Slow-growing fan palm with a conspicuously scarred stem, up to 15m tall. Leaves and leaf stalks waxy throughout. Leaf stalks (petioles) with irregularly spaced teeth. Flower stalk (inflorescence) up to 2.5m with individual flowers in clusters of two to four. Fruits small and ovoid.

Facts

  • This palm is grown in plantations for its wax, which is harvested from the upper surface of the leaves.
  • The hard wax has a very high melting point and is used traditionally as a polish for cars, shoes and floors; as an additive in surfboard wax; and also as a glaze for sweets such as Smarties.

Where it grows

The carnauba palm is native to semi-arid areas of north-eastern Brazil, where it is grown extensively on plantations. It withstands drought excellently. A slight saline composition in the soil produces the best trees.

Conservation story

Carnauba palms are often infested with reduviid bugs that carry the pathogen that causes Chagas Disease in humans. This disease currently infects millions of people in Mexico, Central America, and South America.

Wildlife facts 

The leaves of the palm are used by the fork-tailed palm-swift bird, to build its nest. It glues together dead folded leaves with its saliva.

Useful links

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