Astrocaryum aculeatum • Tucumã


The fruit of this palm is edible and known at Amazonat as tucumã fruit (1). Astrocaryum aculeatum has been a very useful palm species to many Amazonian peoples. Some examples are listed below.

"This tree is covered with regular broad bands or rings of thickly set black spines, with narrow spaces between them. The Indians make use of the unopened leaves to manufacture cordage, superior in fineness, strength and durability to that procured from Mauritia flexuosa. They strip off the epidermis and roll it on their thighs into strings. It serves for bow-strings, fishing nets and other purposes where fineness, combined with strength is required. The Brazilians of the Rio Negro and Upper Amazon make very beautiful hammocks of fine 'tucum' thread, knitted by hand into a compact web of so fine texture as to occupy two persons three or four months in their completion." (2)

“For the Chácobo, the leaves are the most important material for basketry; the pinnae are split longitudinally and then tightly woven into different sizes and styles of baskets. An interesting and indirect use of the fruits is to extract the white-coloured grubs that sometimes live inside for fishing bait. The hard, black "wood" from the trunk is carved into hunting bows, as well as into five varieties of arrowheads.” (3)

“The Yanomami weave fans for blowing fires aflame from the young (yellow) leaflets of the unopened palm fronds of Astrocaryum aculeatum, in much the same way that they are made by most Amazonian peoples.“ (4)

(1) Guides at Amazonat (pers. comm.)

(2) Wallace, AR (1853) Palm trees of the Amazon and their uses. Taylor and Francis 129 p.

(3) Balick, MJ (Ed) (1988) The Palm - Tree of life: Biology, Utilization and Conservation. The New York Botanical Garden 282 p.

(4) Miliken, W, Albert, B (1999) Yanomami; a forest people. RBG Kew 161 p.


Bactris gaispaes • Pupunha
This account consists of quotes from Balick (1988);

"By the end of the last glaciation, species of the Guilielma taxon (in this source considered a sub-genus of Bactris) were distributed along the Andean foothills and adjacent lowland areas from Bolivia to Panama. One of these species, or hybrids between several of them, gave rise to the pejibaye, which was then domesticated by the Amerindians. During the course of centuries, the pejibaye has become the most domesticated palm in the Americas, as attested by the great variety of names, uses and fruit sizes. Near Manaus it is called Pupunha.

The major traditional use of pupunha is consumption of the fruit. The fruit is separated from the bunch, boiled in salted water for an hour, skinned and pitted and consumed directly. It must be boiled to remove a proteolytic enzyme inhibitor that reduces digestion efficiency, and because of the possible occurrence of oxalic acid.

Fruit prepared as flour and meal is a traditional use in parts of the Brazilian and the Colombian Amazon, supplementing or substituting cassava meal. Studies showed that 10% pupunha flour can be used in bread making without changing baking characteristics, although it lowered protein levels slightly, and raised oil and carotene levels significantly. The economic significance of substituting even 10% of wheat importations in moist tropical countries justifies intensive research on this potential use. The relatively high levels of unsaturated oil make the pupunha furthermore a potential oil crop.”

Balick, MJ (Ed) (1988) The Palm - Tree of life: Biology, Utilization and Conservation. The New York Botanical Garden 282 p.



Cocos nucifera • Côco

The coconut palm has been called 'the tree of life' because of its ornamental appeal and value as provider of so many useful products, including oils, fats, growth hormone for horticulture, construction materials, and medicine (1). The liquid endosperm (agua de coco), the young roots and newly extracted sap from the stem or peduncles (vinho de coco) are all used to treat a variety of conditions in traditional medicine (2). The polyphenolic-rich extract from the husk fiber of Cocos nucifera presents antibacterial, antiviral and antiparasitic activities (3,4). The exocarp of Cocos nucifera was also shown to have antibacterial properties (5). A protein with antifungal activity has been isolated from the coconut flesh (6). Coconut cake (fiber) was furthermore shown to have a protective effect against induced colon cancer (7). Both tender and mature coconut water had beneficial effects on lipid parameters in rats fed cholesterol-containing diet (8).

(1) Vossen, van der, HAM and Umali, BE (eds) (2001) Plant Resources of South-East Asia No 14. Vegetable oils and fats. Backhuys Publishers, Leiden, The Netherlands 229 p.

(2) Mors, WB, Rizzini, CT and Pereira, NA (2000) Medicinal Plants of Brazil. Reference Publications Inc: 501 p.

(3)Esquenazi D, Wigg MD, Miranda MM, Rodrigues HM, Tostes JB, Rozental S, da Silva AJ, Alviano CS (2002) Antimicrobial and antiviral activities of polyphenolics from Cocos nucifera Linn. (Palmae) husk fiber extract. Res Microbiol 153(10): 647-52

(4) Mendonca-Filho RR, Rodrigues IA, Alviano DS, Santos AL, Soares RM, Alviano CS, Lopes AH, Rosa Mdo S (2004) Leishmanicidal activity of polyphenolic-rich extract from husk fiber of Cocos nucifera Linn. (Palmae). Res Microbiol 155(3): 136-43

(5) Alanis AD, Calzada F, Cervantes JA, Torres J, Ceballos GM. Antibacterial properties of some plants used in Mexican traditional medicine for the treatment of gastrointestinal disorders. J Ethnopharmacol 100(1-2): 153-7

(6) Wang HX, Ng TB (2005) An antifungal peptide from the coconut. Peptides 26(12): 2392-6

(7) Nalini N, Manju V, Menon VP (2004) Effect of coconut cake on the bacterial enzyme activity in 1,2-dimethyl hydrazine induced colon cancer. Clin Chim Acta 342(1-2): 203-10

(8) Sandhya VG, Rajamohan T (2006) Beneficial effects of coconut water feeding on lipid metabolism in cholesterol-fed rats. J Med Food 9(3): 400-7