An Eco-sustainable World
ArborealSpecies Plant

Chamaedorea tepejilote

Chamaedorea tepejilote

The pacaya palm (Chamaedorea tepejilote Liebm. 1849) is a shrub or tree species belonging to the Arecaceae family.

Systematic –
From a systematic point of view it belongs to:
Eukaryota domain,
Kingdom Plantae,
Division Magnoliophyta,
Class Liliopsida,
Subclass Arecidae,
Order Arecales,
Arecaceae family,
Subfamily Arecoideae,
Chamaedoreeae Tribe,
Genus Chamaedorea,
Species C. tepejilote.
The terms are synonymousi:
– Chamaedorea anomospadix Burret;
– Chamaedorea casperiana Klotzsch;
– Chamaedorea columbica Burret;
– Chamaedorea exorrhiza Dammer;
– Chamaedorea exorrhiza H.Wendl.;
– Chamaedorea exorrhiza H.Wendl. ex Guillaumin;
– Chamaedorea sphaerocarpa Burret;
– Chamaedorea wendlandiana (Oerst.) H.Wendl.;
– Chamaedorea wendlandiana (Oerst.) Hemsl.;
– Edanthe veraepacis O.F.Cook;
– Nunnezharia casperiana (Klotzsch) Kuntze;
– Nunnezharia tepejilote (Liebm.) Kuntze;
– Nunnezharia wendlandiana (Oerst.) Kuntze;
– Nunnezharoa casperiana Kuntze;
– Nunnezharoa tepejilote Kuntze;
– Nunnezharoa wendlandiana Kuntze;
– Stephanostachys casperiana (Klotzsch) Oerst.;
– Stephanostachys tepejilote (Liebm.) Oerst.;
– Stephanostachys wendlandiana Oerst..

Etymology –
The term Chamaedorea comes from the Greek words “χαμαί” (chamai), on the earth, on the ground, and “δωρέα” (doréa).
The specific epithet tepejilote comes from one of the local names in the Náhuatl language of the plant which means “mountain ear”, due to the similarity of the immature, edible male inflorescences to the ear of corn.

Geographic Distribution and Habitat –
Chamaedorea tepejilote is a smaller palm native to Belize, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico (Chiapas, Oaxaca and Veracruz), Nicaragua and Panama.
Its natural habitat is that of the undergrowth of humid forests, where it grows on predominantly calcareous soils, from sea level up to approximately 1800 m above sea level.

Description –
Chamaedorea tepejilote is a rather variable, evergreen dioecious palm.
This species has solitary stems, rarely tufted, generally erect, often with adventitious roots at the base, 2-5(-7) m in height and 2-8 cm in diameter, green in color with rings of traces of fallen leaves, spaced apart 2-12 cm, prominent.
The unbranched stem is topped by a crown of 3 – 7 leaves.
The leaves are pinnate, 0.6-1.8 m long, carried by a 15-30 cm long petiole, arched, green in color with a cream yellow band below which extends along the entire rachis. The leaf blade is made up of 6-20 leaflets per side, arranged regularly along the rachis, more or less alternate, linear lanceolate to sigmoid in shape, thinned at the apex and base, 16-60 cm long and 3-8 cm wide cm, shiny intense green colour.
The leaf base is tubular, pale green in color, open obliquely at the apex; this entirely envelops the stem for a length of 20-30 cm, persistently dry for a long time.
The inflorescences form under the leaves and are initially enclosed in 4-5 bracts, erect and long pointed, 30-60 cm long, branched. The male ones have numerous rachillae, 6-15 cm long, pendant, greenish yellow in colour, carrying numerous closely spaced yellow, fragrant flowers, about 2 mm in length and 4 mm in diameter, with 6 stamens. Female ones have a smaller number of rachillae; they are up to 30 cm long, greenish yellow in colour, then orange-red in fruit, flowers similar to the male ones, but more spaced, with prominent stigmas; these inflorescences are first greenish yellow and then orange-red in color, reaching 30 cm.
The fruits are oblong-ellipsoid in shape; they are 1.2-1.6 cm in length and 0.6-0.8 cm in diameter, initially green in color, then shiny black when ripe.
Inside there is a single ovoid seed about 1 cm long and 0.5 cm in diameter.

Cultivation –
Chamaedorea tepejilote is a small evergreen palm considered a very popular and important vegetable in the areas of South and Central America where it grows. It is grown in rainforests for its edible male inflorescence, which is often sold in local markets.
This palm has been cultivated since ancient times for its edible immature male inflorescences, harvested when still enclosed in the bracts, consumed cooked as vegetables or raw in salads.
Furthermore, the plant is often cultivated as an ornamental, due to its elegantly arched leaves and slightly drooping leaves, in particular the female specimens when in fruit, it is frequently used solitary or in groups in tropical and subtropical gardens, its cultivation can be attempted in the regions in a warm temperate climate.
The plant prefers humid and humus-rich soils; where in fact it often grows in the undergrowth of rainforests, often on calcareous soils, at altitudes of up to 1,800 metres.
It is a plant of the humid tropics where it grows best in areas where annual daytime temperatures are between 20 and 28°C, but can tolerate 15-32°C.
The plant can be killed by temperatures of 2°C or below but can tolerate occasional light frosts.
It prefers an average annual rainfall between 1,000 and 2,500 mm, but tolerates 700 – 3,000 mm.
It is an easily cultivated palm if its basic requirements are met.
It requires at least moderate shade and can tolerate deep shade.
From a pedological point of view, it requires well-drained, moist and humus-rich soil and prefers a pH between 6.5 and 7.5, tolerating 6 – 8.
It is a fast-growing plant, which produces flowers and fruit at just a few years old.
In closed environments it can be subject to attacks by parasites, such as mites and scale insects, therefore it must be kept under control in order to be able to intervene promptly with specific products.
It reproduces by seed in a draining substrate kept humid at a temperature of 24-26 °C, with germination times starting from 2-3 months; the caespitose form can be reproduced by division.

Customs and Traditions –
Chamaedorea tepejilote was studied and determined by the German botanist Carl Ludwig Willdenow (1765-1812), who established the genus in 1806, but did not specify the exact meaning of the name.
This plant is known by various common names, including: pacaya palm (English); khíb shul, pacaya (Belize); pacaya, palmito dulce (Costa Rica); pacaya (El Salvador); pacaya, tepejilote, caña verde, guaya, ixquil (Guatemala and Mexico); bodá, bolá, caña agria, caña verde, nurú, pacaya (Panama).
The immature male inflorescences of the plant are considered a delicacy in Guatemala and El Salvador. The unopened inflorescences resemble an ear of corn in appearance and size. In fact, the word tepejilote means “mountain corn” in the Nahuatl language and was chosen for this similarity.
Pacaya has a somewhat bitter taste, although less so in cultivated varieties. It is eaten in a salad (especially in fiambre, a salad traditionally eaten in Guatemala on the Day of the Dead) or covered in egg batter and fried. This last dish is called envueltos de pacaya and is often served with tomato sauce, like chiles rellenos.

Preparation Method –
Chamaedorea tepejilote is a palm used or cultivated for both edible and ornamental use.
In the countries of origin the immature male inflorescence is consumed raw or cooked; this is harvested before the inflorescence opens, when it resembles an ear of wheat.
It is added to salads or cooked as a vegetable.
It has a bitter taste and is sometimes cooked in multiple changes of water.
The leaves are eaten cooked.
The apical shoot, often known as ‘heart of palm’, is consumed as a vegetable, however harvesting this shoot leads to the death of the tree because it is unable to produce lateral shoots.

Guido Bissanti

– Acta Plantarum – Flora of the Italian Regions.
– Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
– GBIF, the Global Biodiversity Information Facility.
– Useful Tropical Plants Database.
– Conti F., Abbate G., Alessandrini A., Blasi C. (ed.), 2005. An annotated checklist of the Italian vascular flora, Palombi Editore.
– Pignatti S., 1982. Flora d’Italia, Edagricole, Bologna.
– Treben M., 2000. Health from the Lord’s Pharmacy, Advice and experiences with medicinal herbs, Ennsthaler Editore.

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Attention: Pharmaceutical applications and food uses are indicated for informational purposes only, they do not represent in any way a medical prescription; we therefore decline any responsibility for their use for healing, aesthetic or food purposes.

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