Aubl., Hist. Pl. Guiane Fr. 1:33, t.11.1775
Palma, Palma del norte, Palmita
Perennial herb, 30-80 cm tall; rhizome creeping then erect, weakly rooted. Leaves linear, equitant, 20-50 cm long, overlapping in two ranks, the lateral margins free only near base, fused toward apex, minutely serrulate near apex. Panicles 7-35 cm long, 3-16 cm wide, the branches few to many, circinately coiled in bud, held ± horizontal at maturity, the flowers on upper side; flowers white, distinctly pedicellate; tepals 6, narrowly ovate, 4-9 mm long, spreading at anthesis, long-persistent; stamens 3, ± erect; filaments flattened, ca 2 mm long; ovary globose; style simple, ca 4 mm long, slightly longer than ovary, becoming ± curved to one side. Berries dull red at maturity, ca 5 mm long; seeds numerous, red, ± rounded, irregularly dented, densely papillate, less than 1 mm diam. Croat 11785.
Common along trails in the forest, along the lake margin, and in clearings, often locally abundant. Flowers throughout the rainy season, especially in July and August. The fruits mature in the late rainy and early dry seasons.
This conspicuous plant appears flattened, with equitant, irislike leaves.
Flowers are open (dish-shaped) and seem well suited for pollination by small, unspecialized insects. The fruit, though appearing to be a capsule with three distinct fleshy valves, is apparently never dehiscent, even though the fruit easily separates into three parts. The whole top of the fruit is removed, generally, and at least part of the seeds are removed, apparently by some animal.
Mexico to Bolivia and Brazil; introduced into the West Indies. In Panama, known from tropical moist forest in
the Canal Zone, Bocas del Toro, Panama, and Darién, from premontane moist forest in the Canal Zone and Panama, and from premontane wet forest in Chiriqui.