Uses

Most palm products are
non-commercial in the sense that they are consumed by the
manufacturer himself without being traded on any market.
Nevertheless, these products may be of great economic
importance for the individual family as they replace
products that would otherwise have to be purchased for
money. Larger scale commercial exploitation of palms involve
a more limited number of species. So far, 15 native,
non-domesticated species belonging to 12 genera have been
registered as economically important, in the sense that they
are commercialised on a local, national, or international
scale. The most important native palm in this sense is
Phytelephas aequatorialis. Export of products made
from its hard seeds, known as vegetable ivory, now surpass 5
million US$ annually. Other important products include: –
canned palm hearts harvested from natural populations of
Euterpe oleracea and Prestoea acuminata and lately
also from the cultivated Bactris gasipaes;- fibres
from Aphandra natalia for production of brooms; –
fibres from Astrocaryum standleyanum for hats,
hammocks and furniture; – fibres from Astrocaryum
chambira
for carrying nets and hammocks, sold to
tourists by indigenous people in eastern Ecuador; – and
stems from Iriartea deltoidea used for furniture and support
poles in banana plantations. A number of other products are
sold on a minor scale, but may hold a greater potential.
They include: – leaves for thatch from Phytelephas
aequatorialis
and P. tenuicaulis; – young leaves
from Ceroxylon alpinum, C. echinulatum, and
C. ventricosum and probably other species of that
genus used during Easter week ceremonies; – mesocarp oil
from Oenocarpus bataua; – edible fruits from
Aphandra natalia, Bactris gasipaes and
Mauritia flexuosa; – endosperm from Attalea
colenda
for oil production; – endosperm from
Parajubaea cocoides as snack; – and finally endocarps
from Parajubaea cocoides and Syagrus sancona
used for making trinkets.

DR Kerry Walker

Botanical Scientist at University of Edinburgh
DR Kerry Walker is a botanical scientist at the University of Edinburgh, researching the benefits that these organisms can have on fighting diseases.