by Piter Kehoma Boll
To restart this section, I decided to talk about an interesting plant which can be found in the region where the mysterious Leimacopsis terricola was found back in the 19th century: the Quindio Wax Palm, or palma de cera del Quindío, in Spanish.
This palm, which belong to the species Ceroxylon quindiuense, is the national tree of Colombia and native to the Cocora Valley, a high altitude valley of the Andean region in the department of Quindío, Colombia, from where it was considered basically endemic. However, recently a significant population was found southwards in the Andes of northern Peru.
As all species in the genus Ceroxylon (“wax wood” in Greek), the Quindio wax palm has a cylindrical trunk covered with a white wax marked by scars left by leafbases. It is also the tallest palm in the world, reaching as far as 60 m in height or even more.
Until the beginning of the 20th century, it was a very abundant species in Colombia, but its population was already being reduced due to several activities, mainly by harvesting it as an important source for manufacturing candles during the 19th century. Also, until very recently young leaves were cut to be used for Palm Sunday, leading to death or delay in growth. Nowadays both practices are highly reduced, but the species is still threatened by other activities. The raising of cattle have turned most of the forest where the Quindio wax palm grows in pasture and, despite the large amount of trees growing in the pasture, there are no young individuals, since all (or almost all) seedlings are eaten by cattle. Thus, it is considered Endangered (EN) in the Plant Red List of Colombia and Vulnerable (VU) by IUCN. As an initiative to save the species, it is legally protected in Colombia since 1985, when it became the national tree of the country.
The reduction of the populations of wax palm also threatens species associated to them, like the yellow-eared parrot, which nests in the hollow trunks of wax palms and is an endangered species according to IUCN. But that’s another fellow…
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Bernal, R. & Sanín, M. J. 2013. Los palmares de Ceroxylon quindiuense (Arecaceae) en el Valle de Cocora, Quindío: perspectivas de un ícono escénico de Colombia. Colombia Florestal, 16 (1), 67-79
Salaman, P. G., López-Lanús, B. & Krabbe, N. 1991. Critically endangered: Yellow-eared Parrot Ognorhynchus icterotis in Colombia Cotinga, 11, 39-41
Sanín, M. J. & Galeano, G. 2011. A revision of the Andean wax palms, Ceroxylon (Arecaceae). Phytotaxa, 34, 1-64
Wikipedia. Ceroxylon quindiuense. Available online at < http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ceroxylon_quindiuense >. Access on March 20, 2014.
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