Notizbl. Bot. Gart. Berlin-Dahlem 11: 573 (1932)
Stems clustered, up to 20 in a clump, 2-10 m tall, 2.5-10 cm in diameter, armed with black spines to 25 cm long. Leaf blade 85-200 cm long, with 9-40 pinnae on ech side, variable in size, shape and arrangement, depending on the subspecies, the central ones 11-65 x 5-22 cm. Inflorescence erect or curving, 60-250 cm long, branched to one order; rachillae 9-100, densely covered with light brown, purple or black spinules, the basal part of the rachillae which bear the female flowers often markedly thickened in fruit. Male flowers purple to white, 2-4 mm in diameter; female flowers brown to violet, 3-7 mm long. Fruits dark red to purple, occasionally white, 7-20 mm in diameter, endocarp in some cases deeply pitted.
Panama to Ecuador, W of the Andes.
A variable species divided into four subspecies.
The Ecuadorian plants belong to subsp. fosteriorum (H. E. Moore) Borchs. & R. Bernal, distributed from Ecuador to Valle del Cauca in Colombia, characterised by its large, wedge shaped pinnae, and smooth fruits with a deeply pitted endocarp.
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