Chamaedorea cataractarum

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Photo by Rohan Musgrave, edric.
Scientific Classification
Genus: Chamaedorea
Chamaedorea atrovirens
Native Continent
Habit: Solitary
Leaf type: Pinnate
Survivability index
Common names
Guayita de los arroyos - Mexico. Cat palm, Cascade Palm, Cataract Palm, Mexican Hat Palm.

Habitat and Distribution

Chamaedorea cataractarum is found in Mexico Southeast, Mexico Southwest. MEXICO. Chiapas. Oaxaca. Tabasco. Moist or wet forest along or in streams and cataracts on the Atlantic slope; alt. 300-1,000 m elevation; usually on limestone.

photo by Forest & Kkim Starr, edric.

This plant is a rheophyte, which means that it grows in stream beds, and is often covered by floodwaters. Its long thin leaflets, and trunkless habit are an adaptation to present as little resistance as possible to flowing water, and thus prevent being washed away each time it floods.


A small, attractive, trunkless, clumping palm, to about 2m (6ft) high, and 2.5m (8ft) across, with glossy, dark green leaves, and long thin leaflets. It will eventually form quite a large dense, clump given time. (It is occasionally used as a hedge plant.) Editing by edric.

Habit: caespitose, creeping, appearing stemless, forming dense clumps to 2 x 3 m. Stems: 2-4 cm in diam., dichotomously branched, horizontal, green, nodes prominent, congested, internodes less than cm long. Leaves: 4-5 per crown, erect-arching, pinnate, to 2 m long; sheath very open, tubular only at base, green; petiole to 30 cm long or more, channeled and green above, pale and rounded below, very flexible; rachis to I m long or more, obtusely angled and green above, rounded and pale below; pinnae 13-20 on each side of rachis, to 30 x 2.5 cm, linear-Ianceolate, straight, briefly decurrent basally, regularly spaced, alternate, drying plicate, acute, departing rachis at an angle like a venetian blind, arching but tips ± drooping, a prominent midrib and I prominent primary nerve on each side of this. Inflorescences: interfoliar or sometimes infrafoliar in fruit, erect, appearing to arise from soil or leaf litter; peduncles 50-70 cm long, ± rounded or slightly flattened, 7 mm wide, green in flower, orange in fruit; bracts 6-7, prophyll not seen, 2nd bract 10 cm long, 3rd 15 cm, 4th 18 cm, 5th 28 cm, 6th 20 cm, tubular basally, ± inflated apically, papery-fibrous, green in flower

Comments and Curiosities

Chamaedorea are dioecious, male, and female flowers, on separate plants.

Etymology: From the Latin cataracta, meaning pertaining to cataracts, and wet rocks along water courses, in reference to the habitat.

External Links


Phonetic spelling of Latin names by edric.

Special thanks to Geoff Stein, (Palmbob) for his hundreds of photos.

Special thanks to, Dr. John Dransfield, Dr. Bill Baker & team, for their volumes of information and photos.

Glossary of Palm Terms; Based on the glossary in Dransfield, J., N.W. Uhl, C.B. Asmussen-Lange, W.J. Baker, M.M. Harley & C.E. Lewis. 2008. Genera Palmarum - Evolution and Classification of the Palms. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. All images copyright of the artists and photographers (see images for credits).

Hodel, D.R.1992. Chamaedorea Palms, The Species and Their Cultivation. The International Palm Society.

Many Special Thanks to Ed Vaile for his long hours of tireless editing and numerous contributions.

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