Parajubaea sunkha

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Parajubaea (pahr-ah-joo-BEH-ah)
sunkha (SOON-khah)
27456 orig.jpg
Bolivia. Photo by Dr. Germaine A. Parada.
Scientific Classification
Genus: Parajubaea (pahr-ah-joo-BEH-ah)
sunkha (SOON-khah)
None set.
Native Continent
Habit: Solitary
Leaf type: Pinnate
Survivability index
Common names
Sunkha, palma sunkha, corozo.

Habitat and Distribution

Parajubaea sunkha is endemic to Bolivia.
Bolivia. Photo by Dr. Germaine A. Parada.
Restricted to narrow valleys with low semideciduous forests in the lower parts and with Podocarpus parlatorei Pilger, Alnus acuminata HBK, and Berberís sp. in the upper parts, partially transformed to grassy or shrubby slopes and ridges, in the Department of Santa Cruz, Province of Vallegrande (63°26'- 64°10'W, 18°10'-18°30'S). Populations occur between 1700 and 2200 m elevation in interandean dry valleys. It is locally abundant in protected ravines, but most of the population is being reduced by the cultivation of maize. This palm is much less common today than 50 years ago. Several local people referred to a formerly larger area of the sunkha palm that extended to the south of Vallegrande. (M. Moraes. 1996)/Palmweb.


Stem 4-10 (-14) m tall, 25-50 cm in diam., covered to the base with old sheaths. Leaves 18-26 per crown, 2-3 m long, erect and arching in distal third portion; sheath 35-120 cm long, with a dense tough brown fiber 1-1.35 m long, 40-70 cm wide; petiole 33- 100 cm long; rachis 2-2.5 m long, triangular in cross section at apex; pinnae 66-92 per side, lanceolate, irregularly inserted in groups of 2-5, 3-4 cm apart, in one plane, plicate at base, green and lustrous adaxially, glaucous abaxially; basal pinnae 45-80 X 0.4-1.1 cm; middle pinnae 62-70 X 2.5- 3 cm; apical pinnae 40-52 X 0.3-0.8 cm. Inflorescences up to six per plant. 1.8-2.5 in long, buds erect becoming pendulous at anthesis: prophyll about 1.4 m long and 13 cm in diam. at base; peduncular bract 0.85-1.75 m long, apiculate, inflated above, woody, sulcate, brown externally, glabrous and white-cream internally; peduncle 60-80 cm long, glabrous; rachis 38-50 cm long, glabrous; rachillae 33-50 spirally arranged, spreading at anthesis, the basal ones 18-32 cm long, the middle ones 28 cm long, the apical ones 21-25 cm long; staminate flowers pedicellate, pedicel 2-6 mm, yellow-orangish; sepals free, briefly connate basally: petals broadly triangular, 10 X 6 mm, valvate; stamens 13-15, 6 mm long; filaments 2 mm long; anthers 4 mm long, medifixed, slightly sagittate; pistillode trifid; pistillate flowers 4-5 (-8) per rachilla, basally inserted, 8.5 X 10 mm; sepals and petals broadly triangular, 10 X 13 mm, petals slightly smaller than sepals; staminodial ring to 2 mm tall, with 6 short teeth; ovary brownish beige tomentose; stigmas to 1 mm long; ovule basal. Fruit ovoid, 3-5 cm long, 2.5-3 cm in diam.; epicarp light green, orange at apex; mesocarp very fibrous; endocarp stonish, brown with 3 inconspicuous ridges; seeds 1 (- 2), 2-2.5 cm long; endosperm homogeneous with central cavity; eophyll bifid. (M. Moraes. 1996)/Palmweb. Editing by edric.


Cool temperate areas. Drought and frost tolerant. Requires good drainage. This species of Parajubaea appears to be one of the hardiest and least problematic in southern California, where frequently Parajubaea cocoides rots or sputters unexpectedly and Parajubaea a bit less often. It is a moderately fast growing palm for southern California slowing down a bit once it forms a trunk (relative to the growth of Parajubaea torrallyi) but it holds a larger crown of leaves making it look more lush than the other species in this genus. Its frost tolerance is good down to about 25F but questionable below that. It tolerates full sun in inland California (but not yet tested in the desert regions) and very high winds once well rooted. Plants planted in heavy clay tend to battle root problems and tend to blow over in high winds (does not appear to be a problem in the other species). (Geoff Stein)

"I have had this plant for about two years in North Central Florida zone 9a. It is planted in a mound of sand and limestone and although it grows very slowly it also stays a deep green and looks very happy, even when it is hot and humid for many days in a row (unusual for Parajubaea). It doesn't grow much once it gets really hot outside though, and this may be why it is taking so long to grow. Definitely try one if you live in zone 9, maybe even a protected 8b while you could cover it." (Kris in Ocala, FL. zone 9a)

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Comments and Curiosities

"Only very recently described (1996), the most visible character is that this species keep reddish hairs, (fibres) called "sunkha" in the top of the trunk, and that have plenty of uses for the local peoples." (Gaston Torres Vera).

Etymology: The vernacular Aymaran name of sunkha, which refers to the density of fibers, has been adopted for the species epithet.

Uses: This palm is exploited locally: fibers are collected for ropes, mattresses, and pads; leaves and leaflets for fans and baskets; fruits for human consumption; palmheart and young leaves for forage. Its fruits are sold in the market Vallegrande, its seeds are edible and have a pleasant taste, they also are used to make cupcakes, the fiber of the leaf bases are used in the manufacture of mattresses, pillows, rope, and saddle for horses. (From the Spanish).

The palm produces a fibre, which grows in its leaf axils and is locally used to make mattresses, ropes and saddle pillows. Apart from subsistence use these products are sporadically sold on local markets. The leaves are used to manufacture hats, baskets and fans (Vargas 1994). Leafs and fruits serve as fodder for livestock. Furthermore, the species is internationally traded as ornamental plant.

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).

Moraes, M.1996. Novelties of the Genera Parajubaea and Syagrus (Palmae) from Interandean Valleys of Bolivia. Novon 6: 85-92.

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

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