Astrocaryum chambira

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Ecuador. Photo by Dr. O. Holm-Jensen/Palmweb.
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 part of the Amazon region in Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru, usually on terra firme. Common in Ecuador.


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.


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.

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.

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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