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Few other groups of palms can rival Chamaedorea for variety in foliage, size, and general habit. Highly ornamental with their neat, green, bamboo-like stems, they are among the most popular of palms and are used extensively for moist, shady areas in tropical and subtropical gardens where they fulfil a wide array of landscape uses. Relatively tough and durable and well suited to low light, they also make excellent house plants. Several, especially the parlour palm and the bamboo palm, are grown in vast quantities in North America, Europe, Australia, and the Orient for this use. In fact, the parlour palm, Chamaedorea elegans, is the most widely grown indoor palm.
Chamaedoreas have several attributes that give them their popularity. Their tremendous diversity is exemplified in the vast array of species with large or small and pinnate or bifid leaves. Such great diversity is also reflected in stems that may be solitary or clustered, slender or somewhat stout, and relatively long or short, or sometimes even lacking. Plants can be dwarf, and flowering and fruiting when no more than 30 cm tall, or moderately large, with stems to 15 meters long. In fact, just about every conceivable combination of leaf and stem is represented somewhere in the genus.
Their great ornamental value is due to the diversity mentioned above and several other factors. Being relatively small palms, they are much more manageable and better suited to average residential landscapes. With few exceptions, Chamaedoreas are easy to grow and are not particularly susceptible to pests and diseases. They are amazingly cold-hardy; in fact, most species will tolerate 0C(32F) without sustaining damage and a few species will not show damage as low as 5C(23F). Chamaedorea includes about 100 species of dioecious (i.e. separate male and female plants-Ed.), understory palms restricted to neotropical rainforests and cloud forests on the Atlantic and Pacific slopes from western and eastern Mexico through Central America to northwestern Ecuador, and the Amazonian portions of Colombia, western Brazil, eastern Ecuador, eastern Peru, and northern Bolivia.
The above description of Chamaedorea is an extract from the definitive text on the genus; Chamaedorea Palms: The Species and Their Cultivation by Donald R. Hodel, 1992 and available through the
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