Cryosophila Blume
  • Rumphia 2: 53 (1838) 

Notes: Distribution: Mexico to N. Colombia

General Description

Moderate, solitary, armed, pleonanthic, hermaphroditic palms. Stem slender to rather stout, bearing often-branched root spines, prickly stilt roots sometimes developed. Leaves induplicate, palmate; sheath fibrous, densely floccose-tomentose, becoming split basally and splitting opposite the petiole, margins fibrous; petiole elongate, unarmed, channelled adaxially, rounded abaxially, margins sharp throughout their length; adaxial hastula deltoid, elevated, sometimes grooved, abaxial hastula narrow or lacking; blade divided centrally to or nearly to the base (?except in C. williamsii), each half further deeply divided into elongate, wedge-shaped, many-fold segments, these again divided into 2 or more, single-fold, acute or briefly bifid segments, white-tomentose abaxially, interfold ribs prominent adaxially, midribs prominent abaxially, transverse veinlets evident. Inflorescences interfoliar, curved or pendulous, branching to 2 orders; peduncle short, terete, tomentose; prophyll short, tubular, pointed, 2-keeled, tomentose; peduncular bracts several (to 6 or more), much larger than the prophyll, tubular at base, inflated distally, splitting laterally, densely tomentose; rachis about as long as the peduncle, somewhat angled, bearing several to many, recurved, first-order branches, only the proximal or all (in C. guagara) subtended by prominent bracts like those of the peduncle but progressively smaller, or the upper branches with reduced bracts only; first-order branches usually with obvious, not, or only slightly adnate bases, but rarely (C. cookii) the peduncle and rachis very short and rachillae fastigiately grouped along the rachis; rachillae little or not adnate above an acute subtending bract, spirally arranged, flowers borne on brief pedicels each subtended by a small, acute bract. Flowers small; sepals 3, narrowly ovate to deltoid, briefly connate basally; petals 3, distinct, scarcely longer than sepals, imbricate, rounded at apex; stamens 6, filaments flat, connate basally in a tube 1/2 their length or more, apically distinct and strap-shaped or terete, anthers exserted and spreading at an angle of 90°, dorsifixed near the base, briefly bifid at base and apex, latrorse; carpels 3, distinct, narrowly follicular, styles elongate, exserted, stigma scarcely expanded, ovule campylotropous, inserted adaxially at the base, with a small aril on the funicle. Pollen ellipsoidal, less frequently oblate triangular, with slight to obvious asymmetry; aperture a distal sulcus, or a trichotomosulcus; ectexine tectate or semitectate, foveolate or reticulate on proximal face, perforate, or coarsely perforate on distal face, including aperture margins; infratectum columellate; longest axis 22–36 µm [3/9]. Fruit developing from 1 carpel, white at maturity, stigmatic remains apical; epicarp smooth, mesocarp somewhat fleshy, endocarp membranous. Seed globose, not adherent to the endocarp, with round basal hilum, raphe branches impressed, ascending and anastamosing from the base, endosperm homogeneous with slight intrusion of seed coat adaxially at the base; embryo lateral, at or below the middle. Germination adjacent-ligular or remote-tubular (Chavez 2003); eophyll simple, entire, white abaxially. Cytology: 2n = 36.

Diagnostic Description

Solitary moderate hermaphroditic fan palms of humid and monsoon tropical rain forests of Central America and northern South America; stems are often covered with root spines and the leaves are discolorous, with the blade divided by a central deep split and the petiole base not split.


Leaf, root (Tomlinson 1961), leaf (Uhl 1972c),roots (Seubert 1997), flower (Uhl 1972b).


Species occur at moderate to low elevations in dry woods (Cryosophila nana) to rain forest.


Ten species from western Mexico to northern Colombia.


.Widely cultivated as ornamentals.

Common Names

Palma de escola, root spine palms

Distribution Map

  • Native distribution
Found in
  • Northern America Mexico Mexico Northwest
  • Mexico Southeast
  • Mexico Southwest
  • Southern America Central America Belize
  • Costa Rica
  • Guatemala
  • Honduras
  • Nicaragua
  • Panamá
  • Western South America Colombia


  • 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.
  • 3 Govaerts, R. (1999). World Checklist of Seed Plants 3(1, 2a & 2b): 1-1532. Continental Publishing, Deurne.

 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.