Plants: Jubaea chilensis - Chilean Wine Palm

Posted by 14.08. 2007 08:11:19 (10256 readers)

Jubaea chilensis - Chilean Wine Palm

Jubaea chilensis; Family: Palmae/Arecaceae (palm family); Common Names: Chilean wine palm, coquito palm, honey palm. This Incredible Hulk of the palm world, Jubaea chilensis, dominates the landscape with his thick muscular trunk. The straight gray trunks can grow to over 3 ft (0.9 m) in diameter and soar to heights of 80 ft (24.4 m). In older specimens, the trunk typically constricts near the top to form the brute's "shoulders" upon which rest a proportionally small "head" that is composed of densely packed pinnate (feather-shaped) leaves. These are held stiffly erect on short stems to form a crown that is about 30 ft (9.1 m) in diameter. The leaves grow 12-16 ft (3.7-4.9 m) in length and are a darker green on top with the lower surfaces a dull grey green. Purple flowers are borne on 4 ft (1.2 m) inflorescence (flower stalk) that grows hidden among the leaves. The orange fruits, called coquitos, are about 1.5 in (0.5 cm) in diameter. Within the fruits are smooth tan seeds that resemble tiny coconuts. These have similar oily white flesh (endosperm) that tastes like them too!

Jubaea chilensis is native to coastal areas of central Chile. Small forests of this palm once grew in mountainside ravines from sea level to altitudes of 2000 ft. The species is greatly diminished now after centuries of exploitation in order to harvest it's sugary sap. The Chilean government has enacted laws forbidding this destructive practice - let's hope they can effectively enforce them. Otherwise it's possible that in the future this palm may exist only in the landscapes of areas with Mediterranean type climates such as California, the southern European coast and South Africa.

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