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Origin and Habitat: South America ( Amazon rainforest stretching to the foothills of the Andes lowlands, from south of Río Napo in eastern Ecuador, through the northern parts of Amazonian Peru, and into Acre in western Brazil).
Altitude: Up to 800-1000 metres asl.
Habitat: It is an understory palm that grows in light, open, disturbed clearings as well as in shaded forests vegetation in non inundated areas avoiding depressions and other wet habitats. It is patchily distributed in more or less dense, although never pure, stands. In Peru, Aphandra natalia is found in old growth terrace forests along rivers.
- Aphandra natalia (Balslev & A.J.Hend.) Barfod
ENGLISH: Piassaba fiber palm, Fiber palm, Mastodon palm
PORTUGUESE (Português): Piabassa (Brazil), Piaçaba (Brazil)
QUECHUA (Runasimi / Qhichwa simi): Chilli, Chili
SPANISH (Español): Wamowe (Ecuador), Tagua (Ecuador), Chilimoyo (Ecuador)
Description: Aphandra is a monotypic genus. Its only species is Aphandra natalia.
Trunk: Single, erect up 3-10(-12) m in height, grey to tan in colour, rough-ringed, smooth or more often covered in the bases of old leaves giving them a seeming trunk diameter of nearly 1 meter, however the actual trunk size when cleaned of the leaf bases is about 20-30 cm. The vine-like, pendent fibres of the leaf bases resemble those of Leopoldinia piassaba from which brooms are also made.
Leaves (fronds): 10 to 15, erect, dropping and twisted apically, up to 4.5 m in length, borne on long, 2.5 m petioles giving them an overall length of 7 m. The leaflets are reduplicate, pinnately cleft and dark green in colour.
Inflorescences: They are sexually dioecious and markedly dimorphic; male plants produce an unusual 2.75 m inflorescence with many clustered branches of yellow flowers with females producing shorter tufts of yellow flowers surrounded by green to brown bracts.
Fruits: A mature infructescence resembles "a medieval club with spikes if the large amount of hairy black fibres was removed".
Bibliography: 1) Balslev, H. and A. Barfod. 1987. "Ecuadorean Palms-An Overview." Opera Botanica 92:17–35.
2) Balslev and A. Henderson. 1987. A New "Ammandra (Palmae) from Ecuador." Systematic Botany 12:501–504.
3) Boll, T., J.-C. Svenning, J. Vormisto, S. Normand, C. Grandez, and H. Balslev. 2005. Spatial "Distribution and Environmental Preferences of the Piassaba Palm Aphandra natalia (Arecaceae)along the Pastaza and Urituyacu Rivers in Peru." Forest Ecology and Management 213:175–183.
4) Borgtoft Pedersen, H. 1992. "Uses and Management of Aphandra natalia (Palmae) in Ecuador." Bulletin del’Institute Française d’Etudes Andines 21:741–753.
5) Riffle, Robert L. and Craft, Paul (2003) "An Encyclopedia of Cultivated Palms." Portland: Timber Press. ISBN 0-88192-558-6 / ISBN 978-0-88192-558-6 (Page 250)
6) Uhl, Natalie W. and Dransfield, John (1987) "Genera Palmarum - A classification of palms based on the work of Harold E. Moore." Lawrence, Kansas: Allen Press. ISBN 0-935868-30-5 / ISBN 978-0-935868-30-2
7) Henderson, Andrew; Gloria Galeano; Rodrigo Bernal (1995). "Field Guide to the Palms of the Americas." Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-08537-4.
8) Henrik Balslev, Tina R. Knudsen, Anja Byg, Mette Kronborg, César Grandez "Traditional Knowledge, Use, and Management of Aphandra natalia (Arecaceae) in Amazonian Peru" Economic Botany. March 2010, Volume 64, Issue 1, pp 55-67
Cultivation and Propagation: This is an handsome palm rarely seen in cultivation, but probably with easy to manage nature. It can be grow indoors in a container for years before out growing the pot, but looks much better when planted in the ground and will thrive if given a spot in light shade.
Growth Rate: Slow.
Soil: They prefers well draining, porous soils rich in humus. Amend the soil with organic peat moss or top soil when you plant.
Light: They do well in sunny position, but the Aphandra keep their best deep green colour in partial shade, if indoors place in a position where it will get some sun during the day. Seedlings like a more sheltered area.
Watering: In cultivation they appreciates abundant waterings. During the summer or warmer months, water frequently to keep the soil from drying out.
Fertilization: Need a perfect fertilizer diet including all micro nutrients and trace elements or slow release fertilizer. Apply fertilizer 3 times a year, in spring, summer and fall...and if the palm is planted in full sun, fertilize more often. In a full sun location the fronds tend to turn lime-green or yellow, so the extra fertilization helps prevent this discolouration.
Hardiness: Although it is from the tropics and sub-tropics it is able to take temperatures around freezing point for a short time. However it can be difficult to get it to look its best without a great amount of heat and sun and so it is only really suited to the tropics in frost-free regions (USDA Zones 10-12)
Maintenance: These palms aren't considered self-cleaning but you'll only need to trim off an old frond occasionally.
Garden use: Indoor, Container palm, Garden, Landscape, Passage, Single specimen.
Traditional uses: Palms are used intensively in traditional Amazonian communities for up to 28 different purposes. It is commercially exploited for its edible fruits, and for its leaf sheath and petiole fibres. The mesocarp was eaten after boiling, and the immature endosperm was consumed as a beverage without preparation. The stiff brown fibres are almost equal to the fibres extracted from Attalea funifera and Leopoldinia piassaba, which are called piassava and used for making brooms all over Ecuador, Peru, and the state of Acre in Brazil. The heart of Aphandra natalia, like hearts of many palm species, is eaten occasionally. Its leaves are used for thatch. The palm is also used to cover the opening at the ridge of a roof, to make temporary huts in the forest, and for shelters for domestic animals. Carrying baskets (cabillejo), were made from A. natalia leaves on the spot when fruit, game, or crops had to be carried to the village. The leaf rachis was used to widen skins, to extract larvae, and to make blowgun darts. Unfolded spear leaves were used for brooms, for filling blowgun canisters to protect the poisoned darts, and for weaving mats and fans. The trunk are used for house posts and for floor beams.
Propagation Method: Seed.
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