Piper arboreum

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Piper arboreum


Shrub or treelet, 2-7 m tall, sometimes with long, arching branches, often strongly branching. Stem glabrous or minutely pubescent, upper internodes smooth or somewhat lenticellate. Shoot apex emerging from within sheathing leaf base, prophyll undeveloped. Petiole glabrous or minutely pubescent, 0.3-2 cm long, deeply vaginate, margin protracted beyond base of blade forming a ligule-like structure to 4 mm long; blade shiny green above, lighter to whitish below, oblong-ovate, (narrowly) ovate or (narrowly) elliptic, 10-25 x 6-11 cm, apex acute to (long-)acuminate, base unequally attached to petiole difference 0.5-1(-3) cm (less in young leaves), longest side obtuse, rounded to cordulate, in narrow leaves acute, shorter side acute to obtuse, glabrous or minutely pubescent below; pinnately veined, secondary veins 8-10 per side, originating from throughout primary vein, loop-connected towards apex, tertiary veins inconspicuously reticulate. Inflorescence erect; peduncle moderately stout, 0.5-1 cm long; spike 5-10(-17) cm long, whitish, yellow or pale green, apiculate, densely flowered; rachis glabrous; floral bracts 0.3-0.6 mm in diam., densely marginally fringed, conspicuously arranged in whorls; anthers dehiscing apically. Fruits dark green, laterally compressed, oblongoid or obovoid, 2 mm long, 0.8-1 mm in diam., glabrous or slightly papillose, stigmas 3-4, sessile.


Northern America, S Brazil present, Southern America: Paraguay (Paraguay present)
Mexico south to S Brazil and Paraguay, West Indies; ca. 240 collections studied (GU: 94; SU: 86; FG: 61).

Common Name

Boni (Guyana): akajatenga, apuku pepe, kakakatenga, kolakatenga, mukaj katenga; English (French Guiana): gama na udu, yak takwã; English (Guyana): Suriname: gewone malimbe-toko, abaon dèku, kakakaringa, wild thick leaf


According to Reinders, Piper arboreum is used against poisonous snake bites in the NW Distr., Guyana.


One of the most common species; recognizable by the (almost) glabrous habit and the very large difference of blade attachment at the petiole.
Tebbs (1989: 156) considered the BM specimen of Aublet s.n. from French Guiana to be the holotype. In their article “Un nouvel herbier de Fusée Aublet découvert en France” () Lanjouw & Uittien published a list of Aublet collections present in herb. Denaiffe. Piper arboreum is nr. 68 in their list and is referred to herb. Denaiffe Vol. 1, nr 36. They noted: “Des feuilles seulement", thus a sterile collection. The specimens in herb. Denaiffe (which now is in P) have labels in Aublet's handwriting, whereas those in BM have not (Lanjouw & Uittien, p. 145). The Denaiffe specimen (that I could not find) thus is the holotype, and the BM specimen is an isotype.
There is a collection Ro. Schomburgk ser. II, 903 from Roraima in BM which is somewhat atypical in having large, crushed fruits and rather small leaves. It shows, however, the typical glabrous leaves with unequal base.
Trelease & Yuncker created P. arboreum var. paucinervium based on two French Guianan collections by Broadway 759 and 854 made near Cayenne. This variety was created to describe narrow-leaved specimens. Piper arboreum is a very variable taxon and var. paucinervium seems to fit well within the typical variety.
Lemée (1955: 484) mentioned P. lapathifolium (Kunth) Steud. for French Guiana, referring to C. DC (1869: 323) who for this species listed a French Guianan specimen, Leprieur 145 in G-DEL. This collection clearly belongs to P. arboreum. Miquel (1844: 405) listed this specimen under his Artanthe lessertiana, nom. illeg. for P. verruccosum Sw., which in turn is a nom. illeg. for P. arboreum. Piper lapathifolium occurs in Mexico.
For differentiating characters with P. tuberculatum see note to the latter.