Invasive Species Compendium

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Chamaedorea elegans
(parlour palm)

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Datasheet

Chamaedorea elegans (parlour palm)

Summary

  • Last modified
  • 21 November 2019
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Host Plant
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Chamaedorea elegans
  • Preferred Common Name
  • parlour palm
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Plantae
  •     Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •       Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •         Class: Monocotyledonae
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • C. elegans is one of the most commonly cultivated palms in the world. Over 400 million seeds, nearly all from Mexico, are distributed annually throughout the world. It is a popular houseplant cultivated in the United States, Europe, Austr...

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Pictures

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PictureTitleCaptionCopyright
Chamaedorea elegans (parlour palm); habit. In the gardens of Lotusland, Montecito, nr Santa Barbara in southern California, USA. March 2012.
TitleHabit
CaptionChamaedorea elegans (parlour palm); habit. In the gardens of Lotusland, Montecito, nr Santa Barbara in southern California, USA. March 2012.
Copyright©Dick Culbert-2012/via wikipedia - CC BY 2.0
Chamaedorea elegans (parlour palm); habit. In the gardens of Lotusland, Montecito, nr Santa Barbara in southern California, USA. March 2012.
HabitChamaedorea elegans (parlour palm); habit. In the gardens of Lotusland, Montecito, nr Santa Barbara in southern California, USA. March 2012.©Dick Culbert-2012/via wikipedia - CC BY 2.0
Chamaedorea elegans (parlour palm); fruit and leaves. Resort Management Group Nursery Kihei, Maui, Hawaii, USA. February 2011.
TitleFruit and leaves
CaptionChamaedorea elegans (parlour palm); fruit and leaves. Resort Management Group Nursery Kihei, Maui, Hawaii, USA. February 2011.
Copyright©Forest Starr & Kim Starr - CC BY 4.0
Chamaedorea elegans (parlour palm); fruit and leaves. Resort Management Group Nursery Kihei, Maui, Hawaii, USA. February 2011.
Fruit and leavesChamaedorea elegans (parlour palm); fruit and leaves. Resort Management Group Nursery Kihei, Maui, Hawaii, USA. February 2011.©Forest Starr & Kim Starr - CC BY 4.0
Chamaedorea elegans (parlour palm); close-up of fruit. Resort Management Group Nursery Kihei, Maui, Hawaii, USA. February 2011.
TitleFruit
CaptionChamaedorea elegans (parlour palm); close-up of fruit. Resort Management Group Nursery Kihei, Maui, Hawaii, USA. February 2011.
Copyright©Forest & Kim Starr-2011 - CC BY 4.0
Chamaedorea elegans (parlour palm); close-up of fruit. Resort Management Group Nursery Kihei, Maui, Hawaii, USA. February 2011.
FruitChamaedorea elegans (parlour palm); close-up of fruit. Resort Management Group Nursery Kihei, Maui, Hawaii, USA. February 2011.©Forest & Kim Starr-2011 - CC BY 4.0
Chamaedorea elegans (parlour palm); potted specimens. Resort Management Group Nursery Kihei, Maui, Hawaii, USA. February 2011.
TitlePotted specimens
CaptionChamaedorea elegans (parlour palm); potted specimens. Resort Management Group Nursery Kihei, Maui, Hawaii, USA. February 2011.
Copyright©Forest & Kim Starr-2011 - CC BY 4.0
Chamaedorea elegans (parlour palm); potted specimens. Resort Management Group Nursery Kihei, Maui, Hawaii, USA. February 2011.
Potted specimensChamaedorea elegans (parlour palm); potted specimens. Resort Management Group Nursery Kihei, Maui, Hawaii, USA. February 2011.©Forest & Kim Starr-2011 - CC BY 4.0

Identity

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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Chamaedorea elegans Mart.

Preferred Common Name

  • parlour palm

Other Scientific Names

  • Chamaedorea deppeana Klotzsch
  • Chamaedorea elegans var. angustifolia M.Martens & Galeotti
  • Chamaedorea helleriana Klotzsch
  • Chamaedorea humilis (Liebm. ex Oerst.) Mart.
  • Chamaedorea pulchella Linden
  • Collinia deppeana Klotzsch
  • Collinia elegans (Mart.) Liebm. ex Oerst.
  • Collinia elegans var. angustifolia (M. Martens & Galeotti) M. Martens & Galeotti
  • Collinia humilis Liebm. ex Oerst.
  • Kunthia deppii Zucc.
  • Neanthe bella O.F.Cook
  • Neanthe elegans (Mart.) O.F.Cook
  • Neanthe neesiana O.F.Cook
  • Nunnezharia elegans (Mart.) Kuntze
  • Nunnezharia humilis (Liebm. ex Oerst.) Kuntze
  • Nunnezharia pulchella (Linden) Kuntze

International Common Names

  • English: dwarf mountain palm; good-luck palm; neanthe bella palm; parlor palm
  • Spanish: pacaya; pacayito

Local Common Names

  • Cuba: camedorea
  • Germany: Bergpalme, Zierliche
  • Guatemala: kiik; xate
  • Mexico: angostas; epejilote; palma camedor; palma fina; palmilla de hojas; palmita camedor; pesmilla; tutchast

EPPO code

  • CMDEL (Chamaedorea elegans)

Summary of Invasiveness

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C. elegans is one of the most commonly cultivated palms in the world. Over 400 million seeds, nearly all from Mexico, are distributed annually throughout the world. It is a popular houseplant cultivated in the United States, Europe, Australia, and Asia (Hodel, 1992; Henderson et al., 1997; Bridgewater, 2012). Currently, this species is listed as invasive only in Cuba (Oviedo Prieto et al., 2012). C. elegans is well adapted and grows in a wide range of climates and produces a large number of fruits dispersed mainly by birds (Henderson et al., 1997). These are traits that can significantly improve the ability of this species to spread further than its current distribution. 

Taxonomic Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Plantae
  •         Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •             Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •                 Class: Monocotyledonae
  •                     Order: Arecales
  •                         Family: Arecaceae
  •                             Genus: Chamaedorea
  •                                 Species: Chamaedorea elegans

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

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The family Arecaceae includes 183 and about 2385 species of perennial trees, shrubs or lianas, commonly known as palm trees distributed in tropical and subtropical regions of the world (Stevens, 2012). The genus Chamaedorea comprises approximately 110 species, all palms of the understory. The species Chamaedorea elegans exhibits a wide degree of variability. For instance, a form with broader leaflets and with inflorescences not exceeding the leaves occurs in Mexico and a form with narrow leaflets and inflorescences again not exceeding the leaves grows in Guatemala (Palmweb, 2015). Standley and Steyermark (1958) stated that it is difficult to find differences that are of specific significance when considering plants from the entire range.

The etymology of the species comes from the Latin “elegans” meaning elegant (Hodel, 1992). It has been grown as a houseplant since Victorian times, gracing 'parlours' throughout the land, hence the common name parlour palm.

Description

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C. elegans is a slender, erect or infrequently decumbent palm, to 2 m tall or more but flowering when very small and less than 30 cm tall, then appearing stemless. Stem 0.8-1.5 cm diameter, green, densely ringed with prominent nodes, internodes 0.5-3 cm long. Leaves 5-8, spreading, pinnate; sheath 8-20 cm long, very obliquely open nearly to base and tubular only in lower 1/3, short ligule apically on either side of petiole, margins brownish and ragged, light green or whitish below margin, longitudinally greenstriate-nerved; petiole 10-40 cm long, slender, grooved and green above, rounded and pale below; rachis 15-60 cm long, very slender, 4-sided, angled and green above, rounded below with narrow yellow band extending onto petiole; pinnae 11-21 on each side of rachis, 15-30 × 1-3 cm, linear to narrowly lanceolate, long-acuminate, contracted basally, thin, dark green, midrib prominent and pale, elevated or keeled above, 1-2 less prominent primary nerves on each side of midrib, secondaries numerous, faint.

Inflorescences erect, shorter than or equal to or greatly exceeding leaves; peduncles 15-90 cm long, 5-9 mm wide at base, ± flattened, 4-6 mm wide at apex, rounded, green where exposed in flower, red-orange in fruit. Staminate with 4-7 bracts, uppermost exceeding peduncle, largest to 35 cm long, acuminate and bifid apically, fibrous or ± papery; rachis 1.5-20 cm long, longitudinally ridged or angled, green; rachillae 5-35, lower ones the longest, these to 15 cm long, becoming progressively shorter toward apex of rachis, 2 mm diameter, spreading, simple or branched, sharply angled, green. Pistillate similar to that of staminate but with 6-10 bracts; rachis slightly shorter, flexuous, orange in fruit; rachillae fewer in number and shorter than those of staminate, to 10 cm long, ± stiff, green in flower, red-orange in fruit. Staminate flowers in remote to moderate spirals, 3 × 4 mm, depressed-globose, yellow, aromatic, nerved when dry, sessile or slightly sunken in elliptic depressions; calyx 0.75-1 × 2-2.5 mm, moderately lobed, green; petals 2.5 × 2 mm, connate, corolla opening by a 3-angled pore apically, fleshy; stamens 1.5-2 mm long, filaments connate, whitish, anthers 0.75-1 mm long, entire, yellow; pistillode equal to or slightly exceeding corolla, 6-angled, flared slightly apically, pale yellow-green. Pistillate flowers in remote spirals, 3 × 2.75 mm, globose, yellow, nerved when dry, slightly sunken in elliptic depressions 1-1.5 mm long; calyx 1 × 2 mm, deeply lobed, green; petals 2-2.5 × 1.5-2 mm, connate, corolla opening by a 3-angled pore apically, thick, fleshy, fruits 4-7 mm diameter, globose, black; seeds 3-6 mm diameter, globose (Hodel, 1992).

Plant Type

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Herbaceous
Perennial
Seed propagated
Shrub

Distribution

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C. elegans is native to Mexico and Central America (i.e., Belize, Guatemala and Honduras; Govaerts et al., 2015). It is a popular palm cultivated and commercialized worldwide (Palmweb, 2015; USDA-ARS, 2015), particularly as a house plant.

Distribution Table

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The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.

Last updated: 10 Jan 2020
Continent/Country/Region Distribution Last Reported Origin First Reported Invasive Reference Notes

North America

BelizePresentNative
CubaPresentIntroducedInvasive
El SalvadorPresent
GuatemalaPresentNative
HondurasPresentNative
MexicoPresentNative
Puerto RicoPresent, Only in captivity/cultivationIntroduced
United StatesPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-FloridaPresent, Only in captivity/cultivationIntroduced

Oceania

AustraliaPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-QueenslandPresent, Only in captivity/cultivationIntroduced

History of Introduction and Spread

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In Mexico and Belize, the exportation of seeds of Chamaedora species began in the 1950s and has increased over the years. According to the World Conservation Union (IUCN), Chamaedorea species are among the world’s most endangered palms, with around three quarters of the species threatened mainly due to the of the destruction of their rainforest habitat and the overharvesting of leaves, stems and seeds (Bridgewater, 2012). 

Risk of Introduction

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C. elegans is one of the most common palm species cultivated and commercialized around the world (Hodel, 1992; Henderson et al., 1997; Bridgewater, 2012). Due to its wide adaptation to different climates and temperatures this species has been distributed to all types of climates worldwide where it is cultivated as both an indoor and outdoor palm (Palmweb, 2015). 

Habitat

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C. elegans occurs in the understory of moist, wet, or mixed forest in lowlands and mountain forests. It also grows in the Atlantic slope of Guatemalan rainforests at elevations up to 1400 m (Standley and Steyermark, 1958, Hodel, 1992). 

Habitat List

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CategorySub-CategoryHabitatPresenceStatus
Terrestrial
Terrestrial ManagedProtected agriculture (e.g. glasshouse production) Present, no further details Productive/non-natural
Terrestrial ManagedDisturbed areas Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Terrestrial ManagedDisturbed areas Present, no further details Natural
Terrestrial ManagedDisturbed areas Present, no further details Productive/non-natural
Terrestrial ManagedUrban / peri-urban areas Present, no further details Productive/non-natural
Terrestrial ManagedBuildings Present, no further details Productive/non-natural

Biology and Ecology

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Genetics

The chromosome number reported for C. elegans is 2n = 26 (Röser, 1994).

Reproductive Biology

Chamaedorea elegans is a dioecious palm with unisexual staminate and pistillate flowers on different plants. Thrips, beetles, and the wind are their prime pollinators (Bridgewater, 2012).

Environmental Requirements

C. elegans prefers moist and wet habitats from sea level to 1400 m elevation (Standley and Steyermark, 1958). It grows on slightly alkaline, clay, sand, and loams with pH ranging from 5.6 to 7.5. It grows in a wide range of substrates such as volcanic soils and calcareous soils (Hodel, 1992).

Climate

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ClimateStatusDescriptionRemark
Am - Tropical monsoon climate Preferred Tropical monsoon climate ( < 60mm precipitation driest month but > (100 - [total annual precipitation(mm}/25]))
As - Tropical savanna climate with dry summer Preferred < 60mm precipitation driest month (in summer) and < (100 - [total annual precipitation{mm}/25])
Aw - Tropical wet and dry savanna climate Preferred < 60mm precipitation driest month (in winter) and < (100 - [total annual precipitation{mm}/25])

Air Temperature

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Parameter Lower limit Upper limit
Mean annual temperature (ºC) 16 30

Rainfall

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ParameterLower limitUpper limitDescription
Mean annual rainfall10003500mm; lower/upper limits

Rainfall Regime

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Bimodal
Uniform

Soil Tolerances

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Soil drainage

  • seasonally waterlogged

Soil reaction

  • acid
  • neutral

Soil texture

  • light
  • medium

Notes on Natural Enemies

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C. elegans is susceptible to mites, scales, and thrips and is considered a prime host of several injurious nematodes (Gilman, 2013). 

Means of Movement and Dispersal

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C. elegans spreads by seeds. Fruits are dispersed by birds and mammals, and seedlings thrive in shaded, moist habitats (Henderson et al., 1997; Bridgewater, 2012).

Intentional Introduction

C. elegans is one of the most commonly cultivated palms in the world. Over 400 million seeds, nearly all from Mexico, are distributed annually throughout the world. It is a popular plant in the United States, Europe, Australia, and Asia (Hodel, 1992; Henderson et al., 1997; Bridgewater, 2012).

Pathway Causes

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CauseNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
Botanical gardens and zoosOrnamental plant Yes Yes Hodel, 1992
Escape from confinement or garden escape Yes Yes Oviedo Prieto et al., 2012
Ornamental purposesWidely commercialized as house plant Yes Yes Hodel, 1992

Pathway Vectors

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VectorNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
Debris and waste associated with human activitiesFruits/seeds escaped from gardens Yes Oviedo Prieto et al., 2012

Impact Summary

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CategoryImpact
Economic/livelihood Positive and negative
Environment (generally) Positive and negative

Environmental Impact

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Currently, C. elegans has been listed as invasive only for the island of Cuba where it is displacing native vegetation (Oviedo Prieto et al., 2012).

Risk and Impact Factors

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Invasiveness
  • Proved invasive outside its native range
  • Tolerates, or benefits from, cultivation, browsing pressure, mutilation, fire etc
  • Benefits from human association (i.e. it is a human commensal)
  • Long lived
Impact outcomes
  • Ecosystem change/ habitat alteration
  • Monoculture formation
  • Reduced native biodiversity
  • Threat to/ loss of native species
Impact mechanisms
  • Competition - monopolizing resources
  • Rapid growth
Likelihood of entry/control
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally deliberately
  • Difficult to identify/detect in the field

Uses

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C. elegans is widely cultivated as a houseplant in the USA, Europe, and Asia. In Mexico and Belize, the commercial harvesting of leaves, stems and seeds of Chamaedorea species is the principal source of income for many local communities (Hodel, 1992; Henderson et al., 1997; Bridgewater, 2012). For example, Chamaedora exports from the Maya Biosphere Reserve in Guatemala were worth more than US$ 4 million in 2000 (Bridgewater, 2012).

Uses List

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General

  • Botanical garden/zoo
  • Ornamental

Ornamental

  • Potted plant
  • Seed trade

References

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Bridgewater S, 2012. A Natural History of Belize: Inside the Maya Forest. Texas, USA: University of Texas Press.

Forsberg LI, 1985. Foliar diseases of nursery-grown ornamental palms in Queensland. Australasian Plant Pathology, 14(4):67-71

Gilman EF, 2013. Chamaedorea elegans Parlor Palm, Neanthe Bella., USA: University of Florida IFAS Extension. Chamaedorea elegans Parlor Palm, Neanthe Bella

Govaerts R; Dransfield J; Zona SF; Hodel DR; Henderson A, 2015. World Checklist of Arecaceae. London, UK: Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. http://apps.kew.org/wcsp/

Henderson A; Galeano G; Bernal R, 1997. Field Guide to the Palms of the Americas. Princeton, NJ, USA: Princeton University Press.

Hodel DR, 1992. Chamaedorea palms: the species and their cultivation. Lawrence, KA, USA: International Palm Society, 338 pp.

Martorell LF; Liogier AH; Woodbury RO, 1981. List of the common and scientific names of the plants of Puerto Rico. (Catalogo de los nombres vulgares y cientificos de las plantas de Puerto Rico.) Boletin Estacion Experimental Agricola, No. 263:231 pp.

Oviedo Prieto R; Herrera Oliver P; Caluff MG, et al. , 2012. National list of invasive and potentially invasive plants in the Republic of Cuba - 2011. (Lista nacional de especies de plantas invasoras y potencialmente invasoras en la República de Cuba - 2011). Bissea: Boletín sobre Conservación de Plantas del Jardín Botánico Nacional de Cuba, 6(Special Issue 1):22-96.

Palmweb, 2015. Palms of the World Online. http://www.palmweb.org/

Quero HJ, 1994. Palmae. (Palmae.) Flora de Veracruz, No. 81. Veracruz, Mexico: Instituto Nacional de Investigaciones sobre Recursos Bióticos (INIREB), 118 pp.

Röser M, 1994. Pathways of karyological differentiation in palms (Arecaceae). Plant Systematics and Evolution, 189(1-2):83-122.

Standley PC; Steyermark JA, 1958. Cycadaceae to Bromeliaceae. [Flora of Guatemala. Part I.] Fieldiana (Bot.) 24 (part 1), pp. ix + 478.

Stevens PF, 2012. Angiosperm Phylogeny Website. http://www.mobot.org/MOBOT/research/APweb/

USDA-ARS, 2015. Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Online Database. Beltsville, Maryland, USA: National Germplasm Resources Laboratory. https://npgsweb.ars-grin.gov/gringlobal/taxon/taxonomysearch.aspx

Distribution References

CABI, Undated. CABI Compendium: Status inferred from regional distribution. Wallingford, UK: CABI

Forsberg L I, 1985. Foliar diseases of nursery-grown ornamental palms in Queensland. Australasian Plant Pathology. 14 (4), 67-71. DOI:10.1071/APP9850067

Gilman EF, 2013. (Chamaedorea elegans Parlor Palm, Neanthe Bella)., USA: University of Florida IFAS Extension. Chamaedorea elegans Parlor Palm, Neanthe Bella.

Govaerts R, Dransfield J, Zona SF, Hodel DR, Henderson A, 2015. World Checklist of Arecaceae., London, UK: Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. http://apps.kew.org/wcsp/

Martorell L F, Liogier A H, Woodbury R O, 1981. Boletin Estacion Experimental Agricola, 231 pp.

Oviedo Prieto R, Herrera Oliver P, Caluff M G, et al, 2012. National list of invasive and potentially invasive plants in the Republic of Cuba - 2011. (Lista nacional de especies de plantas invasoras y potencialmente invasoras en la República de Cuba - 2011). Bissea: Boletín sobre Conservación de Plantas del Jardín Botánico Nacional de Cuba. 6 (Special Issue No. 1), 22-96.

Quero H J, 1994. Palmae. (Palmae.). In: Flora de Veracruz, Veracruz, Mexico: Instituto Nacional de Investigaciones sobre Recursos Bióticos (INIREB). 118 pp.

Links to Websites

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WebsiteURLComment
GISD/IASPMR: Invasive Alien Species Pathway Management Resource and DAISIE European Invasive Alien Species Gatewayhttps://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.m93f6Data source for updated system data added to species habitat list.
Global register of Introduced and Invasive species (GRIIS)http://griis.org/Data source for updated system data added to species habitat list.
PalmWebhttp://www.palmweb.org

Contributors

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10/12/15 Original text by:

Julissa Rojas-Sandoval, Department of Botany-Smithsonian NMNH, Washington DC, USA

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