Leopoldinia piassaba

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piassaba (pee-ahs-SAH-bah)
Rio de Janeiro Botanical Garden in Brazil. Photo by Paul Craft.
Scientific Classification
Genus: Leopoldinia
piassaba (pee-ahs-SAH-bah)
None set.
Native Continent
Habit: Solitary
Leaf type: Pinnate
Survivability index
Common names
piassava palm

Habitat and Distribution

Brazil North, Colombia, and Venezuela. From 0°08'S-3°44'N and 64°04'-67°53'W in the
Palm trees of the Amazon. Piassaba tree before the stem fibres are harvested. Photo by Gerrit Davidse.
northern Amazon region of Brazil (Amazonas), Colombia (Guainía, Vichada), and Venezuela (Amazonas) at (72-) 163 (-275) m elevation in non or seldom flooded forests adjacent to black water rivers. Although only one specimen has been seen from Brazil, L. piassaba occurs along several tributaries of the Rio Negro - the Rio Padauari, Rio Daraá [Daraha], Rio Marié, and Rio Xié


Plants (4.0) -6.2 (-9.0) m tall; stems (4.0-) 5.8 (-10.0) m tall, 15.0 cm in diameter, solitary. Leaves (14-) 18 (-21) per stem; sheaths 45 cm long, fibers from apices elongate, loose, pendulous; petioles 118.8 (75.0) (150.0) cm long; rachises (270.0-) 290.0 (-330.0) cm long, (10.6-) 18.4 (-23.7) mm diameter; pinnae (53-) 59 (-65) per side of rachis, spreading horizontally, the bases narrowed with abaxial, distal and proximal swellings adjacent to rachis, midveins prominent and raised in cross-section adaxially; basal pinna 41.0 cm long, (0.3-) 0.7 (-1.0) cm wide, forming an angle of 45° with the rachis; apical pinna 37.0 cm long, (0.7-) 0.9 (-1.0) cm wide, forming an angle of (3-) 6 (-10)° with the rachis. Inflorescences dimorphic; prophylls no data; peduncular bracts no data; peduncles (32.0-) 56.0 (-80.0) cm long, 49.8 mm in diameter; staminate rachillae (1.3-) 1.6 (-1.9) cm long; pistillate rachillae (9.5-) 14.1 (-16.0) cm long; fruits (35.5-) 41.0 (-44.2) mm long, (31.3-) 34.6 (-36.8) mm in diameter, not flattened, globose to ellipsoid, the surfaces with raised, reticulate ridges from mesocarp fibers, giving a wrinkled appearance. (Henderson, A.J., A revision of Leopoldinia (Arecaceae) in Phytotaxa 32. 2011)/Palmweb. Editing by edric.

Taxonomic notes: Leopoldinia piassaba differs from its congeners in its elongate, pendulous leaf sheath fibers and non-flattened, globose to ellipsoid fruits. Subspecific variation: There are too few specimens to describe subspecific variation. (Henderson, A.J., A revision of Leopoldinia (Arecaceae) in Phytotaxa 32. 2011)/Palmweb.


Cold Hardiness Zone: 10b

Comments and Curiosities

Uses: A belief linking palms with forest spirits existis among the Kuripako Indians of the Guainía River, an area representing the northern limit of the curious Leopoldinia piassaba, it is the source of an inusual coarse brown fiber formed by the frayed and rotting petioles, an article of commerce exported from the area and useful for manufacturing ropes, cables and brooms, the natives, belief that the evil spirit, the curupira, inhabit piassaba groves and wanders around the night.

The well known Pará piassaba fiber, used for brooms and brushes and also for ropes, hats and baskets, is de product of the chiquichique (Leopoldinia piassaba). The long, tough yet flexible, brown fibers are produced abundantly on the margins of the old, frayed leafstalks which hang down covering the trunk to the very base in a dense, beard-like mass. A similar beverage ("wine") is also made from the fruits of the chiquichique (Leopoldinia piassaba), the moriche or canangucha (Mauritia minor) the bacaba (Oenocarpus bacaba), and the bacabiña or milpesillo (Oenocarpus minor). The "wine" of the moriche is usually allowed to ferment before using. Construction - The leaves are used for thatch.

The piaçabeira (Leopoldinia piassaba Wallace) is an endemic palm species of the Rio Negro basin, whose biology and ecology are poorly documented. Exploited for the fiber (piaçaba), the species is important for rural populations as a source of economic income through extractive activity. Two journeys in the middle Rio Negro region permit us to document more fully the biological and economic aspects of the species. Three populations were observed in the Rio Preto-Rio Negro interfluve (64° 15′ −64° 28′ W; 0° 5′ −0° 15′S).

External Links


Phonetic spelling of Latin names by edric.

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

Special thanks to Palmweb.org, 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).

Henderson, A.J., A revision of Leopoldinia (Arecaceae) in Phytotaxa 32. 2011

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

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