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Origin and Habitat: Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru.
Habitat: It is an understory palm that grows in the pluvial forest of the Amazonian region in flood plains on low-level poorly drained soils, often periodically submerged. It tends to become invasive in other parts of its distributional range.
- Attalea insignis (Mart.) Drude
Attalea insignis (Mart.) Drude
Nat. Pflanzenfam., ed. 2 [Engler & Prantl] 1: 56 (1897)
- Attalea insignis (Mart.) Drude
- Englerophoenix insignis (Mart.) Kuntze
- Maximiliana insignis Mart.
- Scheelea insignis (Mart.) H.Karst.
- Attalea goeldiana Huber
- Scheelea goeldiana (Huber) Burret
- Scheelea attaleoides H.Karst.
ENGLISH: Wine palm
PORTUGUESE (Português): Palha de fecha (Brazil)
SPANISH (Español): Tàparo, Palma real, Cocorite, Chapajo, Contillo (Peru), Yagua (Colombia)
Description: Attalea insignis is a monoecious plant with small subterranean trunk topped with very long leaves in a plumose arrangement.
Stem: Short and subterranean, or little emergent, covered with the persistent bases of the old leaves.
Crown: Fountain-like with 9-11 tall leaves right out of the ground.
Leaves: Pinnate about 3-7 m tall on a 1,6-3,3 long petiole. Pinnae (leaflets), numerous, glossy pale green coloured above, slightly paler below, with a particularly prominent central nervation, irregularly divided in groups of 2-6 units along the rachis, spreading in several planes, thus giving the leaf a rather feathery look and up to 1 m long and 2-4 cm broad in the central zone.
Inflorescence: Ifrafoliar on a long peduncle, initially erect, then pendulous, due to the weight of the fruits, about 70-80 cm long, formed by a central axis (rachis), from which depart 25-30 lateral floriferous branches (rachillae) up to 20 cm long, carrying pale yellow flowers, only masculine or feminine, in number of 1-4 at the base, and masculine in the remaining part. Male flowers pale yellow with club shaped, 10-15 mm long petals, and 6 stamens. Female flowers 1-4 per branch, to 15-20 mm long petals, and 6 stamens. Female flowers 1-4 per branch, to 15-20 mm long.
Fruits: Very large and usually anly one per branch, oblong or ellipsoid with sharp apex, about 7-8 cm long and 4 cm in diameter, orange to brownish with a cinnamon, scale-like indument. Each fruit contains from 2 to 3 seeds.
Remarks: Attalea are known to have more than one seedling per seed, on occasion.
Bibliography: Major references
1) Andrew Henderson, Gloria Galeano, Rodrigo Bernal “Field Guide to the Palms of the Americas” Princeton University Press, 01/giu/1997. Page 162-162
2) Don Ellison, Anthony Ellison "Cultivated Palms Of The World" UNSW Press, 01/mag/2001. Page 33
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. Little cultivated outside its origin zones, is almost exclusively present in botanical gardens and in specialized collections, though the plant, with its long leaves which seem to come out from the ground, would deserve a greater diffusion.
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 (even submerged for long periods of the year) 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: 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 but 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.
Traditional uses: Some Amazonian tribes eat the ripe fruits and use the leaves for thatching and for fabricating mats; the petiole and the rachis of the leaves were utilized for making blowpipes and darts. In the Peruvian Amazonia, some tribes eat the larvae of a coleopteran living in the decaying stems and in the fruits, to which they ascribe, besides the alimentary importance, also medicinal properties.
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: It reproduces by seed which germinates in 2-4 months at the temperature of 24-28 °C 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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