Chelyocarpus chuco

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chuco (KOO-koh)
Chelyocarpus chuco specimen.jpg
Fairchild Tropical Botanical Garden, Coral Gables, FL. Photo by Paul Craft.
Scientific Classification
Genus: Chelyocarpus
chuco (KOO-koh)
None set.
Native Continent
Habit: Solitary
Leaf type: Costapalmate
Survivability index
Common names
Carnaubinha fide Prance et al.; chuco in Itonama, huechichaho in Baures, iriai in Cayuvava, sava in Itenes, choinan in Pacaguara, fide d'Orbigny. Round Leaf Palm.

Habitat and Distribution

Chelyocarpus chuco is found in Bolivia and northern Brazil along banks of rivers, larger in
Rondonia, Brazil. Photo by Dr. Andrew J. Henderson/Palmweb.
forests than along the banks. Tropical rain forests, and marshes of Bolivia, and adjacent parts of Brazil. where it is quite common.


A fan-shaped palm tree, with large leaves composed of many segments, a circular wedge-shaped feature, with a very deep division in the center. Trunk type: Solitary. Hight: To 60' (19 meters). Leaf detail: Palmately compound, up to 5' (1.6 meters) in diameter, with multiple divisions, especially one in the center, characteristic of this palm, somewhat floppy in appearance.

Leaves 10-22 in the crown; sheath, little more than 3 cm. long, pale (golden?) appressed-villous; petiole elongate, to about 1.8 m. long (teste Martius), about 2 cm. 3_ Fruits of Chelyocarplls Chuco. Photo by S. Kiem. wide basally, 1 cm. wide apically, with brown furfuraceous scales at first, becoming glabrate; hastula deltoid or truncate-deltoid, 1.5-2.5 cm. long, 2-3 cm. wide at base; blade thin, green, to 1.05 m. long at center, 1.8 m. across, divided centrally to within 1.5-2 cm. of the base, divided laterally one-fourth to nearly three-fourths to the base into 15-24 lanceolate l-ribbed segments on each side, these mostly grouped in pairs toward the margins or irregularly toward the center, the ultimate segments to 50 cm. long, 2.5-6 cm. wide, each with a midrib, 2-3 lateral secondary and several finer tertiary nerves on each side more prominent below than above, flexuous cross-veinlets prominent on both surfaces when dry, proximal segments often conspicuously narrowed and "shouldered" toward the acute or very briefly bifid apex, lower surface of blade green but paler than upper surface, very densely beset with minute, shining, translucent dots. Inflorescences 3-4 (teste Martius), to more than 5.5 dm. long; sterile bracts 2 (or more?), densely light brown floccose-lepidote outside, glabrous within, about 21 cm. long; branches 5-7, each subtended by a fertile bract similar to the peduncular bracts but progressively smaller, the lowermost branches bearing a membranous prophyll to 12 cm. long, upper branches with incomplete prophylls or prophyll lacking, main axis and branches more or less flattened, branches mostly curved with flattened base to about 18 cm. long, 1.3 cm. wide in fruit, fertile portion to about 20 cm. long; rachillae to 8 cm. long, subtended by narrowly triangular, membranous, tomentum. tipped bracts to 15-17 mm. long on lowermost branches, shorter above, shortly adnate above the bract and with a short sterile base. Flowers sessile or briefly pedicellate, borne singly in a spiral on the rachillae, bracts short; perianth 2-2.5 mm. long, creamy white, erect at anthesis; sepals 3, connate for about 0.5 mm., 2.0-2.5 mm. long, lobes deltoid; petals 3, about as long as the sepals, distinct, imbricate; stamens 6, filaments broad and thick basally, subulate above, anthers exserted and spreading from the narrow mouth of the perianth; carpels 3. Fruit globose or depressed.globose, with persistent thickened perianth, 1.62.0 cm. wide, 1.6-1.8 cm. high; epicarp not tessellate; mesocarp rather thin; endocarp membranous; seed brown, depressed-globose, about 1.6 m. wide, 1.4 cm. high; embryo above the middle. (H.E. Moore. 1972)/Palmweb. Editing by edric.

Chelyocarpus chuco stands somewhat by itself in the genus as noted earlier The presence of a prophyll on some primary branches is unusual in the alliance, for such have not been observed in Cryosophila nor in Itaya. The less deeply lobed leaf with its green under. surface further sets the species apart from others in Chelyocarpus, from Itaya, and from most in Cryosophila. (H.E. Moore. 1972)/Palmweb.


Requirements: Filtered light when young, full sun when mature, consistently moist soil, well drained position. May tolerate slight frost.

PFC for PP.png

Comments and Curiosities

Phenology: Flowering November to January, fruiting April to July.

Uses: Food, construction, roofing, brooms. The constructors of houses choose the species based on the planned lifetime of the building, available labor, time, and the durability of the construction material. The seeds are used in rituals.

Etymology: The name Chelyocarpus is derived from Ancient Greek and means "turtle carapace-fruited", a reference to cracked surface of the fruits of the genus, which resemble the shell of a turtle.

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).

Moore, H.E.1972. Chelyocarpus and its Allies Cryosophila and Itaya (Palmae). Principes 16: 67-88.

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

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