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Origin and Habitat: North-eastern Atlantic coast of Brazil in the state of Bahia, Alagoas and Sergipe.
Type locality: Banks of Rio Negro and its tributaries.
Habitat: It is mainly found in lowland rain forest or restinga, especially near the sea on stabilized dunes, at low elevations, but also in bank of rivers often partially flooded at least for part of year or even in swampy lands. Wild and cultivated for its fibre.
Ecology: Beetles, bees, and small flies are the main pollinators.
Attalea funifera Mart.
Hist. Nat. Palm. 2: 136 (1826)
- Attalea funifera Mart.
- Sarinia funifera (Mart.) O.F.Cook
- Attalea acaulis Burret
- Lithocarpos cocciformis O.Targ.Tozz. ex Steud.
ENGLISH: Coquilla nut, Pissaba palm, Piassava palm, Bahia piassaba palm, Bahia Piasswa, Bahia piassava, Bahia coquilla
PORTUGUESE (Português): Coquilho, Piasaba
SPANISH (Español): Coquillo
Description: A large, solitary unarmed feather palm palm reaching 12-15 m in height. It forms a plumose head of up to 30 large leaves that are held erect in a shuttlecock-like crown.
Stem: Very variable in height, usually tall and aerial, but also small and subterranean, (0-) 1,5-15 m tall and 20-30 cm diameter. At either end of the range of this species, short stemmless plants occurs.
Leaves: 5 to30, pinnate or feather-like erect, up to 12 m long with very long petioles, sheaths and petioles with long fibres; leaflets irregularly arranged and spreading in different plants.
Inflorescences: Borne among the leaves on a long peduncle; male flowers with flattened petals and 6 straight stamens.
Fruits: 1-3-seeded, obovoid to ellipsoid, 10-15 cm long and 3-9 cm diameter; endocarp fibres in indistinct clusters.
Seeds (Nuts): Nut have a hard hazel-brown shell and are used like vegetable ivory.
Remarks: This monoecious palm changes its sexual expression as it ages; younger plants generally produce inflorescences with male flowers, while older, taller plants produce inflorescences with female flowers.
Bibliography: 1) Andrew Henderson, Gloria Galeano, Rodrigo Bernal “Field Guide to the Palms of the Americas” Princeton University Press, 01/giu/1997. Page161
2) Voeks, R. 1985. “Preliminary observations on the reproductive ecology of the piassava palm (Attalea funifera Mart.)” An. Acad. Bras. Cienc. 57: 524-525.
3) Voeks, R. 1987. “A biogeography of the piassava fiber palm (Attalea Funifera Mart.) of Bahia, Brazil.” Ph.D. diss., University of California, Berkeley.
4) Voeks, R. 1988. “Changing sexual expression of a Brazilian rain forest palm (Attalea funifera Mart.)". Biotropica 20: 107-113.
5) Routledge, 25/giu/2012 “Handbook of Bioenergy Crops: A Complete Reference to Species, Development and Applications”
Cultivation and Propagation: It is a very large (massive) easy to grow palm that likes sandy soil, but is adaptable to clay and loam both slightly alkaline and acidic. It is a great palm in a boggy spot where the land has been raped, and drainage is not so good.
Fertilization: Need a perfect fertilizer diet including all micro nutrients and trace elements or slow release fertilizer. Micronutrient deficiencies are occasional problems. If it doesn't get enough Mn and Fe, the leaves take on a rather unhealthy yellow colour. Micronutrient deficiencies only show up on soil with a high pH.
Watering: It thrives in consistently moist soil and put on rapid growth with this ample water, and will also tolerate poor drainage, but it does not like to sit in continually wet, mucky soil.
Light: Prefers full sun but will tolerate half day sun.
Hardiness: Some cold tolerance. This palm has tolerated occasiaonal temperatures down to –2ºC. 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)
Aerosol salt tolerance: It is moderately salt tolerant and does a lot better inland then it does on the coast.
Wind tolerance: It dislike hot dry winds.
Maintenance: Prune diseased, damaged or drying fronds, but do not prune if the frond still has some green colour. Palms recycle nutrients from dead or dying fronds and use them for healthier fronds. Palms only have a set number of new leaves that can sprout and grow per year and removing fronds will not increase that number. If you cut off more than what will grow annually, you could be left with a pretty bare and bald Palm.
Roots: Not a problem.
Uses: This palm is widely used locally for its high quality, stiff fibres which are used in making ropes, mats, and brushes. The fibre is strong, and hard and it does not absorb moisture easily and are harvested in large amounts. now they are commonly used as a source of thatching, especially of beach houses. Oil in seeds are used for margarine and chocolate industry. Its shell is hazel-brown in colour, very hard and close in texture, and much used by turners in forming ornamental articles, such as knobs for umbrella handles.
Gardening: Either as a single specimen or in groups, this is a strikingly beautiful species. Its very neat appearance and stature makes it perfect near highways and used to accent residential landscapes. A shade screen patio will provide an excellent environment for young specimens which can eventually be planted in a sunny location.
Remarks: Few people are aware of just how large this palm can get, and one often sees it planted in places where its going to cause real problems later on.
Propagation: Fresh seeds germinate quickly and the seedlings are attractive. Young palms are often found under palms that have been allowed to produce fruit. It is not unusual to see offspring growing in the old leaf boots of a mature tree.
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