Chilean wine palm (Jubaea chilensis)

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A mature solitary Chilean wine palm tree
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Chilean wine palm fact file

Chilean wine palm description

KingdomPlantae
PhylumTracheophyta
ClassLiliopsida
OrderArecales
FamilyPalmae
GenusJubaea (1)

Although described somewhat disdainfully by Charles Darwin as a “very ugly tree”, many consider the Chilean wine palm to be one of the most magnificent palms in the world (3) (4). Its immense dark-grey trunk grows to a vast height and often has a swollen region near the base that generally tapers towards the crown (3) (5). The dense crown supports between 40 and 50 green or blue grey, pinnate leaves, which on dying, fall cleanly to the ground rather than persisting on the stem. Borne amongst the leaves, the large inflorescences hang pendulously and comprise separate male and female flowers (3). The spherical fruit are yellow or brown, and, like a coconut, have a nut-like shell with three "eyes" through which the seed germinate (3) (5).

Also known as
Honey palm or coquito palm.
Spanish
Palma Chilena, Palma de Coguitos, Palma de Miel, Palmera Chilena.
Size
Height: up to 30 m (2)
Trunk diameter: 1 m or more (3)
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Chilean wine palm biology

The Chilean wine palm flowers from November to December with fruits ripening from January onwards (3). The lifespan of this species is not known but there are reports of large specimens in Chile living for several hundred years (2).

The sap from the Chilean wine palm can be fermented into a palm wine or, as is more common today, concentrated into a sweet syrup (palm honey) for culinary uses (2) (5). In order to obtain the sap, the trunks are felled and the crown cut from the apex of the stem. The sap then drains out over a period lasting several months, sometimes yielding more than 300 litres. In addition to the production of palm honey, the edible seeds are also harvested and the leaves are used to make baskets (5).

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Chilean wine palm range

The Chilean wine palm is native to Chile where it has the most southerly distribution of on any palm in South America. It is widely cultivated in warm temperate regions of the world (3) (5).

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Chilean wine palm habitat

Occurs at low elevations in dry river valleys or open hillsides, in seasonally dry regions with a Mediterranean climate (3).

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Chilean wine palm status

Classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Vulnerable

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Chilean wine palm threats

Historically, the Chilean wine palm was extremely abundant, but several centuries of destructive over-harvesting for the collection of sap have reduced it to just a few significant populations (2) (5).

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Chilean wine palm conservation

The remaining populations of the Chilean wine palm are mainly restricted to protected areas (2) (5). However, efforts are being made by local conservation groups in Chile to reforest areas lying within the Chilean wine palm’s former range (5) (6). Furthermore, the harvesting of palm sap is now limited under Chilean law, and it is hoped that non-destructive harvesting methods will eventually be implemented (6).

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Find out more

To find out more about the conservation of the Chilean palm, see:

  • PALMA Foundation (Fundación para la Protección al Medio Ambiente):
    www.fundacion.cl

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Authentication

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact: arkive@wildscreen.org.uk
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Glossary

Pinnate
In plants, a compound leaf where the leaflets (individual ‘leaves’) are found on either side of the central stalk.
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References

  1. IUCN Red List (March, 2009)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org/
  2. Rundel, P.W. (2002) The Chilean wine palm. MEMBG Newsletter, 5(4): 1 - . Available at:
    http://www.botgard.ucla.edu/html/membgnewsletter/Volume5number4/Thechileanwinepalm.html
  3. Henderson, A., Galeano, G. and Bernal, R. (1995) Field guide to the palms of the Americas. Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey, USA.
  4. Darwin, C.R. (1845) Journal of researches into the natural history and geology of the countries visited during the voyage of H.M.S. Beagle round the world, under the Command of Capt. Fitz Roy, R.N. 2nd edition. John Murray, London. Available at:
    http://darwin-online.org.uk
  5. Royal Botanic Gardens Kew. (2009) Pers. comm.
  6. PALMA Foundation (March, 2009)
    http://www.fundacion.cl
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Image credit

A mature solitary Chilean wine palm tree  
A mature solitary Chilean wine palm tree

© Kenneth W. Fink / www.ardea.com

Ardea wildlife pets environment
59 Tranquil Vale
London
SE3 0BS
United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (0) 208 318 1401
ardea@ardea.co.uk
http://www.ardea.com

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