Macaúba – Acrocomia aculeata

Daniel Rengel’s photo

Macaúba is a fruitful palm, of high useful and ornamental value, characterized by long thorns along the stem. It is native to the Americas, occurring in tropical and equatorial forests. It has a stipe-like stem, solitary, ringed, thorny and partially covered by the leaf sheaths of the leaves that have already come off. The stipe is approximately 30 cm in diameter and can reach up to 15 meters in height. The spines present on the stem are dark, pointed, arranged horizontally and reach up to 7 cm. The green leaves of macaúba are 1.5 to 3 meters long, are pinnate, covered with thorns, alternate, composed of linear and long leaflets, arranged at different angles, which give a lot of volume to the leaf and give it a plume appearance.

The inflorescences are panicle-like, bracted and appear in the interleaf spaces during spring and summer, reaching 80 cm in length and exuding a strong aroma. Its flowers are small, numerous, yellow, with female flowers present at the base and male flowers at the distal portion. It is pollinated mainly by bees and beetles. Its fruits appear in autumn, they are edible, in the form of a globular drupe and yellowish-green, reaching up to 6 cm. They opened from one to four seeds, large and oleaginous, from which a fine, transparent oil could be extracted. Birds such as macaws, parrots, toucans, tuins and parakeets are attracted to this palm tree. Furthermore, the palm heart of this species is considered a delicacy.


Scott Zona’s photo

Macaúba is a very ornamental palm, with a crown that refers to a beautiful arrangement of feathers that move with the breeze. It is ideal for use in contemplative spaces, which can be enjoyed from a distance, but preferably away from paths and areas with high pedestrian traffic, especially children. The sharp thorns give it both an exotic beauty and the danger of accidents. They should not be removed, otherwise this interesting and unique palm tree will be de-characterized. In addition, great care is needed when transplanting this species, so as not to destroy the layer of thorns, forming indelible holes in the stem. It can be used alone, in groups or rows, being indicated in the landscaping of sites, farms, parks and large corporate gardens, adding a tropical character to the environment. In addition, it is very attractive to tropical birds that add more interest to the garden and act in the dissemination of seeds.
In addition to landscaping, macaúba is a palm tree with a thousand and one uses. Everything can benefit from it: The oil extracted from the fruit can be used in gastronomic preparations in place of olive oil, as well as in the cosmetic industry or in the composition of biodiesel. A nutritious starch is produced from the palm heart and the stem has hard wood that can be used in civil or rural construction. The leaves can be used as fodder for production animals and contain textile fibers, which are used in making nets and fishing lines.

It should be grown in full sun and appreciates very fertile and draining soils.

Photo by Barloventomagico

If grown in pots, water regularly, keeping the soil moist, not soggy. Once established in the garden, watering must be complementary, in order to circumvent periods of drought. Fertilize every 6 months, adding organic matter and fertilizers suitable for palm trees. It likes tropical humidity and heat, not tolerating cold more than -7ºC. Its maintenance consists of the careful removal of old leaves, so as not to destroy their characteristic thorns. It is propagated by seeds, set to germinate in sandy soil rich in organic matter. The seeds are recalcitrant, resulting in slow and uneven germination, which can take a few years to complete. Despite having a low germination rate, this species can live up to 100 years. Fruiting begins about 3 to 5 years after germination.

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This species has thorns, be careful when handling it and keep it out of the reach of children and pets.