views updated

Phytelephas (family Palmae) A genus of palms in which the stem is short, stout, and often procumbent. The leaves are large and pinnate. The flowers are dioecious. The inflorescences are stout, and held in unbranched spadices (see SPADIX). The fruits form in big, knobbly heads and the endosperm is hard. P. macrocarpa (ivory nut) is the principal source of vegetable ivory used for carving. Phytelephas species are very different from other palms. There are 12 species, occurring in northern tropical America.