Chamaedorea is the generic name derived from the Greek words chamai, meaning ‘over the field’ and dorea, meaning ‘gift’, referring to the easily attainable fruits due to the low growth of plants. Elegans is a Latin epithet meaning ‘elegant’.
Their dates are the size of a pea, spherical and nearly black. This small American palm didn’t get popular by their fruits in Europe though, but for having been commonly used as a houseplant. This use of chamaedorea began in the Victorian era, the British nineteenth century, when greenhouses of exotic plants were trendy.
Greenhouses played a key role in the process of acclimatization of plants from arid or tropical to European colder latitudes as England, where such structures were prolific, related to the advance that the use of iron as a new construction material meant for architecture in the 19th century. In this sense, the Crystal Palace by John Paxton in 1851 for the Great Exhibition in London became the reference of these climatic architectures that were spread everywhere, like the Palm house at the Royal Botanic Gardens, that stands on cast iron and glass, where we can find plants like the Parlour palm. In Spain, the most famous examples of similar buildings, inspired by Victorian greenhouses are in Madrid, in the Palacio de Cristal from the park of the Retiro, or in the ‘Heater of the Palms’ in the Royal Botanic Gardens, located on the paseo del Prado.