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Origin and Habitat: Upper Amazon, also along the Rio Negro region in Brazil (Pará)
Habitat: It is usually found in wet places in the under-growth of mesophytic forest in semi-open areas or forest margins on sandy soils, at low elevations. In Pará it is an invasive weed of forestry plantions.
Attalea spectabilis Mart.
Hist. Nat. Palm. 2: 136 (1826)
- Attalea spectabilis Mart.
- Attalea macoupi Sagot ex Drude
- Attalea pixuna Barb.Rodr.
- Orbignya pixuna (Barb.Rodr.) Barb.Rodr.
- Attalea spectabilis var. monosperma (Barb.Rodr.) Drude
- Attalea monosperma Barb.Rodr.
- Attalea spectabilis var. polyandra Drude
ENGLISH: Showy para palm, Beautiful para palm
CHINESE (中文): Mei li ya ta zong
FRENCH (Français): Palmier du Brésil aux couleurs vives
PORTUGUESE (Português): Palheira (Brazil), Palha-preta (Brazil), Curuá piranga (Brazil), Curuá (Brazil)
Description: Attalea spectabilis is a robust stemless solitary palm.
Stem: 20-30 cm in diameter, short and subterranean (apparently stemless) spreading for several meters by rhyzomes only erect in the terminal part, occasionally up to 1 m tall and covered with leaf-bases.
Crown: With about 8-15 contemporaneous leaves rising directly from the soil.
Leaves: Beautifully pinnated, large, rigid, erect-arching and not deflexed at apex. Leaflets 150-180 pairs aggregated in groups of 2-3 regularly arranged only in the upper part of the leaf-rachis and spreading in the same plane about 70-100 cm long and 5-6 cm wide in the middle of the leaf; petiole to 1-4 m long; rachis 4-6 m long, densely brown-lepidote beneath.
Inflorescences: Spadices erect or somewhat arching, borne among the leaves outer spathe to 80 cm long, flattened, inner spathe 100-150 cm long, peduncle up to 112 cm long; rachis 210-310 cm long, rachillas numerous, in male spadices about 180, in female spadices about 160, white lepidote.
Flowers: Male flowers crowded on one side of the rachillas with flattened, incurved petals and 8-15 tightly coiled and twisted stamens. Female flowers 2-4 on a rachilla, in fruiting spadices rachillas to 9 cm long including a terminal part with sterile male flowers of 3-5 cm. Female flowers subtended by 2 small bracts, sepals and petals about equal in size, pistil 3-celled, ovoid, long, with a 3-lobed recurved stigma.
Fruits: 1(-2)-seeded, ovoid or ellipsoid. 5-6 cm tong and 3-4 cm in diameter, brownish; endocarp fibres inconspicuous.
Remarks: This is a poorly known species may be a hybrid between Attalaea microcarpa and Attalaea speciosa.
Bibliography: 1) Alfred Russel Wallace “Palm trees of the Amazon, and their uses” 1853 – Page118
2) Andrew Henderson, Gloria Galeano, Rodrigo Bernal “Field Guide to the Palms of the Americas” Princeton University Press, 01/giu/1997 – Page 164
3) Jan Gerard Wessels Boer “The Indigenous Palms of Suriname” Part 1. Brill Archive, 1965 – Page 160-162
4) Henry Walter Bates “The Naturalist on the River Amazons” Echo Library, 2007. Page 152
Cultivation and Propagation: It is an excellent large (massive) easy to grow palm, but scarcely known in cultivation. It is adapt to warm temperate to tropical climates in humid regions, especially along with rainforests and, once established, will grow quite fast and does well in cultivation. In general it does not like hot drying winds, salt or bad water.
Soil requirements: It is not particular for the soil, provided perfectly draining and fertile even if it prefers sandy soil both slightly alkaline and acidic. However it is widely adaptable and can even thrives in poor soils, but do better when grown in nutrient-rich soils with regular watering. Avoid those soils that are soggy.
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: Will grow better in half-shade, but tolerates full sun. Seedlings like a more sheltered area.
Hardiness: It look its best with a great amount of heat and so it is only really suited to the tropics in frost-free regions (USDA Zones 10b-12)
Aerosol salt tolerance: It 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.
Traditional uses: On the Rio Negro it is often used for thatching.
Food uses: The fruit of this species is similar to the coconut, containing milk in the interior of the kernel, but it is much inferior to it in size.
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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