduplicate to 4 m long, with linear leaflets in groups of 2-5 along the rachis and spreading in multiple planes. Upper and lower leaf surfaces green with a spiny petiole. Flowers and fruits: Spine-covered, woody bracts (up to 1.5m long) cover inflorescences that are branched to one order. Yellowish-white male and female flowers are borne on the same inflorescence. The edible fruits (2.5-5 cm) are yellow-orange to red-orange when ripe.

Diagnostic features

Field: Erect palm with dark needle-like spines on clustering stems and leaves with plumose leaflets that are green on upper and lower surfaces

Lab: Straight, white hairs on abaxial surface

May be confused with

Acrocomia aculeata: Both species are spiny, but Acrocomia aculeata is single-stemmed, while Bactris gasipaes is a multi-stemmed or clustering palm. Leaflets of Bactris are green, not whitish, on the undersides.

Aiphanes palms: These species are also spiny, but they have praemorse (fish-tail) leaflets, while Bactris gasipaes has linear leaflets (except for the apical leaflet which is more or less praemorse).

Distribution

Widely cultivated throughout Central America and northern South America

Additional comments

Peach Palm is an important crop in many tropical countries, cultivated for both the edible fruit (cooked to make a starchy snack) and the palm heart which has the potential to be sustainably harvested because, unlike solitary palms, this multi-stemmed palm is not killed when the heart (meristem) is cut.

Scientific name

Bactris gasipaes Kunth

Family

Arecaceae/Palmae

Synonyms

Bactris gasipaes Kunth

Bactris ciliata (Ruiz & Pav.) Mart.

Bactris insignis (Mart.) Baillon

Bactris speciosa (Mart.) Baillon

Bactris utilis (Oerst.) Benth. & Hook. F. ex Hemsl.

Guilielma ciliata (Ruiz & Pav.) H. Wendl.

Guilielma gasipaes L.H.Bailey

Guilielma speciosa Mart.

Guilielma utilis Oerst.

Last Updated May 2014

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