Flora of Barro Colorado Island

Xiphidium caeruleum

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.

Photos from STRI Digital Archive

  • Xiphidium caeruleum