Ecuador has an outstanding diversity of palm species, some of which have been well studied, certain others remain an enigma, however. A particular case is the American oil palm, Elaeis oleifera (Kunth) Cortés, first recorded in Ecuador in 1986. The genus Elaeis has a trans-Atlantic (Africa-America) distribution, with E. oleifera from the Neotropics, and E. guineensis Jacq. from Africa. It has been hypothesized that E. oleifera derives from populations of E. guineensis, which diverged 15 million years ago. At the local level, the populations of E. oleifera have a disjunct distribution, with isolated populations in Central America, the Amazonia basin, the Guianas, Chocó and the Caribbean Cost of Colombia and Venezuela, frequently associated with human or archaeological settlements. Despite the spatial and historical separation between the two species, there are no reproductive barriers to the generation of fertile hybrids. This important reproductive characteristic has allowed E. oleifera to become a major source of genetic variation for the improvement and adaptability of commercial populations of E. guineensis throughout the tropics. The Ecuadorian populations of E. oleifera from Taisha, with morphological, reproductive and agronomically important biochemical characteristics, have been used for the creation of commercial hybrids, which today are planted in many tropical regions.