Geonoma Willd.
  • Sp. Pl. 4: 593 (1805) 

Notes: Distribution: Mexico to Trop. America

General Description

Small to moderate, solitary or clustered, unarmed, pleonanthic, monoecious palms. Stem very short, subterranean, erect, or creeping, slender, sometimes tall, enclosed by thin leaf sheaths, becoming bare, usually cane-like, ringed with close or distant, conspicuous or inconspicuous leaf scars. Leaves pinnate, regularly or irregularly divided, or entire and bifid; sheath short, splitting opposite the petiole, margins fibrous, glabrous or variously tomentose; petiole short to long, slightly grooved or flattened adaxially, rounded abaxially, glabrous or tomentose; blade bifid, or with 2 or 3 pairs of leaflets, or irregularly divided, or nearly evenly pinnate, thin and papery or somewhat leathery, usually glabrous adaxially, glabrous, tomentose or with scales abaxially, especially along the main ribs, uniseriate hairs present or absent, midribs of single folds conspicuous, transverse veinlets not evident. Inflorescences solitary, interfoliar or infrafoliar, spicate, forked, or branched to 3(–4) orders, protandrous where known; peduncle very short to very long, glabrous or tomentose; prophyll tubular, short to long, pointed, very briefly 2-keeled laterally, membranous or leathery, glabrous or variously tomentose; peduncular bracts (0–)1(–2), short or long, deciduous or persistent, like the prophyll; rachillae straight or folded and twisted in bud, short to moderate, bearing rounded, truncate, or distally split, ± raised bracts, laterally adnate to the branch, decussate, spiral, or whorled and in definite rows, bracts closely appressed and the rachillae larger than the peduncle in diameter, or bracts more distant and the rachillae narrow, each bract subtending a triad of flowers sunken in a pit, pits without upper lip or upper lip distinct, glabrous or hairy, pit cavity glabrous or variously hairy; floral bracteoles 3, irregular, small, membranous. Staminate flowers about 1/2 exserted from the pit; sepals 3, distinct, chaffy, narrow, elongate, tips rounded, keeled or not; petals 3, connate for 2/3 their length, tips distinct, valvate; stamens (3) 6 (rarely more), filaments united with receptacle in a stalk-like base, connate in a tube above the base, free, narrow, flat, long or short distally, inflexed near the tip in bud, anthers borne at tips of the filaments, connective divided, thecae elongate, free and divaricate, or short and united, introrse; pistillode small, round, 3-lobed. Pollen ellipsoidal, usually with either slight or obvious asymmetry; aperture a distal sulcus; ectexine tectate, coarsely perforate or perforate and/or micro-channelled, and rugulate, aperture margin usually slightly finer; infratectum columellate; longest axis 22–48 µm [28/59]. Pistillate flowers sunken in the pit with only the tips of the floral organs exserted; sepals 3, united basally and adnate to the receptacle, often keeled, free and imbricate distally; petals 3, connate in a soft tube, briefly adnate to receptacle basally, ending in 3, valvate, chaffy, spreading lobes; staminodes united in a tube, truncate, 6-toothed or 6-lobed, lobes, if present, spreading at anthesis, tubes basally adnate to the receptacle, and sometimes also the corolla tube; gynoecium tricarpellate but 2 carpels vestigial at anthesis, unilocular, uniovulate, ovule anatropous, style tubular, lateral to basal, elongate, ending in 3 linear stigmas, recurved at anthesis. Fruit ±globose, sometimes somewhat pointed, green, brown, or purple-black, 1-seeded, stigmatic remains basal, the rachillae often becoming brightly coloured; epicarp, thin smooth, mesocarp thin, with narrow longitudinal fibres, endocarp thin, crustaceous to membranous. Seed ± globose, hilum short, basal, raphe encircling the seed, endosperm homogeneous; embryo erect basal. Germination adjacent-ligular; eophyll bifid. Cytology: 2n = 28.

Diagnostic Description

Extremely variable genus of mostly rather small solitary or clustering palms from rain forest in Central and South America, with distinctive anthers with divergent thecae.


Leaf (Tomlinson 1961, Roth 1990), root (Seubert 1998a, 1998b), floral (Uhl and Moore 1971, Stauffer and Endress 2003), and leaf and fruit (Wessels Boer 1968).


All species are understorey rain forest palms, occurring at low to high elevations, including some of the highest elevations recorded for palms in South America. (G. weberbaueri has been recorded at 3150 m above sea level [Henderson et al. 1995].)


Fifty-nine or more species ranging from Mexico to Brazil and Bolivia.


Many species are desirable ornamentals; some are also used for thatch. Young ‘cabbage’ is sometimes eaten.

Common Names

For local names, see Glassman (1972).

Distribution Map

  • Native distribution
Found in
  • Northern America Mexico Mexico Gulf
  • Mexico Southeast
  • Mexico Southwest
  • Southern America Brazil Brazil North
  • Brazil Northeast
  • Brazil South
  • Brazil Southeast
  • Brazil West-Central
  • Caribbean Haiti
  • Leeward Is.
  • Trinidad-Tobago
  • Venezuelan Antilles
  • Windward Is.
  • Central America Belize
  • Costa Rica
  • Guatemala
  • Honduras
  • Nicaragua
  • Panamá
  • Northern South America French Guiana
  • Guyana
  • Suriname
  • Venezuela
  • Southern South America Paraguay
  • Western South America Bolivia
  • Colombia
  • Ecuador
  • Peru

Included Species


  • 1 Henderson, A. (2011). A revision of Geonoma (Arecaceae). Phytotaxa 17: 1-271.
  • 2 J. Dransfield & N. Uhl & C. Asmussen & W.J. Baker & M. Harley & C. Lewis, Genera Palmarum. The evolution and classification of palms. 2008
  • 3 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
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Global Biodiversity Information Facility
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eMonocot. (2010, 1st November). Retrieved Wednesday, 8th February, 2012, from
  • D Content licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License
  • E All Rights Reserved
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
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