Ceroxylon alpinum Bonpl. ex DC.

First published in Bull. Sci. Soc. Philom. Paris 3: 239 (1804)
This species is accepted
The native range of this species is Colombia to NW. & N. Venezuela. It is a tree and grows primarily in the wet tropical biome. It is used as animal food and a medicine, has social uses and for food.


Bernal, R., G. Galeano, A. Rodríguez, H. Sarmiento y M. Gutiérrez. 2017. Nombres Comunes de las Plantas de Colombia. http://www.biovirtual.unal.edu.co/nombrescomunes/

chonta, palma de cera, palma real

Extinction risk predictions for the world's flowering plants to support their conservation (2024). Bachman, S.P., Brown, M.J.M., Leão, T.C.C., Lughadha, E.N., Walker, B.E. https://nph.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/nph.19592

Predicted extinction risk: not threatened. Confidence: confident

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/39020/10162354

EN - endangered

Bernal, R., Gradstein, S.R. & Celis, M. (eds.). 2015. Catálogo de plantas y líquenes de Colombia. Instituto de Ciencias Naturales, Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Bogotá. http://catalogoplantasdecolombia.unal.edu.co

Nativa en Colombia; Alt. 1400 - 2000 m.; Andes.
Morphology General Habit
Árbol, palma solitaria
En Peligro

Biogeografic region: Andean. Elevation range: 1400–2000 m a.s.l. Native to Colombia. Colombian departments: Antioquia, Caldas, Cundinamarca, Quindío, Risaralda, Valle del Cauca.
Tree, Solitary palm.
IUCN Red List Assessment (2021): EN B1+2c. National Red List of Colombia (2021): EN A2ace.
Habitat according IUCN Habitats Classification: forest and woodland, shrubland, artificial - terrestrial.
Chonta, Palma de cera, Palma real

General Description
Canopy palm. Stem solitary, to 20 m tall, 15-30 cm in diameter, white with black leaf scars, or more rarely grey to brown. Leaves to 5 m long; pinnae ca. 100 on each side, regularly inserted in one plane, often somewhat pendulous, green and glabrous above, below silverish white and with a thin wax layer, the central pinnae 70-90 cm long and 3-4 cm wide. Inflorescences arching to pendulous, to 3 m long, branched 3 times. Fruits globose, 1-2 cm in diameter, slightly rough, red at maturity. Stem 8-21 m tall, 19-30 cm in diam., internodes covered with thin layers of wax, white at the base, grey to brown towards the apex. Leaves 17-20(-25) in hemispheric crown; sheath 75-125 cm long, densely covered with thick, eventually deciduous tomentum of white scales; petiole (10-)20-30 cm long, 4.5-7.0 cm wide apically, adaxial surface concave to flattened, margins acute, glabrescent, abaxial surface convex, densely covered with thick, deciduous scales or their broken bases, indumentum more persistent towards the margins; rachis 194-270 cm long, adaxially flattened in 2/3-¾ of its length, twisted 90° on distal portion thereby holding the pinnae in a vertical position, abaxial surface covered with an indumentum resembling that of the petiole; pinnae 90-110 on each side, regularly arranged in one plane, horizontal to slightly pendulous, in the latter case forming an angle (abaxially) close to 75°, abaxial surface covered with elliptical, membranaceous, white scales, becoming gradually more scattered with age, midrib covered with one row of translucent, deciduous scales, pinnae at the extreme proximal end filiform, 22-41(-62) × 0.2-0.3(-1.4) cm, 10th pinna from base 52-74 × 1-2 cm, middle pinnae 49-80 × 3.5-5.5 cm, 2.3-5.5 cm apart, apical pinnae (15-)24-31 × 0.5-1.0 cm, usually free, rarely united along the margins. Staminate inflorescences: peduncle ca. 80 cm long, covered with pale brown floccose scales; peduncular bracts 7, the longest 75 × 11 cm, leathery, covered with deciduous indumentum, only persisting towards margins; rachis 80-90 cm long, with ca. 56 first order branches, each subtended by a 0.5-1.5 mm membranaceous acuminate bract; rachis and branches covered with thick layer of persistent, white to cream indumentum of floccose scales; longest branches near base 37 cm long. Pistillate inflorescences up to five in various stages of development; peduncle 1.0-1.7 m long, 2.6-3.0 cm wide at apex, covered with pale brown, floccose, deciduos scales; prophyll covered with thick, brownish to yellowish, floccose; peduncular bracts 6-7, 22-148 × 11 cm, and an additional bract smaller, more distally inserted, about 8 cm, all bracts leathery, covered with thick indumentum like that of the prophyll; rachis 84-123 cm, with 54-62 first order branches, all branches subtended by a 0.5-2.0 mm, membranaceous, acuminate bract; longest branches 38-72 cm; rachis and first order branches densely covered with white and ferrugineous, persistent membranaceous scales. Staminate flowers: sepals 3, triangular-acuminate, apex narrow, 1.0-1.5 mm, connate basally for 1/3-½ their length, not reaching or exceeding edge of corolla tube; petals 3, ovate-acuminate to subulate, 4-8 mm, basally connate for 0.4-1.5 mm, apex long-acuminate, acumen 1-2 mm; stamens 10-17(-19), exserted, 3-6(-9) antesepalous, and 3-9(-10) antepetalous, filaments 1.0-2.5 mm, anthers basifixed, 4-7 mm, connective exceeding theca in length by 0.2-0.4 mm. Pistillate flowers: sepals 3, elliptical-acuminate, 1-2 mm long, connate for approx. ½ their length, reaching or exceeding edge of corolla tube; petals 3, elliptical-subulate, 4-5 mm long, basally connate for up to 1 mm, acumen narrow, 1 mm long; staminodes 12-16, 0.5 mm long, with thick filaments, abortive anthers 1.5-2.0 mm long. Fruits globose, orange-red when ripe, 1.6-2.0 cm diam., exocarp with raised lenticels appearing as scattered warts; perianth with triangular-acuminate sepals, 1.0-1.8 mm long, connate basally for 0.5-1.0 mm, lobes reaching edge of corolla tube, petals elliptical-subulate, 4-9 mm long, widened at base, acumen 1-3 mm long, connate basally for 0.7-1.0 mm. Seeds ca. 1 cm diam.
The vast majority of the montane forest within the range of this species has been destroyed or fragmented by coffee plantations or pastures. According to the IUCN criteria (Version 3.1) this species is Endangered (EN) in Venezuela (Llamosas et al. 2003), as well as in Colombia. In the latter country it is estimated that natural populations have been reduced more than 80% in the last 210 years (Galeano & Bernal 2005). Moreover, in one of the best conserved populations genetic erosion has been detected in seedlings (Gaitán-Solís 2003). A demographic study revealed that the maximum age of palm individuals growing under natural conditions is 160 years and up to 213 years in one particular case (Vergara-Chaparro 2002). On average they developed an aerial stem at the approximate age of 57 years and started flowering when they were approximately 83 years old.
Premontane wet forest from 1400 to 2000 m, in the Andes of Venezuela (Distrito Federal, on the northwestern slopes of the Cordillera de La Costa, Aragua, and Táchira) and Colombia (western slope of the Eastern Cordillera, and eastern and western slopes of the Central and Western Cordilleras). Venezuela to Ecuador along the Andes.
Chonta (Quindío, Colombia); palma bendita (Venezuela); palma de cera (Quindío, Valle del Cauca, Colombia; Venezuela); palma real (Valle del Cauca, Colombia).


Use Animal Food
Used as animal food.
Use Food
Used for food.
Use Materials
Used as material.
Use Medicines
Medical uses.
Use Social
Social uses.

The young leaves have traditionally been used in religious processions on Palm Sunday, a practice that has been abandoned by law in Colombia (Galeano & Bernal 2005). The stems are used as fencing around houses and farms, and to build walls. The fruits are consumed by pigs.


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