Astrocaryum chambira

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Astrocaryum (ahs-tro-kahr-EE-uhm)
chambira (kahm-BEE-ruh)
Yasuni National Park, Rio Tiputi, Orellana, Ecuador. Photo by Dr. William J. Baker, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew/Palmweb.
Scientific Classification
Genus: Astrocaryum (ahs-tro-kahr-EE-uhm)
chambira (kahm-BEE-ruh)
None set.
Native Continent
Habit: Solitary
Leaf type: Pinnate
Survivability index
Common names
chambira palm

Habitat and Distribution

Astrocaryum chambira is found in Brazil North, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela. western
Ecuador. Photo by Dr. O. Holm-Jensen/Palmweb.
part of the Amazon region in Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru, usually on terra firme. Common in Ecuador. Lowland rain forests, on land not subject to inundation, common in disturbed areas.


Canopy palm. Trunk solitary, to 30 m tall and 25-40 cm in diameter, armed with long black spines. Leaves forming a funnel shaped crown, erect and arching, neatly abscising, to 8 m long; pinnae to 150 on each side, evenly spaced or grouped, spreading in different planes, the central ones to 125 cm long and 5 cm wide. Inflorescences erect, purple at first, later brownish yellow, 200-350 cm long; branches about 200, the proximal 35-50 cm long, each with 2-3 female flowers on the basal part. Male flowers 4-6 mm long. Female flowers 12-22 mm long, including the stigmas. Fruits obovoid, greyish green, turning yellow to orange at maturity, with a loosely attached, greyish white to brown indument, 6-8 cm long. (Borchsenius, F. 1998)/Palmweb. Editing by edric.

Astrocaryum chambira is a solitary-stemmed palm tree growing 3.5 - 30 metres tall. The unbranched stem is covered in black spines that are up to 20cm long; it can be 19 - 35cm in diameter and is crowned by a rosette of 9 - 16 erect leaves that can each be 5 metres or more long. The tree is commonly harvested, especially for its useful fibre, but also for its edible apical bud and medicinal uses. It is often planted because of it's useful properties.


Cold Hardiness Zone: 10b.

Comments and Curiosities

Ethnobotany: The crown shaft and young fronds provide excellent fiber that is used for string, rope, hammocks, bags, and many crafts. People even floss their teeth with the fiber. The fruit is popular, as well as the liquid endosperm. This is drunk to cleanse internal organs, especially the kidneys and liver, and to reduce fevers. Leaves - cooked The apical bud is eaten as a vegetable. Eating this bud leads to the death of the plant because it is unable to produce side-shoots. Fruit - raw. Both the mature and the immature fruits are eaten.

The fruits are used to treat erysipelas. The fruit pulp is said to be antihelminthic. The liquid endosperm is drunk to cleanse internal organs, especially the kidneys and liver, and to reduce fevers. Other Uses: The fibres obtained from the youngest, unexpanded leaves are commonly used to weave a variety of items, especially hammocks, nets, necklaces and bags. The fibre can be used as a floss to clean the teeth.

Its use among four different indigenous groups in Ecuador is described here. They extract fibers from the pinnae, mostly of the young leaves. Both men and women twist the fibers into strings in their homes after hunting and work in the fields. The main items produced are woven hammocks, bags, and nets. These products represent the main source of cash income for many indigenous people. The highest value for their products is obtained from sale directly to tourists. The commercial use of A. chambira can possibly be increased in extractivism along with better marketing. The variety of ways this palm is used also makes it a valuable species for agroforestry.

Agroforestry: Chambira will grow from discarded seeds, and is commonly planted. Seed germination is tricky. It should be spaced at least six meters apart, and needs full sun. The trunk is very spiny, causing work accidents. It is common to plant a climbing tree next to the palm in order to safely harvest fiber and fruit. It grows well in non-flooding environments, but can attract animal pests to the field. As a result, hunting is practiced in these agroforestry systems. Where chambira crafts are sold to tourists, it is increasingly cultivated.

This beautiful, large, solitary palm from the Amazon rainforest in northwestern South America resembles the famed Dictyocaryum lamarckianum in general aspect but is of course extremely spiny, like all Astrocaryum. In cultivation it makes an interesting, quick, and easy-to-grow palm mainly for tropical areas. The large seeds are edible and very tasty. (Rare Palm

File:Use of the chambira palm (Astrocaryum chambira) in rainforest com.pdf

External Links


Phonetic spelling of Latin names by edric.

Special thanks to Geoff Stein, (Palmbob) for his hundreds of photos.

Special thanks to, Dr. John Dransfield, Dr. Bill Baker & team, for their volumes of information and photos.

Glossary of Palm Terms; Based on the glossary in Dransfield, J., N.W. Uhl, C.B. Asmussen-Lange, W.J. Baker, M.M. Harley & C.E. Lewis. 2008. Genera Palmarum - Evolution and Classification of the Palms. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. All images copyright of the artists and photographers (see images for credits).

Borchsenius, F.1998. Manual to the palms of Ecuador. AAU Reports 37. Department of Systematic Botany, University of Aarhus, Denmark in collaboration with Pontificia Universidad Catalica del Ecuador.

Many Special Thanks to Ed Vaile for his long hours of tireless editing and numerous contributions.

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