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Origin and Habitat: Acrocomia aculeata is a species of palm native to tropical regions of the Americas, broadly distributed from southern Mexico and the Caribbean (Martinique and Dominica ) south to Paraguay, Brazil and northern Argentina (Chaco, Corrientes, Misiones, Formosa and Salta), but not in Peru and Ecuador. It is often cultivated and ubiquitous in most of the South and central America, but much less common in the rest of the world.
Altitude: It grows mostly at low elevation but reaching 1200 m in the Andes of Colombia.
Habitat & ecology: It is found widespread in plain in open woodlands and savannahs, deforested land and is also frequently found on disturbed land in small groups or often isolated, but in some areas it forms large populations. It grows in areas with seasonal rainfall on deep and sandy soils, not subject to flooding ground, with not so deep underground sheets of water. It is believed to have been introduced to some portions of its range by human activity. It grows in areas with well defined rainy seasons and is quite drought tolerant, and can withstand several degrees of frost (at least some of its ecotypes). It tolerates slightly acid to slightly alkaline soils. The flowers are pollinated by various beetle species. Fires and grass burning helps its germination, thus making this species a pioneer in regeneration of burned flora. Pollinators and dispersers: Besides the wind’s action, the main pollinators are Curculionidae, Nitidulidae, Escarabaeidae and bees, mostly honey bees.
- Acrocomia aculeata (Jacq.) Lodd. ex Mart.
Acrocomia aculeata (Jacq.) Lodd. ex Mart.
Hist. Nat. Palm. 3: 286 (1845)
- Acrocomia aculeata (Jacq.) Lodd. ex Mart.
- Acrocomia antiguana L.H.Bailey
- Acrocomia antioquiensis Posada-Ar.
- Acrocomia belizensis L.H.Bailey
- Acrocomia christopherensis L.H.Bailey
- Acrocomia chunta Covas & Ragonese
- Acrocomia cubensis Lodd. ex H.Wendl.
- Acrocomia erioacantha Barb.Rodr.
- Acrocomia fusiformis (Sw.) Sweet
- Cocos fusiformis Sw.
- Acrocomia glaucophylla Drude
- Acrocomia globosa (Gaertn.) Lodd. ex Mart.
- Bactris globosa Gaertn.
- Acrocomia grenadana L.H.Bailey
- Acrocomia guianensis Lodd. ex Don
- Acrocomia horrida Lodd. ex Mart.
- Acrocomia hospes L.H.Bailey
- Acrocomia ierensis L.H.Bailey
- Acrocomia karukerana L.H.Bailey
- Acrocomia lasiospatha Mart.
- Acrocomia mexicana Karw. ex Mart.
- Acrocomia microcarpa Barb.Rodr.
- Acrocomia minor Lodd. ex Don
- Acrocomia mokayayba Barb.Rodr.
- Acrocomia odorata Barb.Rodr.
- Acrocomia panamensis L.H.Bailey
- Acrocomia pilosa León
- Acrocomia quisqueyana L.H.Bailey
- Acrocomia sphaerocarpa Desf.
- Acrocomia spinosa (Mill.) H.E.Moore
- Palma spinosa Mill.
- Acrocomia subinermis León ex L.H.Bailey
- Acrocomia tenuifrons Lodd. ex Mart.
- Acrocomia ulei Dammer
- Acrocomia viegasii L.H.Bailey
- Acrocomia vinifera Oerst.
- Acrocomia wallaceana (Drude) Becc.
- Acrocomia zapotecis Karw. ex H.Wendl.
- Astrocaryum sclerocarpum H.Wendl.
- Bactris minor Gaertn.
- Bactris pavoniana Mart.
- Palma mocaia Aubl.
ENGLISH: Gru-gru Palm, Macaw Palm, Macaúba Palm, Grugru Palm, Ruffle palm, Paraguay palm, Mucuja palm, Coyol palm
CHINESE (中文): Ge lu ye zi (Hong Kong, Taiwan), Pi ci ge lu zong
DUTCH (Nederlands): Coyolpalm
FRENCH (Français): Acrocome, Coyol, Noix de coyol, Glouglou (Guadeloupe), Grougrou (Guadeloupe), Dendé (Guadeloupe)
GERMAN (Deutsch): Macauba-Palme
HAITIAN CREOLE (Kreyòl ayisyen): Kòwòs
JAPANESE (日本語): Akurokomiya, Akurokomia yashi, Akurokomia
NAHUATL (Nāhuatl): Coyolli
PORTUGUESE (Português): Mucajá (Brazil), Mucujá (Brazil), Macaúba (Brazil), Macaúva (Brazil), Coco-baboso (Brazil), Coco-de-espinho (Brazil), Bocaiúva (Brazil)
SPANISH (Español): Amankayo, Coyol (Costa Rica), Corozo (Venezuela), Totai (Bolivia), Tucuma, Coco paraguayo, Corozo, Tamaco, Macauba, Corojo, Mbocayá, Palma de vino, Grugru, Nuez del Paraguay
Description: Acrocomia aculeata is a robust, tall-growing palm that resembles the queen palm (Syagrus romanzoffianum). It is a very variable species with significant visible differences between specimens growing in different regions, such as: sheaths of old leaves staying on the trunk, bigger crowns or bigger fruits.
Trunk: (4-)10-15(-20) m tall, (10-)25-35)(-50) cm in diameter, columnar, often swollen, covered with slender, black, viciously sharp spines (up to 10 cm long) jutting out from the trunk from top to bottom. Older specimens may loose the spines off the base of the trunk.
crownshaft: There is no crownshaft.
Crown: With 10-30 greyish-green, arching frond. The dead leaves if not removed persists below the crown forming a characteristic “skirt”.
Leaves: Pinnate, 3-4 m long. Leaflets numerous, slender, 50-100 cm long, dark green and coated with white wax on their lower surface, arranged irregularly around the rachis in various planes thus giving the leaf a plume-like appearance. Petioles covered with spines.
Inflorescence: Large one-branched with a tomentose and spiny peduncle an covered by a tomentose red woody spathe (sort of a cylindrical covering) with a very sharp tip, up to 1,5 m long emerging from the axils of the leaves and partially hidden by them.
Flowers: Small, monoecious, diclinous. Male and female flowers are borne on the same inflorescence, the males at the tip of the rachilla and the females in triads near the base. The flower has a strong, almost chemical smell that is evident up to 6 m from the tree.
Fruit: Yellowish-green to yellowish orange that turns almond brown when ripe, 1-seeded, drupe 2,5-5 cm in diameter. The mesocarp is fleshy, yellowish and abundant, very rich in oils. The inner fruit shell, also called endocarp, is very tough to break dark brown to black, and 3-4 mm thick and bears three pores off the equator.
Phenology: Plants flowers in summer and ripens their fruit in winter that remain attached to the tree for some time after.
Seed: Dark brown, nut-like 1-2 cm in diameter. The inside of the seed, also called endosperm, is a dry white filling that has a vaguely sweet taste like coconut when eaten.
Bibliography: Major references
1) Jose A. Grassia “Acrocomia Aculeata (English)” March 2009 http://palmasenresistencia.blogspot.it/2009/08/acrocomia-aculeata-english.html (Accessed on 18 Jan. 2013)
2) Martius “Historia Naturalis Palmarum” 2:66. 1824
3) Montemayor, Carlos et al. (2007) "Diccionario del náhuatl en el español de México" UNAM-GDF, México, p. 57.
4) López, J. A; Little, E.; Ritz, G.; Rombold, J.; Hahn, W. (1987). “Árboles comunes del Paraguay: Ñande yvyra mata kuera. Asunción del Paraguay: Cuerpo de Paz”
5) Henderson, A., Galeano G. & Bernarl, R. (1995) “Field Guide to the Palms of America” Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey. Page 363.
6) Markley, K.S. (1956) “Oil Palms and Other Oil Seeds of the Amazon” Edited and translated by D.V. Johnson. Reference Publications, Algonac, Michigan.
7) Scariot, A., Lleras, E. & Hay, J. (1991) “Reproductive biology of the palm Acrocomia aculeata in central Brazil” Biotropica 23: 12-22
8) Bajaj, Y.P.S, Crocomo, O.J y Melo, M. (1996). “Biotechnology in Agriculture and Forestry” Vol. 35 - Tree IV. Springer-Verlag.
9) Caldas, G. M . (2006). “Acrocomia aculeata (Jacq.) Lodd. ex Mart. - Aracaceae: Bases para o Extrativismo Sustentável” - Tesis de Doctorado en Ciencias, Universidade Federal do Paraná.Curitiba.
10) Schütt, Weisgerber, Schuck, Lang, Stimm, Roloff: “Bäume der Tropen” 2006, ISBN 3-933203-79-1
11) Balick, M.J. (1979) “Amazonian oil palm of promise: a survey” Economic Botany 33, 11-28
12) Duke, J.A. (2001) “Handbook of nuts” CRC Press, Boca Raton, Florida, 343 pp.
13) Henderson, A. (1994) “The palms of Amazon” Oxford University Press, New York. Page 388.
Cultivation and Propagation: This is an excellent palm cultivated, especially in the south America and in the Caribbean, for its ornamental characteristics and its rusticity. It is very easy and very adaptable.
Growing rate: It is pretty sluggish as a seedling, until it gets some size, but once established will grow considerably fast and does well in cultivation.
Soil requirements: It has a fibrous root system and benefits from deep organic, soils that are fertile and well drained, but it adapts, in fact, to various types of tropical soil soils, like coastal marine alluvial clays, sand, soils of volcanic origin both slightly acid to slightly alkaline.
Watering: It may resist to drought periods, but it profits of regular watering especially in the warmest periods.
Light: Will take full sun as it matures, but will grow better with some shade when young. If home-grown, give some sun as with most tropical palms.
Fertilization: Need a perfect fertilizer diet including all micro nutrients and trace elements.
Salt aerosol tolerance: It is somewhat tolerant to salt sprays, but does a lot better inland than it does on the coast and do not tolerates saltwater flooding.
Hardiness: USDA Zones (9b-)10A – 11. It is quite frost hardy and is suited for subtropical and warm temperate climate Once adult, Acrocomia aculeata may not suffer great damages if cultivated in zones with minimal temperature of -5°C.
Wind hardiness: It tolerates high winds and has good hurricane resistance.
Garden uses: It is an excellent landscaping palm. However the presence of spines on its whole structure makes this species unwelcome for landscaping, nevertheless, it is very easy to take the spines away from the trunk so as to make it safe and enjoy it in our gardens. Another option would be planting climbing species such as Photus (Epipremnum aureus) or some of the many beautiful species of Philodendron to protect people against the trunk spine. It is best used as a specimen tree on large properties and as a street tree and in urban plantings, where its slow growth and drought resistance would be appreciated by maintenance crews, and its unusual beauty enjoyed by passersby. . Small groves of macaw palm are especially attractive.
Uses: Every part of Acrocomia aculeata was and is still used throughout America. Although it is nowadays mainly used for cosmetics, soaps and biodiesel, in native cultures it was a source of food, beverages, clothing, fibres, threads, cattle food, oils and margarine, needles, firewood and charcoal. The nut, while very hard, can be sliced into thin circles to be sanded and worn as rings. Palmetto hearts come from its shoots, hypertension and diuretic medicines from its roots; its seeds are used as beads for necklaces and bracelets; its fruits are eaten fresh or as preserves and its endosperm is also ground and brewed with milk. The milk can also be fermented to yield an alcoholic beverage known as “coyol wine”. The nuts, which come in mass numbers from each tree, can be used in the manufacture of biodiesel.
Propagation: Seeds. This palm are thought to be recalcitrant and takes longer to germinate, germinating the seed for 5 years is not unusual. However if the bony endocarp that surrounds the seed is cracked or otherwise scarified (after the skin and fleshy pulp has been removed), seeds may germinate in 4-6 months. They must be superficially sowed in sand or peat, put on a shady location at 20°-30°C, and kept always moist. Seeds must be planted soon after falling from the tree. It is convenient to place the seedlings in a shady location and to keep them moist until the plant grows its first pinnate leaves. Then, it may be placed in a sunny location.
Transplantation: It resists transplantation very well.
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