Arecaceae – Astrocaryum – Astrocaryum mexicanum


Palm family

Acecaceae includes approximately 2oo genera of evergreen solitary or clustering trees or stemless shrubs, rarely climbers, from tropcical and mild temperate  regions. The architecture of palms is elegant and diverse. Though unfamiliar to many, inflorescencess and fruit are often highly ornamental. Leaves are compound, some with pinnate leaflets arranged  along a midrib  and sometimes with an elongated petiole base that sheathes the top of the trunk. Other palms have palmately compound leaves, with the leaflets spreading fanlike and radiating from a disklike structure at the end of the petiole. Costapalmate leaves are also fan – shaped but somewhat folded lengthwise, the sides arching, with the bases congested on a short rachis. Fishtail palms are the only bipinnately leafed palms, with a branched rachis and wedge – shaped leaflets. Palm leaflets may be partially fused along their edgess or completely free, juvenile leaflets are  often more fused than adults. Flowers are small. in many – flowered panicles. The inflorescence is subtended by a spathelike bract.

The apical meristem at the apex of the trunk or stalk is the only growing point. It cannot be cut bacck without   killing the individual stem, making it very important to select palms of appropriate mature height. Palms are susceptible to a variety of diseases and pests. Lethal yellowing disease has devasstated sussceptible species where it occurs. Palms often develop nutritional deficiencies in alkaline soils and need supplemental micronutrients. Photos of the trunks and leaf scar patterns are provided here because they are often ornamental and excellent field marks that are easily observed at eye level. Palmswere photographed primarily at Faichild Tropical Garden and the Montgomery  Botanical Center.


Astrocaryum includes approximately 50 species of solitary palms from rropical America. They grow in moist forest understory. Leaves are pinnate. Male and female flowers are on the same plant. Some species are utilized for oil or fiber. The genus name probably alludes to the starlike fibers arranged around the pore openings at the end of the fruit where the embryonic root emerges. These armed species are not commonly cultivated though they make formidable barrier fences.

 Astrocaryum mexicanum

Star nut palm

Mexico to Honduras. Solitary palm to 8 ft, zones 9-11. Blooms intermittently in warm, wet months. Regular moisture and humidity. Fertile, well drained soil. Full to part sun or bright broken light. Flowers: unisexual, small, brown and white, inflorescence compact, branched, fruit ovoid, woody, to 2 in.long, bracts one, spiny. Leaves: pinnate, in one rank, dull green, leaflets unevenly divided, petiole and rachis spiny. Stems: heavily armed with long spines.

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