Balslev 60651 – Ecuador

Plants dioecious. Stem solitary, erect, up to 3 m tall, 20 cm diam, covered with remains of persistent leaf-sheaths, but some specimens with clean stems of up to 1 m. No adventitious roots visible. Leaves 10-15, reduplicately imparipinnate, erect, curving over at apex; sheath encircling stem and closed for up to 20 cm, with fibrous edges; petiole 2-2.5 m long, 14 cm wide at base, 5 cm wide at apex, flat above, rounded below, fibrous at margins, with white waxy covering below, and peltate scales scattered above, rachis up to 540 cm long, rounded below and triangular for upper two thirds, with up to 108-110 one-nerved pinnae per side, lower pinnae 65 cm long and 2 cm wide, middle pinnae 120 cm long and 7 cm wide, upper pinnae 60 cm long and 1 cm wide, evenly spaced, alternate at base and 12 cm apart, opposite from middle upwards and 3 cm apart, all in one plane. Inflorescences interfoliar, solitary in leaf axil, dimorphic; staminate inflorescence erect in bud, pendulous at anthesis; prophyll 42 cm long, 15 cm wide, enclosed by leaf-sheath and staying erect at anthesis, dorsoventrally compressed, woody, bicarinate, opening at apex and then becoming fibrous at opening, green with brown scales; peduncular bract 80 cm long, 15 cm wide, outer surface green above and yellow below and covered with brown peltate scales, inner surface cream-coloured, staying semi-erect at anthesis, oval in cross-section, peduncle with 4 more incompletely-sheathing bracts 3-15 cm long; peduncle 85 cm long, oval in cross-section, cream-coloured, soft and fleshy, with dense farinose tomentum; rachis up to 120 cm long, 5 cm wide, 3 cm thick, oval in cross-section, cream-coloured, with dense farinose tomentum, covered with up to 300 spirally arranged flower clusters, each flower cluster subtended by a membranous bract, 1 cm long and 2 mm diam, and with dense ring of flaky tomentum at base; connate pedicals 1.5 cm long oval in cross-section, divided at top into 3-4 branches (apically unbranched); branches 8 mm wide, 0.5-1 cm long, densely covered with 200-300 stamens, filaments arising from branch head, hyaline when young, red-brown when old, anthers yellow (giving whole inflorescence a yellow colour), linear, 2 mm long, mucronate. Pistillate inflorescence erect in bud and anthesis, prophyll persistent, woody, bicarinate, up to 32 cm long, 12 cm wide, splitting apically and then fibrous at apical margins, light green with brown stripes; peduncular bract persistent, clavate, bicarinate, 46 cm long, 6 cm wide at base, 10.5 cm wide at apex, bluntly acute at apex, splitting on both sides in radiate plane in centre, outer surface with basal part green, central part light brown, upper part green, upper 2 thirds covered with scattered brown peltate scales, inner surface cream-coloured; peduncle 26 cm long, 5.5 cm wide, cream-coloured, flattened, with up to 20 incompletely enclosing bracts, the lower one 16 cm long and 6.5 cm wide, bifid at apex, and 19 smaller bracts, 4-8 cm long, all with fine brown lines on outer surface; rachis 6 cm long, 5 cm wide, oval in cross-section, 3 cm thick; pistillate flowers densely crowded on rachis and not fully exserted from peduncular bract at anthesis, only stigmas and ends of petals visible, all parts cream-coloured, each flower subtended by 6 cm long pointed bract; sepals 5, linear, acute, 8-9 cm long, flattened, not fleshy, petals 9, fleshy, 17 cm long, 8 mm wide; ovary 6-7 locular surrounded by ring of up to 30 stamens, style 14 cm long, stigmas linear, 6-7, 4-5 cm long with papillas on inner surface. Infructescence infrafoliar, pendulous, with persistent brown prophyll and brown peduncular bract, 30 cm diam, with persistent brown petals exserted between fruits; fruits with cone-shaped, angular base, surface angular, warty (verrucose), upper surface with prominent fibrous pyramidal projections, 1.5 cm wide at base, 2.5 cm long. Fruit with mesocarp woody (fleshy in young fruit); endocarp thin, black, bony, endosperm liquid at first, becoming bone hard; seed with 2 flat radial surfaces, rounded above, 5 cm long, 3.5 cm wide. Economic botany (information from Don Anibal, Careno): Fluid endosperm drunk by local colonizers and local indians (shuar), mesocarp eaten when yellow and fleshy by local indians. Fibres from leaf sheath and petiole collected and sold for broom-making, sold locally for 45 sucres per pound. Palm heart is edible and much liked by local indians; cattle eat staminate inflorescences. This plant is similar to “Tagua” from coastal Ecuador, but differs in its fibrous leaf sheaths. Now extinct at Puyo. Reproductive biology: staminate and pistillate inflorescence buds are hot to the touch before anthesis, staminate inflorescences are scented after anthesis, and visited by numerous drosophilid flies, trigonid bees and beetles; pistillate inflorescences after anthesis still have their flowers densely crowded and partially enclosed by peduncular bract, scented, and with numerous beetles (collected) hidden inside inflorescence during day. Watsua (a rodent) eats mesocarp and disperses seeds. Duplicates: AAU, K, NY, QCA, QCNE.