Chamaedorea ernesti-augusti is a small understorey palm that usually attains a few metres in height.
The species grows slowly, only producing 1-2 leaves per year, and it is possible to gauge the palm's lifespan from the number of permanent leaf scars on its stem. From counting these it is believed that individuals can survive for over 40 years in the wild.
Due to their small and inconspicuous flowers, it was once a widely held belief that palms were predominantly wind-pollinated. However, it is now known that many members of the Chamaedorea genus, including the fishtail palm, are pollinated by thrips (tiny insects).
The thrips visiting Chamaedorea flowers are provided with many rewards, including:
The seeds of Chamaedorea ernesti-augusti are believed to be dispersed by birds. The dark black fruits held on a bright orange fruiting structure are attractive to this group of animals.