Geonoma epetiolata

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Figure 1. G. epetiolata in habitat, Costa Rica.


Common Names:

Stained Glass Palm

Distribution & Habitat:

It grows from sea level to 900m in pre-montane rain forest in Costa Rica.


A small, solitary, understory palm with a stem to 2m tall, and 1cm in diameter. It has simple bifid leaves, up to 60cm long, and 17cm wide, which don't have petioles (epetiolata == no petioles), but do have very attractive mottling. The young leaves are quite spectacularly coloured with oranges and reds (hence the common name of Stained Glass palm).


Several web sites (e.g. [[www.rara-avis.comprojects_in_rara_avis.htm" here and [[" here) talk about Geonoma epetiolata, and how it was (supposedly) discovered in Panama in the late 19th century, and then almost driven to extinction through over-collection for the european glasshouse market, and then rediscovered only a few decades ago.

The following is a refutation of that claim, from Jay Vannini, originally posted to the [[palmtalk.orgcgi-binforumikonboard.cgi?act=SF;f=1" IPS forum:

There is quite a bit of nonsense and legend published on the web by Costa-Rican eco-lodges and their ilk regarding the "history", distribution and current status of this palm. While still possible, I have not been able to verify any claims that it was ever cultivated in european glasshouses during the late nineteenth century, then "lost" (apparently until Moore's description in 1980, based on Robert Dressler's collection of the type material in the early '70s). It certainly tests the limits of credibility that such a showy small palm should have not been described in the early 1900's, if there was material, even lacking locality data, available to british botanists. As many know, it was common practice to publish binomials based on unicates from cultivation with questionable/no collection data.

The small populations of Geonoma epetiolata that occur in and adjacent to the Zona Protectora appear to be western outliers, and the main population appears to be scattered at lower middle elevations much further to the east.

With regards to its present conservation status - current [[www.cites.orgengappappendices.shtml" CITES lists for Apps 1, 2 and 3: - no Geonoma, as far as I can see. Please be careful what you wish for, boys and girls!

This palm occurs in several private and national protected areas in both of its range states. I would consider it to be relatively common at two localities that I am familiar with, where it occurs in sympatry with several other palmlets of commercial interest (Chamaedorea amabilis, C. sullivaniorum, C. correae, etc.). Clearly, based on their relative abundance, these areas have not been visited by "enthusiasts", yet.

These palmlets vary quite a bit, both from individual to individual, and in response to the light levels under which it is cultivated. Very tall specimens (1.60 m), tend to have very narrow, triangular leaves, similar to some other dwarf, simple-leaf members of the genus (such as G. divisa).

I am aware of plants that are successfully grown in three Central American countries, Hawaii and Oz. Based on personal observation, seeds mature very late in the season and are subject to heavy predation by small rodents and weevils. Fruit colors fully on the infructs. quite some time before the seed is actually mature.


Warm, sheltered and moist. Seed is hard to come by, and difficult to germinate.

Figure 2. G. epetiolata
Figure 3. G. epetiolata
Figure 4. G. epetiolata
Figure 5. G. epetiolata

Contributed by:

Jay Vannini (Figure 1,2,3,4&5)

External Links:

Kew, PalmWeb, eMonocot, JSTOR, Trebrown

Google, Google Images, Flickr, PACSOA Forums, PalmTalk