Ammandra O.F.Cook
  • J. Wash. Acad. Sci. 17: 220 (1927) 

Notes: Distribution: W. South America

General Description

Solitary, stemless or short-trunked, unarmed, pleonanthic, dioecious palm. Stem extremely short, internodes short, obscured by a loose network of long, slender, straight, sheath fibres. Leaf pinnate; sheath soon disintegrating into a mass of long straight fibres resembling horse hair; petiole erect, long, slender, grooved adaxially at the base, becoming cylindrical distally; leaflets very regular except for the lower-most which may be irregular, stiffly horizontal, the lowest very narrow, the middle lanceolate, the terminal very short, shiny dark green, a midrib and a pair of marginal veins prominent abaxially, the submarginal veins forming a prominent ridge with a resulting outer groove along the leaflet margins, transverse veinlets not evident. Inflorescences, the staminate and pistillate dissimilar; staminate short, racemose, recurved at anthesis, branched to 1 order; peduncle moderate, rounded, glabrous; prophyll tubular, short, shallowly 2-keeled, rounded to a shallow point, splitting apically; complete peduncular bracts l, similar to the propyll but longer, other peduncular bracts few (5 according to Cook) large or small and shallow; rachis slightly longer than the peduncle, bearing spirally arranged, short, terete branches, each subtended by a small pointed bract; first-order branches each bearing ca. 6(–9), crowded, staminate flowers, subtending bracts small, pointed, membranous or not evident. Staminate flowers with a short terete stalk; perianth consisting of a low membranous rim or absent; floral receptacle chunky with several flat sides all bearing irregularly to somewhat spirally arranged stamens, filaments very short, appressed, or briefly elongate, anthers short, rounded or ± elongate, basifixed, latrorse; pistillode terminal, conical, whitish, irregular in position. Pollen brevi-ellipsoidal to spheroidal, usually ± symmetric; aperture a distal brevi sulcus or large pore; ectexine semi-tectate, foveolate or reticulate, aperture margin psilate; infratectum columellate; longest axis 70–85 µm [1/1]. Pistillate inflorescence head-like, unbranched; prophyll tubular, short, 2-keeled laterally, flattened, pointed, splitting along one side; peduncular bracts several, the first complete, tubular, rounded, with a short pointed tip, splitting apically on one side, the second and third bracts incomplete, short, united basally to form a tube, distal parts distinct, triangular, fourth to sixth bracts also united basally into a shorter tube with distinct, tapering tips, seventh and eight bracts united basally on one side, open on the other side. Pistillate flowers spirally arranged, closely appressed, each subtended by a bract; sepals ± 4, narrow, elongate; petals ± 4, like the sepals but longer and somewhat wider, variously wrinkled; staminodes apparently absent; gynoecium consisting of ca. 8 carpels, connate laterally, ovarian part terete, tapering into an elongate, cylindrical style and ca. 8, curly, elongate stigmas, conduplicately folded, bearing stigmatoid tissue along the margins. Fruits borne in large head-like clusters of 3–6, clusters smaller than those of Phytelephas, each fruit rounded, covered in large, pointed warts, stylar remains terminal, forming a large beak; epicarp with short, close fibres, mesocarp fibres fine, endocarp shell-like with adherent fibres enclosing each seed. Seed ± kidney-shaped, hilum basal, raphe fibres parallel, ascending, with short branches forming grooves in the endosperm, endosperm homogeneous, very hard; embryo lateral near the base. Germination remote-ligular; eophyll pinnate. Cytology not studied.

Diagnostic Description

Remarkable dioecious stemless or short-trunked ivory palm from northern South America; distinguished by the chunky polyhedral receptacles of the staminate flowers bearing very numerous rounded anthers that appear like grains of sand.


Leaves (Barfod 1991) and root (Seubert 1996b).


An undergrowth palm in forests where rainfall is heavy and nearly continuous throughout the year. Many beetles emerged from inflorescences collected by Cook (1927).


One species known from the western coastal regions of Colombia and a disjunct population in eastern Colombia.


Used for vegetable ivory and thatch.

Common Names

Ivory palms, tagua, cabecita.

Distribution Map

  • Native distribution
Found in
  • Southern America Western South America Colombia
  • Ecuador


  • 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. (1995). World Checklist of Seed Plants 1(1, 2): 1-483, 1-529. MIM, 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.