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Useful Tropical Plants

Phytelephas macrocarpa

Ruiz & Pav.

Arecaceae

+ Synonyms

Elephantusia macrocarpa (Ruiz & Pav.) Willd.

Elephantusia microcarpa (Ruiz & Pav.) Willd.

Phytelephas karstenii O.F.Cook

Phytelephas microcarpa Ruiz & Pav.

Yarina microcarpa (Ruiz & Pav.) O.F.Cook

Common Name: Vegetable Ivory

Phytelephas macrocarpa
Cultivated plant at Kebun Raya Bogor, Java, Indonesia
Photograph by: William J. Baker
Image credit to Palmweb
Phytelephas macrocarpa Phytelephas macrocarpa Phytelephas macrocarpa Phytelephas macrocarpa Phytelephas macrocarpa Phytelephas macrocarpa Phytelephas macrocarpa Phytelephas macrocarpa

General Information

Vegetable ivory is usually a single-stemmed, evergreen palm growing up to 3 metres tall. The unbranched stem can be subterranean or short and sometimes creeping up to 2 metres long; it can be 30cm in diameter and topped by 12 - 20 leaves[
412
Title
Illustrated Guide to the Trees of Peru
Publication
 
Author
Pennington, T.D.; Reynel, C. & Daza, A.
Publisher
David Hunt; Sherbourne, England.
Year
2004
ISBN
0 9538134 3 6
Description
A very terse guide to the trees of Peru, managing to give basic guides to a large number of genera, with more detail on a few species in each genus.
,
423
Title
Desert Tropicals
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.desert-tropicals.com/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
The main focus of the site is succulent plants, but it also contains information on a wide range of other species. Usually at least one good photograph, plus basic information about the plant and its cultivation.
,
768
Title
Field Guide to the Palms of the Americas
Publication
 
Author
Henderson A.; Galeano G.; Bernal R.
Publisher
Princeton University Press; Princeton, New Jersey.
Year
1995
ISBN
0-691-08537-4
Description
An excellent book, giving basic information on all the 550 species of palms native to the Americas that were known in 1995. Comprehensive information on the plants range and habitat, brief description, some uses and almost 250 photos.
].
The plant is used in various ways locally as a food. The hard seed is a form of vegetable ivory, which is used in craftwork. The seeds of this and various other species of vegetable ivory palms are commonly gathered from the wild and exported in large quantities from Panama and South America, to be used as a substitute for ivory - a great variety of articles being fashioned from them[
469
Title
Contributions from the United States National Herbarium Vol. 27
Publication
 
Author
Standley P.C.
Website
http://www.biodiversitylibrary.org
Publisher
Smithsonian Institute; Washington.
Year
1928
ISBN
 
Description
Contains a Flora of the Panama Canal zone
].

Known Hazards

None known

Botanical References

412
Title
Illustrated Guide to the Trees of Peru
Publication
 
Author
Pennington, T.D.; Reynel, C. & Daza, A.
Publisher
David Hunt; Sherbourne, England.
Year
2004
ISBN
0 9538134 3 6
Description
A very terse guide to the trees of Peru, managing to give basic guides to a large number of genera, with more detail on a few species in each genus.
,
768
Title
Field Guide to the Palms of the Americas
Publication
 
Author
Henderson A.; Galeano G.; Bernal R.
Publisher
Princeton University Press; Princeton, New Jersey.
Year
1995
ISBN
0-691-08537-4
Description
An excellent book, giving basic information on all the 550 species of palms native to the Americas that were known in 1995. Comprehensive information on the plants range and habitat, brief description, some uses and almost 250 photos.

Range

S. America - Brazil, Bolivia, Peru.

Habitat

Rainforest[
314
Title
Palm and Cycad Societies of Australia.
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.pacsoa.org.au/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Contains at least a little information on the majority of palm and cycad species, plus a wealth of photographs. A first class website.
]. Lowland rainforests on alluvial soil[
412
Title
Illustrated Guide to the Trees of Peru
Publication
 
Author
Pennington, T.D.; Reynel, C. & Daza, A.
Publisher
David Hunt; Sherbourne, England.
Year
2004
ISBN
0 9538134 3 6
Description
A very terse guide to the trees of Peru, managing to give basic guides to a large number of genera, with more detail on a few species in each genus.
,
768
Title
Field Guide to the Palms of the Americas
Publication
 
Author
Henderson A.; Galeano G.; Bernal R.
Publisher
Princeton University Press; Princeton, New Jersey.
Year
1995
ISBN
0-691-08537-4
Description
An excellent book, giving basic information on all the 550 species of palms native to the Americas that were known in 1995. Comprehensive information on the plants range and habitat, brief description, some uses and almost 250 photos.
].

Properties

Edibility Rating *  *
Other Uses Rating *  *  *  *
HabitEvergreen Tree
Height3.00 m
Self-fertileNo
Cultivation StatusWild

Cultivation Details

A plant from the warm tropics, though it can tolerate occasional short-lived temperatures down to around freezing[
423
Title
Desert Tropicals
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.desert-tropicals.com/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
The main focus of the site is succulent plants, but it also contains information on a wide range of other species. Usually at least one good photograph, plus basic information about the plant and its cultivation.
].
Prefers a moist soil and a warm, sheltered position[
314
Title
Palm and Cycad Societies of Australia.
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.pacsoa.org.au/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Contains at least a little information on the majority of palm and cycad species, plus a wealth of photographs. A first class website.
].
A slow-growing plant, it can take from 7 - 25 years from a young seedling before it starts to produce fruit[
423
Title
Desert Tropicals
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.desert-tropicals.com/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
The main focus of the site is succulent plants, but it also contains information on a wide range of other species. Usually at least one good photograph, plus basic information about the plant and its cultivation.
].
The flowers are heavily scented[
423
Title
Desert Tropicals
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.desert-tropicals.com/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
The main focus of the site is succulent plants, but it also contains information on a wide range of other species. Usually at least one good photograph, plus basic information about the plant and its cultivation.
].
A dioecious species, both male and female forms need to be grown if fruit and seed are required[
768
Title
Field Guide to the Palms of the Americas
Publication
 
Author
Henderson A.; Galeano G.; Bernal R.
Publisher
Princeton University Press; Princeton, New Jersey.
Year
1995
ISBN
0-691-08537-4
Description
An excellent book, giving basic information on all the 550 species of palms native to the Americas that were known in 1995. Comprehensive information on the plants range and habitat, brief description, some uses and almost 250 photos.
].

Edible Uses

The apical bud is cooked and eaten as a vegetable[
412
Title
Illustrated Guide to the Trees of Peru
Publication
 
Author
Pennington, T.D.; Reynel, C. & Daza, A.
Publisher
David Hunt; Sherbourne, England.
Year
2004
ISBN
0 9538134 3 6
Description
A very terse guide to the trees of Peru, managing to give basic guides to a large number of genera, with more detail on a few species in each genus.
]. Eating this bud will lead to the death of the tree since it is unable to form side branches[
K
Title
Plants for a Future
Author
Ken Fern
Description
Notes from observations, tasting etc at Plants For A Future and on field trips.
].

The seed tissue of the immature fruit is liquid - it is used as a refreshing drink[
301
Title
Cornucopia II
Publication
 
Author
Facciola. S.
Publisher
Kampong Publications, California.
Year
1998
ISBN
0-9628087-2-5
Description
The second edition of an excellent guide to the edible uses of plants, though it does not give any details of cultivation etc.
,
412
Title
Illustrated Guide to the Trees of Peru
Publication
 
Author
Pennington, T.D.; Reynel, C. & Daza, A.
Publisher
David Hunt; Sherbourne, England.
Year
2004
ISBN
0 9538134 3 6
Description
A very terse guide to the trees of Peru, managing to give basic guides to a large number of genera, with more detail on a few species in each genus.
]. A sweet flavour[
423
Title
Desert Tropicals
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.desert-tropicals.com/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
The main focus of the site is succulent plants, but it also contains information on a wide range of other species. Usually at least one good photograph, plus basic information about the plant and its cultivation.
].

Young fruits[
301
Title
Cornucopia II
Publication
 
Author
Facciola. S.
Publisher
Kampong Publications, California.
Year
1998
ISBN
0-9628087-2-5
Description
The second edition of an excellent guide to the edible uses of plants, though it does not give any details of cultivation etc.
].

The fruit has been used as a coffee substitute[
301
Title
Cornucopia II
Publication
 
Author
Facciola. S.
Publisher
Kampong Publications, California.
Year
1998
ISBN
0-9628087-2-5
Description
The second edition of an excellent guide to the edible uses of plants, though it does not give any details of cultivation etc.
].

Medicinal

None known

Other Uses

The seed is about the size of a hen's egg[
63
Title
Nuts.
Publication
 
Author
Howes. F. N.
Publisher
Faber
Year
1948
ISBN
-
Description
Rather old but still a masterpiece. Has sections on tropical and temperate plants with edible nuts plus a section on nut plants in Britain. Very readable.
]. As it matures it becomes immensely hard and closely resembles ivory[
63
Title
Nuts.
Publication
 
Author
Howes. F. N.
Publisher
Faber
Year
1948
ISBN
-
Description
Rather old but still a masterpiece. Has sections on tropical and temperate plants with edible nuts plus a section on nut plants in Britain. Very readable.
]. It is used for making buttons, chess pieces and ornamental articles of various kinds[
46
Title
Dictionary of Economic Plants.
Publication
 
Author
Uphof. J. C. Th.
Publisher
Weinheim
Year
1959
ISBN
-
Description
An excellent and very comprehensive guide but it only gives very short descriptions of the uses without any details of how to utilize the plants. Not for the casual reader.
,
63
Title
Nuts.
Publication
 
Author
Howes. F. N.
Publisher
Faber
Year
1948
ISBN
-
Description
Rather old but still a masterpiece. Has sections on tropical and temperate plants with edible nuts plus a section on nut plants in Britain. Very readable.
].

The leaves are sometimes employed in the manufacture of articles of domestic economy[
454
Title
Useful Fiber Plants of the World
Publication
 
Author
Dodge C.R.
Website
http://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/
Publisher
USDA; Washington.
Year
1897
ISBN
 
Description
A rather dated, but very comprehensive catalogue of fibre plants from around the world. The book can be downloaded from the Internet.
]. (Probably woven into mats etc[
K
Title
Plants for a Future
Author
Ken Fern
Description
Notes from observations, tasting etc at Plants For A Future and on field trips.
].) The leaves are used for making baskets[
697
Title
Botanical Museum Leaflets Vol 29
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.biodiversitylibrary.org
Publisher
Harvard University; Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Year
1983
ISBN
 
Description
Some interesting notes on plant uses in tropical America. It can be downloaded from the Internet.
].
The leaves are used as a thatch material for native huts[
454
Title
Useful Fiber Plants of the World
Publication
 
Author
Dodge C.R.
Website
http://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/
Publisher
USDA; Washington.
Year
1897
ISBN
 
Description
A rather dated, but very comprehensive catalogue of fibre plants from around the world. The book can be downloaded from the Internet.
].

A fibre obtained from the plant is used for brooms, torches, fire starters or blowgun bore-cleaners[
697
Title
Botanical Museum Leaflets Vol 29
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.biodiversitylibrary.org
Publisher
Harvard University; Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Year
1983
ISBN
 
Description
Some interesting notes on plant uses in tropical America. It can be downloaded from the Internet.
].

Propagation

Seed - it can take 3 - 4 years to germinate[
423
Title
Desert Tropicals
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.desert-tropicals.com/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
The main focus of the site is succulent plants, but it also contains information on a wide range of other species. Usually at least one good photograph, plus basic information about the plant and its cultivation.
].

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