Stem 4-20(-22) m tall, 9.9-30.0(-40.0) cm diam., green, covered with a very thin layer of wax. Leaves 12-20(-25), in a spheric crown, often grayish and with persistent, dried hanging leaves; sheath 40-124 cm long, 3.8 cm wide at apex, petiole 10-105 cm long, adaxially flat and slightly raised in the middle, green, glabrescent towards the middle, lepidote towards margins, abaxially covered with thick layer of persistent, yellowish stiff scales; rachis arched, 130-290 cm long, adaxially flattened in half of its length, ending in a well-defined 0.6 m hastula-like projection, that appears as if leaned to one side, glabrescent, abaxially convex, covered with scales like those on petiole; pinnae (47-)85-134 on each side, pinnae disposition and insertion variable, arranged in groups of 2-8(-13), and separated by 2.5-5.5 cm, inserted in many planes, or sometimes in very slightly divergent planes, sometimes pinnae inserted regularly on the basal and/or distal third of the rachis and in one plane, and sometimes almost regularly arranged in juveniles, the adaxial surface glabrous, the midrib bearing some persistent scale bases, the abaxial surface and midrib covered with yellowish linear; 41-83 x 2.2-4.0 cm, apical pinnae 15-60 x 0.2-2.0 cm, the apical pinnae sometimes united along margins. Fruits subglobose, orange-red when ripe, 1.7-1.9 cm diam., exocarp smooth when fresh and minutely verrucose when dry, with conspicuous black lenticels in maturation; Seeds 1.2-1.4 cm diam.
Ceroxylon pityrophyllum is very distinct in its large anthers (the largest in the genus, and almost twice the size of that in other species). It ressembles C. parvum in its habit and hanging dry leaves; nevertheless, C. parvum has (6-) 9-11 slender staminodial filaments instead of six stamens and staminodes with swollen bases. The habit of C. pityrophyllum can also resemble that of C. vogelianum, particularly in the case of slender individuals, but the texture of the fruit exocarp (smooth to minutely verrucose in C. pityrophyllum, whereas always furrowed in C. vogelianum), and the length of the anthers (4.5-7 mm in C.pityrophyllum, while 2-2.5 mm in C. vogelianum), are key characters for distinguishing these species apart. All the specimens from Bolivia that have been previously identified as C. parvum or C. vogelianum belong in fact to C. pityrophyllum. C. parvum appears to be restricted to south-western Ecuador while C. vogelianum extends from Venezuela to southern Peru (Cuzco). Ceroxylon pityrophyllum is morphologically very variable: it varies in size from 4 to 22 m tall; the wax on the stem and abaxial surface of the leaves can be thin or very thick; the leaf rachis arching and flexible or stiff and horizontal, and the orientation and disposition of the pinnae in 2 or in many planes, and almost regular (or even regular in juveniles) to conspicuously grouped. However, the reproductive characters such as the stamen number, the size of the anthers, the width of the staminodial filaments, and the texture of the fruit exocarp, are always constant characters throughout its geographic distribution.
Native to, Bolivia, Peru
Known from the Andes in Bolivia (La Paz, Cochabamba, Santa Cruz and Chuquisaca) and Southeastern Andes of Peru (regions Cuzco and Puno), at 1285-2800 m, on slopes in patches of cloud, semi-deciduous, or deciduous forest (in the Yungas humid forest, the deciduous mountain Chaco forest, and the Tucumano-Boliviano forest). It is often observed along with Parajubea in cloud forests disturbed by grazing, or in transitional forests between cloud forest and dry forests, mixed with Podocarpus sp., above limits of subtropical deciduous dry forests with Dictyocaryum lamarckianum, but never in dry forest. It can form populations of over several hundred trees along ridgetops, but is mostly seen as scattered sub-canopy individuals. In Peru, it is conserved in cultivated plots and favored in shade coffee plantations, where it can be more abundant than in natural conditions. Nevertheless, most of the natural habitat is being rapidly converted to pastures and cultivation.