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Aiphanes spicata Borchs. & R.Bernal

Aiphanes is a genus of spiny palms which is native to tropical regions of South and Central America and the Caribbean. There are about 26 species in the genus, ranging in size from understorey shrubs with subterranean stems to subcanopy trees as tall as 20 metres (66 ft). Most have pinnately compound leaves (leaves which are divided into leaflets arranged feather-like, in pairs along a central axis); one species has entire leaves. Stems, leaves and sometimes even the fruit are covered with spines. Plants flower repeatedly over the course of their lifespan and have separate male and female flowers, although these are borne together on the same inflorescence. Although records of pollinators are limited, most species appear to be pollinated by insects. The fruit are eaten by several birds and ... ...Read More

Solitary, acaulescent or with a horizontal, subterranean stem, to 30 cm long, 2-5 cm diam. Leaves 9-12, erect and arching; sheath 14-20 cm long, with numerous black spines, to 8 cm long; petiole 16-25 cm long, armed like sheath, but spines fewer; rachis 42-80 cm long, green, with a brown, caducous indument, unarmed or with scattered, black spines, to 5 cm long; pinnae 14-16 per side, nearly regularly inserted or in groups of 2-4, these occupying 3-7 cm along the rachis, separated by 9-11 cm, all pinnae more or less in one plane, strongly plicate, middle pinnae 17-22 x 1-2.5 cm, linear or narrowly cuneate, 10-18 times as long as wide, obliquely praemorse at apex, with an up to 2 cm long finger-like projection on the distal margin, both sides with scattered, peltate hairs and few minute spinules, margins lined with black spinules, ca. 1 mm long. Inflorescence interfoliar, erect, spicate; prophyll 14-16 cm long, ca. 1 cm wide; peduncular bract 30-50 cm long, 1-1.5 cm wide, thin, with minute, black spinules, soon disintegrating; peduncle 45-110 cm long, 3-4 mm diam. at apex, green, with a thin, brown, caducous indument, unarmed or covered with black, thin, to 3 cm long spines; spike 14-26 cm long, 5-8 mm diam., with a brown, caducous indument, covered with minute, black spinules, basal ? with triads, distally staminate; flower groups sunken into deep, elongate cavities in the spike, each subtended by a 3-4 mm long bract, covering the flower group before anthesis. Staminate flowers 3-4 mm long, 3-4 mm wide, yellow in center, with light green petals; sepals imbricate, carinate, covering the petals for ? of their length, 3-3.5 x 4-5 mm; petals free, valvate, 3.5-4 x 2.5-3 mm; filaments ca. 1 mm long, anthers 1.1-1.4 x 0.9-1.1 mm; pistillode minute, trifid; receptacle swollen, ca. 0.5 mm thick. Pistillate flowers (at anthesis) 4-5 mm long, ca. 4 mm wide, light greenish yellow; sepals imbricate, broadly ovate, shorter than the petals, enclosed in the floral pit, 2.5-3.5 x 4-5 mm; petals connate for ½ their length, valvate distally, 4-5 x 3-4 mm; staminodiaI cup truncate, 3-4 mm high; pistil ca. 4 mm high, 3 mm diam., glabrous. Fruits 10 mm long, 9 mm wide. [3]


GENUS [A]Aiphanes

SUB-FAMILY [N]Arecoideae

TRIBE [N]Cocoseae

SUB-TRIBE [N]Attaleinae





 Distribution [C][3]


Aiphanes species have a long history of human use. The remains of carbonised seeds thought to belong to A. horrida have been found in archaeological sites in Colombia dating back to about 2800 BP; seeds of this species are still consumed and are traded in local markets. Aiphanes horrida is also widely planted as an ornamental, as is A. minima. The fruit or seeds of A. deltoidea, A. eggersii, A. linearis and A. minima are all consumed locally. The palm heart of A. macroloba is consumed by the Coaiquer people of northwestern South America. Aiphanol, a compound isolated from A. horrida, has shown significant inhibitory activity against cyclooxygenases;[48] inhibition of these enzymes can provide relief from the symptoms of inflammation and pain.




Cold Hardiness Zone (USDA) 9b







[3] Govaerts, R. & Dransfield, J. (2005). World Checklist of Palms: 1-223. The Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
[3] Borchsenius, F. and Bernal, R. 1996. Aiphanes (Palmae). Flora Neotropica 70. pp 1-95 

[A] Palmweb - Palms of the World Online -

[C] WCSP 2013. World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. Facilitated by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Published on the Internet; Retrieved 2011 onwards

[N] The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) -

[W] Wikipedia:


The World Checklist of Monocotyledons:

The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI):

IUCN Red List: