Phytelephas macrocarpa

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Phytelephas (fy-TEHL-eh-fahs)
macrocarpa (mak-roh-KAR-puh)
Male inflorescence.
Scientific Classification
Genus: Phytelephas (fy-TEHL-eh-fahs)
macrocarpa (mak-roh-KAR-puh)
None set.
Native Continent
Habit: Solitary, rarely clusters.
Leaf type: Pinnate
Survivability index
Common names
Humiro, Ivory palm, corozo nut, tagua palm.

Habitat and Distribution

Bolivia, Brazil North, and Peru. Lowland rainforest,
Kebun Raya Bogor, Java, Indonesia. Photo by Dr. William J. Baker, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew/Palmweb.
on alluvial soil.


Dioecious palm, usually solitary, short, sometimes creeping in a semi-subterranean fashion, trunk about 2 m. high and 30 cm. in diameter. Leaves pinnate with 42-95 pairs of leaflets arranged regularly in the same plane. Male flowers sessile. Fruits forming heads up to 40 cm. in diameter, each with 4-5 8-20 containing fruit seeds. Editing by edric.


A plant from the warm tropics, though it can tolerate occasional short-lived temperatures down to around freezing. Prefers a moist soil and a warm, sheltered position. Seed - it can take 3 - 4 years to germinate. A slow-growing plant, it can take from 7 - 25 years from a young seedling before it starts to produce fruit. t can tolerate occasional short-lived temperatures down to around freezing. Cold Hardiness zone: 10A

Comments and Curiosities

Etymology: Phytelephas, from Greek phyton = plant and elephas = elephant ivory alluding to them. Macrocarpa, Latin macrocarpus-a-um = with large fruit.

Uses: It is grown from seed, but germination is slow and difficult. Its hard white seeds have been used for making buttons, dice, chess pieces, etc., in the manner of ivory. It has a brown, woody basal fruit (wamomo) with a delicious white, fleshy pulp much esteemed by the Indians. The stem (wamoncagi) is for crowns and improvised darts, the leaf (wamonta) for baskets, and the fibre (wamongi) for brooms, torches, fire starter. It is widely used for thatch, and to a lesser extent for its fruits and nuts, the fruits thus serve as an emergency water supply in the forest. Fruits from immature seed, have liquid or jelly embryos are sold in street markets. A fibre obtained from the plant is used for brooms, torches, fire starters or blowgun bore-cleaners. The fruit has been used as a coffee substitute. The seed tissue of the immature fruit is liquid - it is used as a refreshing drink with a sweet flavour.

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).

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

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