Acrocomia aculeata

Common name

gru-gru palm, macaw palm


Stems: Solitary, upright stems to 10 m tall and up to 35 cm in diameter, bulging just above or at the middle of the stem, with rings of black spines, and sometimes covered with remnants of old leaf bases. Stem often becomes smooth with age. Leaves: Pinnate, to 3 m long, with linear leaflets spreading in multiple planes. Upper leaf surface, grayish or bluish green; undersurface, whitish or silvery. Flowers and fruits: Spiny inflorescences (up to 2 m long) are protected by a woody spathe and branched to one order. Male and female flowers are borne on the same inflorescence with female flowers at the base of the branch and male flowers toward the tip. The spherical fruits (2.5-5 cm) have a single seed and are yellow-green to brown when ripe.

Diagnostic features

Field: Erect, solitary palms with sharp, black spines in rings on the stem; the stem sometimes with persistent leaf bases attached and often swollen or spindle-shaped; leaflets plumose.

Lab: Tiny white hairs on the whitish underside of the leaflets, obvious, pale secondary veins and obscure transverse veinlets.

May be confused with

Bactris gasipaes: 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 Acrocomia aculeata has linear leaflets.


Native to dry areas (savannas) in South and Central America and the Caribbean

Additional comments

Because it has abundant black spines, Acrocomia aculeata is not likely to be confused with Syagrus romanzoffiana, the queen palm, but in the landscape the general appearance of the two species is similar.

This genus was revised in 1995, when the number of species was reduced from about 30 to 2. All the former species with upright, above ground stems are now included in A. aculeata.

Scientific name

Acrocomia aculeata (Jacq.) Lodd. ex Mart.




Acrocomia fusiformis (Sw.) Sweet

Acrocomia lasiospatha Mart.

Acrocomia media O. F. Cook

Acrocomia mexicana Karw. ex Mart.

Acrocomia microcarpa Barb. Rodr.

Acrocomia mokayayba Barb. Rodr.

Acrocomia sclerocarpa Mart.

Acrocomia spinosa (Mill.) H. E. Moore

Acrocomia totai Mart.

Acrocomia vinifera Oerst.

Bactris pavoniana Mart.

Cocos aculeata Jacq.

Euterpe aculeata (Willd.) Spreng.

Last Updated May 2014