Mauritia L.f.
  • Suppl. Pl.: 70 (1782) 

Notes: Distribution: Trinidad to S. Trop. America

General Description

Massive, solitary, unarmed, pleonanthic, dioecious, tree palms. Stem erect, partly obscured by marcescent leaf sheaths above, becoming bare basally, cortex hard, pith soft. Leaves large, reduplicate, briefly costapalmate; sheath tubular at first, splitting opposite the petiole, the margins sometimes bearing coarse fibres; petiole conspicuous, adaxially channelled near the base, otherwise circular in cross-section, smooth, unarmed; blade bearing a low crest adaxially at the base, abaxially with a low ridge; blade orbicular, divided along abaxial folds almost to the insertion into numerous crowded single-fold segments, very shortly bifid at their tips, midribs prominent, transverse veinlets not conspicuous. Inflorescences solitary, interfoliar, the staminate and pistillate superficially similar; prophyll short, tubular, 2-keeled, with 2 short triangular lobes, striate; peduncle shorter than the rachis, elliptical in cross-section, bearing numerous overlapping distichous, tubular, striate, peduncular bracts, each with a short, triangular, dorsal limb and a shallow point on opposite side; rachis bracts numerous, completely sheathing the branches, distichous, as the peduncular, each subtending a ± pendulous or spreading first-order branch; the first-order branch bearing a short, 2-keeled, striate, tubular prophyll, and 1–few empty distichous bracts, subsequent bracts tubular, flaring, short, each subtending a very short or moderate, straight or recurved rachilla; staminate rachilla catkin-like, bearing a basal, tubular, 2-keeled prophyll and crowded, spirally inserted bracts, each subtending a pair of staminate flowers, each flower bearing a basal 2-keeled bracteole; pistillate rachilla very short, not catkin-like, bearing a basal, tubular, 2-keeled prophyll, and subdistichous, ± explanate bracts, each subtending a solitary pistillate flower with a flattened, 2-keeled bracteole, and often also bearing a minute spathulate, second bracteole, with 2 minute flanges on its abaxial surface. Staminate flowers with calyx tubular, shortly 3-lobed, often densely scaly; petals 3, elongate, much exceeding the calyx, valvate, coriaceous, joined briefly at the base; stamens 6, the filaments ± free, thick, ± angled, elongate, anthers elongate, basifixed, latrorse; pistillode minute. Pollen spheroidal, symmetric; aperture either a large distal pore or a short sulcus; ectexine intectate, very finely clavate, interspersed with bottle-shaped spines set in, and loosely connected to, cavities in a wide foot layer bulging strongly inwards beneath each spine, the inner face of the foot layer finely lamellate, aperture margins similar; longest axis 54–65 µm [1/2]. Pistillate flowers larger than the staminate; calyx tubular, striate, shortly 3-lobed, often densely scaly; corolla tubular in the basal 1/3 – 1/2, with 3 valvate, elongate lobes distally; staminodes 6, connate laterally by their flattened broad filaments and adnate to the corolla at the mouth of the tube; gynoecium trilocular, triovulate, ± rounded, covered in vertical rows of reflexed scales, style short, conical, stigmas 3, ovules anatropous, basally attached. Fruit ± rounded, very large, usually 1-seeded, with apical stigmatic remains; epicarp covered in many neat vertical rows of reddish-brown, reflexed scales, mesocarp rather thick, fleshy, endocarp not differentiated. Seed rounded, attached near the base, apically with a blunt beak, testa thin, endosperm homogeneous; embryo basal. Germination adjacent-ligular; eophyll with a pair of divergent leaflets (?always). Cytology: 2n = 30.

Diagnostic Description

Massive stately solitary palms of South America, with robust erect stems and huge palmate leaves with segments of equal width; inflorescences are robust and the staminate rachillae catkin-like, each rachilla bract subtending a pair of staminate flowers.


Leaf, petiole, stem (Tomlinson 1961), root (Seubert 1996a), stegmata (Killmann and Hong 1989).


Occurring often in vast natural stands in periodically inundated areas in the lowlands.


Two species distributed in wetter parts of Trinidad, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Venezuela, Guyana, Surinam, French Guiana and Brazil.


The buriti palms are immensely useful. They may be a source of oil and starch, wine, timber, cork, fibre for weaving and tying, and palm hearts.

Common Names

Mauritia palms, moriche palms, buriti.

Distribution Map

  • Native distribution
Found in
  • Southern America Brazil Brazil North
  • Brazil Northeast
  • Brazil Southeast
  • Brazil West-Central
  • Caribbean Trinidad-Tobago
  • Northern South America French Guiana
  • Guyana
  • Suriname
  • Venezuela
  • Western South America Bolivia
  • Colombia
  • Ecuador
  • Peru


  • 1 J. Dransfield & N. Uhl & C. Asmussen & W.J. Baker & M. Harley & C. Lewis, Genera Palmarum. The evolution and classification of palms. 2008
  • 2 Govaerts, R. & Dransfield, J. (2005). World Checklist of Palms: 1-223. The Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

 Information From

Palmweb - Palms of the World Online
Palmweb 2011. Palmweb: Palms of the World Online. Published on the internet Accessed on 21/04/2013
  • A Content licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License
  • B
eMonocot. (2010, 1st November). Retrieved Wednesday, 8th February, 2012, from
  • C Content licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License
World Checklist of Selected Plant Families
WCSP 2014. 'World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. Facilitated by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Published on the Internet; Retrieved 2011 onwards
  • D See You may use data on these Terms and Conditions and on further condition that: The data is not used for commercial purposes; You may copy and retain data solely for scholarly, educational or research purposes; You may not publish our data, except for small extracts provided for illustrative purposes and duly acknowledged; You acknowledge the source of the data by the words "With the permission of the Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew" in a position which is reasonably prominent in view of your use of the data; Any other use of data or any other content from this website may only be made with our prior written agreement.