Skip to main content

Full text of "Palm trees of the Amazon and their uses"

See other formats





Ford & West hth London 












1 HE materials for this work were collected during my 
travels on the Amazon and its tributaries from 1848 to 
1852. Though principally occupied with the varied 
and interesting animal productions of the country, I yet 
found time to examine and admire the wonders of 
vegetable life which everywhere abounded. In the vast 
forests of the Amazon valley, tropical vegetation is to 
be seen in all its luxuriance. Huge trees with but- 
tressed stems, tangled climbers of fantastic forms, and 
strange parasitical plants everywhere meet the admiring 
gaze of the naturalist fresh from the meadows and 
heaths of Europe. Everywhere too rise the graceful 
Palms, true denizens of the tropics, of which they are 


the most striking and characteristic feature. In the 
districts which I visited they were everywhere abundant, 
and I soon became interested in them, from their great 
variety and beauty of form and the many uses to which 
they are applied. I first endeavoured to familiarize 
myself with the aspect of each species and to learn to 
know it by its native name; but even this was not a 
very easy matter, for I was often unable to see any dif- 
ference between trees which the Indians assured me 
were quite distinct, and had widely different properties 
and uses. More close examination, however, convinced 
me that external characters did exist by which every 
species could be separated from those most nearly allied 
to it, and I was soon pleased to find that I could di- 
stinguish one palm from another, though barely visible 
above the surrounding forest, almost as certainly as the 
natives themselves. I then endeavoured to define the 
peculiarities of form or structure which gave to each its 
individual character, and made accurate sketches and 
descriptions to impress them upon my memory. These 
peculiarities are often very slight, though permanent : — 
in the roots, the extent to which they appear above the 
ground ; — in the stem, the thickness, which in each 
species varies within very definite limits, — the swelling of 


the base, the middle or the summit, — its generally erect 
or curving position, — the nature of the rings with which 
it is marked, — the number, direction and form of the 
spines or tubercles with which it is armed; — in the 
leaves, the erect or drooping position, the size and form 
of the leaflets, the angles which they form with the 
midrib, and the proportionate size of the terminal pair, 
are all important characters. The fruit spike or spadix 
is either erect or drooping, either simple, forked, or many- 
branched ; and the fruits in closely allied species vary 
in size, in shape, and in colour, as well as in the bloom, 
down, hairs or tubercles with which they are clothed. 

In this little work careful engravings from my original 
drawings are given, with a general description of each 
species, and a history from personal observation of the 
various uses to which it is applied, and of any other 
interesting particulars connected with it. Several of 
the species here figured are new, and among them is 
the Palm which produces the " piassaba," the coarse 
fibrous material of which brooms for street-sweeping 
are now generally made. 

For the determination of the genera and species,.and 
for that part of the Introduction relating to the botanical 
characters and geographical distribution of Palms, I am 


indebted to the magnificent work of Dr. Martius. To 
the botanist I trust my little book may be of some use, 
in giving accurate figures of many entire plants, of 
which he is only acquainted with small portions, and in 
supplying an account of the uses to which they are 
applied in the distant regions where they grow. And 
to the general reader I hope it may not be uninteresting, 
as exhibiting a glimpse of a wild and rude people in 
the lowest state of civilization, whose existence is inti- 
mately connected with the products of the surrounding- 
forests, among which the plants under consideration 
hold so prominent a place ; and of these it is hoped the 
accompanying Plates will give a more accurate idea 
than the stereotyped figures which often represent the 
" feathery palm trees M in our popular works. 

Some of the fruits of which I had no drawings, have 
been figured from specimens in the Museum at Kew 
collected by Mr. R. Spruce, who is still investigating 
the Botany of the Amazon valley. 

London, October 1853. 



Map showing the distribution of Palms in America {Frontis- 
piece) , , , i 

Fruits of Palms, containing, 

1. Raphia taedigera. 

2. Mauritia flexuosa, 

3. Manicaria saccifera, 

4. Lepidocaryum tenue (all of the natural size)...... 2 

5. Astrocaryum tucuma. 

6. Leopoldinia pulchra. 
Fruits of Palms, containing, 

1. Attalea spectabilis. 

2. Maximiliana regia. 

3. Spathe of Maximiliana regia (reduced) 3 

4. Guilielma speciosa (all of the natural size). 

Leopoldinia pulchra 4 

major 5 

giassaba 6 

Euterpe oleracea 7 

catinga 8 

CEnocarpus baccaba 9 

batawa (with fruit) 10 

batawa (with arrow and quiver) 10, 11 

Iriartea exorhiza 12 

Roots of an Iriartea 13 

Iriartea ventricosa (with a fruit) 14 

setigera (with fruit and Gravatana) 15 

Raphia tsedigera 16 

Mauritia flexuosa (with a leaf) 1/ 

carana 18 

aculeata 19 

gracilis 20 

pumila 21 



Lepidocaryum tenue 22 

Geonoma multiflora (with fruit) 23 

paniculigera 24 

rectifolia (with fruit) 25 

Manicaria saccifera (with a spathe) 26 

Desmoncus macroacanthus (with a fruit) 27 

Bactris pectinata (with a fruit) 28 

n.s 29 

elatior 30 

n.s. (with a leaflet) 31 

macrocarpa (with a fruit and leaflet) '. 32 

tenuis (with spadix) 33 

simplicifrons 34 

integrifolia 35 

Guilielma speciosa (with Uaupes Indian's house) 36 

Acrocomia lasiospatha (with fruit) 37 

Astrocaryura murumuru (with fruit and part of leaf) 38 

— — gynacanthum 39 

vulgare 40 

tucuma (with young plant) 41 

— — jauari 42 

aculeatum 43 

acaule (with spadix and fruit) 44 

humile (with fruit) 45 

Attalea speciosa 46 

Maximiliana regia 47 

Cocos nucifera 48 


Ford & West Imp 

I RLaphia Laedigera 2.Mauritia [Ie en 

aria fora ^Lepidocaryum 

5 /v u i nearyum tucurna 6 Leopoldmia pulchra. 


Ibrdft'/Ves'. r«$> 

tabilis. ?, . Maximiliana regia . 

... i speciosa. 

. ...rLea exorhiza. 




X ALMS are endogenous or ingrowing plants, belonging 
to the same great division of the Vegetable Kingdom 
as the Grasses, Bamboos, Lilies and Pineapples, and 
not to that which contains all our English forest trees. 
They are perennial, not annual like most of the above- 
named plants, and probably reach a great age. Their 
stems jtre simple or very rarely forked, slender, erect, 
and cylindrical, not tapering as in most other trees ; 
they are hardest on the outside, and are marked more or 
less distinctly with scars or rings, marking the situation 
of the fallen leaves. 

The leaves are generally terminal, forming a bunch 
or head at the summit of the tree ; they are of very 
large size, have long petioles or footstalks, and are 
alternately placed on the stem. In shape they are 
pinnate or flabellate, or rarely simple, sheathing at the 
base, without stipules ; and they have a plicate verna- 
tion, or are folded up lengthways before they open. 
The margins of the sheathing bases of the leaf-stalks 


are often fibrous, and give out a variety of singular 

The flowers are numerous, small, symmetrical, un- 
coloured, or obscurely so, six-parted, and hermaphrodite 
or polygamous. They are produced in a spadix from 
the axils of the leaves, and are generally enclosed in a 
spathe or sheath. The ovary or seed-vessel is three- 
celled or three-lobed, but the fruit is generally one- 
seeded from abortion, and the seed is large and albu- 
minous with a fibrous or fleshy covering. 

Palms are almost exclusively tropical plants, very 
few species being found in the temperate zone, and 
those only in the warmer parts of it, while the nearer 
we approach the equator the more numerous they 
become both in species and individuals. Dr. Martius, 
a Prussian botanist and traveller in South America, has 
published a magnificent work in three folio volumes, 
entirely devoted to the Botanical history of this family 
of plants. He divides the portion of the earth which 
produces palms into five regions, namely, — 

The North Palm Zone, extending from the northern 
limit of Palms to the tropic of Cancer. 

The transition North Palm Zone, from the tropic of 
Cancer to 10° north latitude. 

The Chief Palm Zone, from 10° north to 10° south 

The transition South Palm Zone, from 10° south 
latitude to the tropic of Capricorn, and 

The South Palm Zone, from the tropic of Capricorn 
to the southern limit of the family. 


The Northern limit of Palms is, in Europe 43° of 
latitude, in Asia 34°, and in America 34°. 

The Southern limit is 34° in Africa, 38° in New 
Zealand, and 36° in South America. 

To the north of the tropic of Cancer there are 43 
species of Palms known, and to the south of the 
tropic of Capricorn only 13, while as we advance 
from either side towards the equator the number in- 
creases, until in the Chief Zone, between 10° north 
and 10° south latitude, there are more than 300 
species (see Frontispiece Map). 

In the Old World, the rich islands of the Eastern 
Archipelago produce the greatest number of Palms ; in 
the New, the great valleys of the Amazon and Orinoco 
on the main land, are most prolific. 

In proportion to its extent, America is the most pro- 
ductive palm country; for while the Old World, in- 
cluding Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Eastern Archi- 
pelago, with New Holland and all the Pacific Islands, 
contain 307 species, the New World or America alone 
has 275 different kinds. 

In the Old World the islands produce more species 
than the continents, the former containing 194, while 
the latter have only 113. 

In the New World, however, the reverse is the case, 
the continent there containing 234, while the islands 
possess only 42 kinds of Palms. 

The total number of Palms at present known is less 
than 600. Dr. Martius thinks that the probable num- 
ber existing on the earth may be from 1000 to 1200 ; 



though, as similar calculations have hitherto almost in- 
variably been proved, as our knowledge increased, to be 
far below the truth, it is not unlikely that a few years 
may render double this number a more probable esti- 

Palms present to our view the most graceful and 
picturesque, as well as some of the most majestic forms 
in the vegetable kingdom. Though many of them have 
a sameness of aspect, yet there is a sufficient contrast 
and variety of forms to render them interesting objects 
in the landscape. The stems in some species do not 
appear above the ground, in others they rise to the 
height of 200 feet; some resemble reeds and are no 
thicker than a goose quill, others swell out to the bulk 
of a hogshead. There are climbing palms too, which 
trail their long flexible stems over trees and shrubs, or 
hang in tangled festoons between them. 

The trunks of some are almost perfectly smooth, 
others rough with concentric rings, or clothed with a 
woven or hairy fibrous covering, which binds together 
the sheathing bases of the fallen leaves. Many are 
thickly beset with cylindrical or flat spines, often 8 or 
10 inches long and as sharp as a needle ; and the 
fallen leaves and stems of these offer a serious obstacle 
to the traveller who attempts to penetrate the tropical 

The leaves are large and often gigantic, surpassing 
those of any other family of plants. In some species 
they are 50 feet long and 8 wide ; these are pinnate or 
composed of numerous long narrow leaflets placed at 


right angles to the midrib, but in others the leaves are 
entire and undivided, and yet are 30 feet or more in 
length and 4 or 5 in width. But the most remarkable 
form of leaf is the fan-shaped, which characterizes a con- 
siderable number of species, and gives them such a 
completely different aspect, as to render it, to ordinary 
observers, the most palpable feature dividing the whole 
family into two distinct groups. The Palms having 
fan-shaped leaves are, however, comparatively few, being 
only 91 out of 582 known species. 

The flowers are small and inconspicuous, generally of 
a white, pale yellow or green colour, but often produced 
in such dense masses as to have a striking appearance. 
They sometimes emit a very powerful odour, which 
attracts swarms of minute insects ; and a newly-burst 
palm spathe may often be discovered by the buzzing 
cloud of small flies and beetles which hover over it. 

The fruits are generally small, when compared with 
the size of the trees ; the common cocoa-nut being one 
of the largest in the whole family. The*kernel of many 
is too hard to be eaten, and the outer covering is often 
fibrous or woody; but in others the seeds are covered 
with a pulpy or farinaceous mass, which in most cases 
furnishes a grateful and nutritious food. 

The purposes to which the different parts of Palms 
are applied are very various, the fruit, the leaves, and 
the stem all having many uses in the different species. 
Some of them produce valuable articles of export to our 
own and other countries, but they are of far more value 
to the natives of the districts where they grow, in many 


cases furnishing the most important necessaries for 

The Cocoa-nut is known to us only as an agreeable 
fruit, and its fibrous husk supplies ns with matting, 
coir ropes, and stuffing for mattresses ; but in its native 
countries it serves a hundred purposes ; food and drink 
and oil are obtained from its fruit, hats and baskets are 
made of its fibre, huts are covered with its leaves, and 
its leaf-stalks are applied to a variety of uses. To us 
the Date is but an agreeable fruit, but to the Arab it is 
the very staff of life ; men and camels almost live upon 
it, and on the abundance of the date harvest depends 
the wealth and almost the existence of many desert 
tribes. It is truly indigenous to those inhospitable 
wastes of burning sand, which without it would be un- 
inhabitable by man. 

A palm tree of Africa, the JEleis guianensis, gives ns 
oil and candles. It inhabits those parts of the country 
where the slave trade is carried on, and it is thought by 
persons best acquainted with the subject that the ex- 
tension of the trade in palm oil will be the most effec- 
tual check to that inhuman traffic ; so that a palm tree 
may be the means of spreading the blessings of civili- 
zation and humanity among the persecuted negro race. 

Sago is another product of a palm, which is of com- 
paratively little importance to us, but in the East sup- 
plies the daily food of thousands. In many parts of the 
Indian Archipelago it forms almost the entire subsist- 
ence of the people, taking the place of rice in Asia, corn 
in Europe, and maize and mandiocca in America, and 


is worthy to be classed with these the most precious 
gifts of nature to mankind. Unlike them, however, it 
is neither seed nor root, but is the wood itself, the 
pithy centre of the stem, requiring scarcely any prepa- 
ration to fit it for food ; and it is so abundant that a 
single tree often yields six hundred pounds weight. 

The canes used for chair bottoms and various other 
purposes, are the stems of species of Calamus, slender 
palms which abound in the East Indian jungles, climbing 
over other trees and bushes by the help of the long- 
hooked spines with which their leaves are armed. They 
sometimes reach the enormous length of 600 or even 
1000 feet, and as four millions of them are imported 
into this country annually, a great number of persons 
must find employment in cutting them. 

A variety of species, in all parts of the world, furnish a 
sugary sap from their stems or unopened spathes, which 
when jpartly fermented is the palm wine of Africa and 
the Toddy of the East Indies ; and a similar beverage 
is procured from the Mauritia vinifera and other species 
in South America. Indeed, at the mouth of the Orinoco 
dwell a nation of Indians whose existence depends 
almost entirely on a species of Palm, supposed to be 
the Mauritia flexuosa. They build their houses elevated 
on its trunks, and live principally upon its fruit and 
sap, with fish from the waters around them. 

Among the most singular products of palm trees are 
the resins and wax produced by some species. The 
fruits of a species of Calamus of the Eastern Archipelago 
are covered with a resinous substance of a red colour, 


which, in common with a similar product from some 
other trees, is the Dragon's blood of commerce, and is 
used as a pigment, for varnish, and in the manufacture 
of tooth powder. The Ceroxylon andicola, a lofty palm 
growing in the Andes of Bogota, produces a resinous 
wax which is secreted in its stem and used by the in- 
habitants of the country for making candles and for 
other purposes. Again, in some of the northern pro- 
vinces of Brazil is found a palm tree called Carnauba, 
the Copernicia cerifera, having the underside of its 
leaves covered with white wax, which has no admixture 
of resin, but is as pure as that procured from our hives. 

The leaves of palms, however, are applied to the 
greatest variety of uses ; thatch for houses, umbrellas, 
hats, baskets and cordage in countless varieties are made 
from them, and every tropical country possesses some 
species adapted to these varied purposes, which in tem- 
perate zones are generally supplied by a very different 
class of plants. The Chip, or Brazilian-grass hats, so 
cheap in this country, are made from the leaves of a 
palm tree which grows in Cuba, whence they are im- 
ported for the purpose : the palm is the Chamcerops 
argentea ; and in Sicily an allied species, the Chamarops 
humilis (the only European palm), is applied in a similar 
manner to form hats, baskets, and a variety of useful 

The papyrus of the ancient Egyptians, and the me- 
tallic plates on which other nations wrote, were not 
used in India, but their place was supplied by the leaves 
of palms, on whose hard and glossy surface the charac- 


ters of the Pali and Sanscrit languages were inscribed 
with a metallic point. The leaves of the Corypha taliera 
are used for this purpose, and when strung together, 
form the volumes of a Hindu library. 

A favourite stimulant too of the Malays is furnished 
by a palm. The fruit of the Areca catechu is the betel- 
nut, which they chew with lime, and which is their 
substitute for the opium of the Chinese, the tobacco of 
Europeans, and the coca of the South Americans. 

One of the most recent introductions into our own 
domestic economy is the fibre of a palm, the Piassaba, 
which is now generally used for coarse brooms and 
brushes ; and in the valley of the Amazon, of which it 
is a native, the same material is manufactured into 
cables, which are cheap and very durable in the water. 

We have now glanced at a few of the most important 
uses to which Palms are applied, but in order to be able to 
appreciate how much the native tribes of the countries 
where they most abound are dependent on this noble family 
of plants, and how they take part in some form or other 
in almost every action of the Indian's life, we must 
enter into his hut and inquire into the origin and struc- 
ture of the various articles we shall see around us. 

Suppose then we visit an Indian cottage on the banks 
of the Rio Negro, a great tributary of the river Amazon 
in South America. The main supports of the building 
are trunks of some forest tree of heavy and durable 
wood, but the light rafters overhead are formed by the 
straight cylindrical and uniform stems of the Jara palm. 
The roof is thatched with large triangular leaves, neatly 


arranged in regular alternate rows, and bound to the 
rafters with sipos or forest creepers ; the leaves are 
those of the Carana palm. The door of the house is a 
framework of thin hard strips of wood neatly thatched 
over; it is made of the split stems of the Pashiuba 
palm. In one corner stands a heavy harpoon for catching 
the cow-fish ; it is formed of the black wood of the 
Pashiuba barriguda. By its side is a blowpipe ten or 
twelve feet long, and a little quiver full of small poi- 
soned arrows hangs up near it ; with these the Indian 
procures birds for food, or for their gay feathers, or 
even brings down the wild hog or the tapir, and it is 
from the stem and spines of two species of Palms that 
they are made. His great bassoon-like musical instru- 
ments are made of palm stems ; the cloth in which he 
wraps his most valued feather ornaments is a fibrous 
palm spathe, and the rude chest in which he keeps his 
treasures is woven from palm leaves. His hammock, 
his bow-string and his fishing-line are from the fibres 
of leaves which he obtains from different palm trees, 
according to the qualities he requires in them, — the 
hammock from the Miriti, and the bow-string and 
fishing-line from the Tucum. The comb which he wears 
on his head is ingeniously constructed of the hard bark 
of a palm, and he makes fish hooks of the spines, or uses 
them to puncture on his skin the peculiar markings of 
his tribe. His children are eating the agreeable red 
and yellow fruit of the Pupunha or peach palm, and 
from that of the Assai he has prepared a favourite drink, 
which he offers you to taste. That carefully suspended 


gourd contains oil, which he has extracted from the 
fruit of another species ; and that long elastic plaited 
cylinder used for squeezing dry the mandiocca pulp to 
make his bread, is made of the bark of one of the sin- 
gular climbing palms, which alone can resist for a con- 
siderable time the action of the poisonous juice. In 
each of these cases a species is selected better adapted 
than the rest for the peculiar purpose to which it is 
applied, and often having several different uses which 
no other plant can serve as well, so that some little idea 
may be formed of how important to the South American 
Indian must be these noble trees, which supply so many 
daily wants, giving him his house, his food, and his 

To the lover of nature Palms offer a constant source 
of interest, reminding him that he is amidst the luxu- 
riant vegetation of the tropics, and offering to him the 
realization of whatever wild and beautiful ideas he has 
from childhood associated with their name. 

In the equatorial regions of South America they are 
seldom absent. Either delicate species flourishing in 
the dense shade of the virgin forest ; or lofty and mas- 
sive, standing erect on the river's banks ; or on the hill 
side raising their leafy crowns on airy stems above the 
surrounding trees, creating, as Humboldt styles it, " a 
forest above a forest;" in every situation some are to 
be met with as representatives of the magnificent and 
regal family to which they belong. 

In the following pages the genera and species are 
arranged in the order adopted by Dr. Martius in his 
elaborate work already alluded to. 


Natural Order PALMACE^E. 
Genus Leopoldinia, Martins. 

This genus is characterized by having flowers con- 
taining stamens or pistils only, intermingled on the 
same spadix, and by not having a spathe. The male 
flowers have six stamens and no rudiments of a stigma. 
The female flowers have three sessile stigmas and rudi- 
mentary stamens. The spadix is much-branched and 

The species are trees of a moderate size without any 
spines or tubercles, but remarkable for the netted fibres 
which spring from the margins of the sheathing petioles, 
and cover the stem half-way down or sometimes even 
to its base. The leaves are terminal and pinnate, the 
leaflets spreading out regularly in one plane. There 
are often three or four spadices on a tree, bearing 
abundance of small flowers, and ovate compressed fruit, 
the outer covering of which is fleshy. 

Four species are known, and they are all found in 
the same limited district near the Rio Negro, some ex- 
tending to the tributaries of the Orinoco near its 
source, and one being found south of the Amazon nearly 
opposite the mouth of the Rio Negro. All however 
grow on the banks or in the immediate vicinity of black - 
water streams, which occur more extensively in South 
America than in any other part of the globe. Two 
species are described by Martius, one of which is here 
figured with two others, which are believed to be new. 
They are not found more than 1000 feet above the level 
of the sea. 








Leopoldinia ptjlchra, Martins. 

Jara, Lingoa Geral. 

The Jara or Jara miri (little Jara) is from ten to fifteen 
feet high. The stem is cylindrical, erect, and about 
two inches in diameter. The leaves are very regularly 
pinnate, about four feet long, with the leaflets slightly 
drooping and the terminal pair small. The leaf-stalks 
are slender and the sheathing bases are persistent, giving 
out from their margins abundance of flat fibrous pro- 
cesses which are curiously netted and interlaced together, 
clothing the stem with a firm covering often down to 
the very base. At the lower part this gradually rots 
and is rubbed away or falls off, leaving the stem bare. 
The flower-stalks or spadices are numerous, and very 
large and much branched ; and the fruits are about an 
inch in diameter, oval and flattened, and of a pale green- 
ish-yellow colour. The outer covering is firm and fleshy, 
and has a very bitter taste. 

This species is found on the banks of the Rio Negro 
and some of its tributaries, from its mouth up to its 
source, and on the black-water tributaries of the 
Orinoco. It never grows far from the water's edge, 
though generally out of reach of the floods in the wet 
season. It is not known to occur beyond this very 
limited district. 

The stem of this tree being very smooth and cylin- 



drical, and of a convenient lengthy it is much used for 
fencing round yards and gardens, and in the city of 
Barra do Rio Negro is universally employed for such 
purposes. The want of neatness out of doors, which is 
quite a characteristic of the Portuguese and Indian 
settlers on the Amazon, is always apparent in these 
fences. It is never thought worth while to cut the 
poles all to one length, but they are set up just as they 
are brought in from the forest ; and the space between 
two handsome houses in the city may often be seen 
filled up with a Jara railing of most unpicturesque 

The bright green and glossy foliage of this tree also 
renders it suitable for another purpose. On certain 
saints' days, little altars and green avenues are made 
before the principal houses in Barra, the Jara palm 
being always used to construct them ; and its graceful 
fronds rustling in the evening breeze, fitfully reflecting 
the light of the wax tapers which burn before the image 
of the saint, with the blazing torches of the rustic pro- 
cession, have a very pleasing effect. 

The reticulate covering of the stem of this and the 
next species offers a fine station for the epiphytal 
Orchidese to attach themselves, and the Jara palms are 
accordingly often adorned with their curious and orna- 
mental flowers. 

Plate II. figure 6. represents a fruit of this species 
of the natural size. 





Leopoldinia major, n. sp. 
Jara assu, Lingoa Geral. 

The Jara assu or " greater Jara" closely resembles the 
last species, but it is considerably larger. The stem is 
four inches in diameter and reaches thirty feet in height. 
It is often much thicker at the bottom than in the upper 
part, and has a greater proportion of the stem bare. 
The leaves are very similar, but the spadices are larger, 
and the fruit is also larger and much more abundant. 

This tree occurs plentifully on the lakes and inlets of 
the upper Rio Negro, but is not found at the mouth of 
the river like the last species. It grows too at a lower 
level, being often found with a part of the stem under 

The Indians collect the fruit in large quantities, and 
by burning and washing extract a floury substance, 
which they use as a substitute for salt when they cannot 
procure that article. They assert positively that the 
smaller species of Jara will not yield the same product ; 
but perhaps this may be only because the fruit is less 
abundant, and they do not take the trouble to collect it. 

Coarse Portugal salt is used in the Rio Negro, and 
among the Indians in the upper part of the river serves 
as a circulating medium, about a pound of it being 
reckoned equivalent to a day's work. The supply how- 
ever is very uncertain, and there are many distant 


tribes which it scarcely ever reaches ; and it is among 
them that the substitute is manufactured from the fruit 
of the Jara. It is doubtful, however, whether it con- 
tains any true salt, for it is described as being more 
bitter than saline in taste ; yet with this alone to season 
their fish and cassava the Indians enjoy almost perfect 
health. Perhaps, therefore, mineral salt may not be such 
a necessary of life as we are accustomed to consider it. 





Leopoldinia piassaba, n. sp. 

Piassaba, Lingoa Geral. Chiquichiqui, Barre. [An 
Indian language spoken on the Upper Rio Negro in 

This tree, the "Piassaba" of Brazil and the "Chiqui- 
chiqui" of Venezuela, I have little hesitation in referring 
to the genus Leopoldinia, though I have never seen it 
in flower or in fruit. The texture aud form of the 
leaves, the peculiar branching of the spadix, and the 
extraordinary development of the fibres from the mar- 
gins of the sheathing petioles, show it to be very closely 
allied to the other species of this genus. 

The stem is generally short, but reaches twenty to 
thirty ieet in height, and is much thicker than in either 
of the preceding species. The leaves are very large 
and regularly pinnate, with the pinnae gradually smaller 
to the end, as in the two former species. The leaflets are 
rigid, broadest in the middle, and gradually tapering to 
a fine point, spreading out flat on each side of the mid- 
rib, but slightly drooping at the tips. The petioles are 
slender and smooth. The spadix is large, excessively 
branched and drooping, and there are often several on 
the same tree. The marginal processes of the petioles 
are interlaced as in the two former species, and are pro- 
duced into . long riband-like strips, which afterwards 
split iuto fine fibres, and hang down five or six feet, 


entirely concealing the stem, and giving the tree a most 
curious and unique appearance. The leaves form an 
excellent thatch, and are almost universally used in 
that portion of Venezuela situated on the upper Bio 
Negro, and the adjacent tributaries of the Orinoco. 
The fruit is said to resemble that of the Jara in colour, 
but it is globose and eatable, being used principally to 
form a thick drink by washing off the outer coating of 

The fibrous or hairy covering of the stem is an ex- 
tensive article of commerce in the countries in which it 
grows. It seems to have been used by the Brazilians 
from a very early period to form cables for the canoes 
navigating the Amazon. It is well adapted for this 
purpose, as it is light (the cables made of it not sinking 
in water) and very durable. It twists readily and firmly 
into cordage from the fibres being rough -edged, and as 
it is very abundant, and is procured and manufactured 
by the Indians, piassaba ropes are much cheaper than 
any other kind of cordage. The price in the city of 
Barra in June 1852, was 400 reis or Is. for 32 lbs. of 
the fibre, and 800 reis or 2s. for every inch in circum- 
ference of a cable sixty fathoms long, which is the 
standard length they are all made to. 

Before the independence of Brazil, the Portuguese 
government had a factory at the mouth of the Paduari, 
one of the tributaries of the Bio Negro, for the purpose 
of making these cables for the use of the Para arsenal, 
and as a government monopoly. Till within these few 
years the fibre was all manufactured into cordage on 


the spot, but it is now taken down in long conical bun- 
dles for exportation from Para to England, where it is 
generally used for street sweeping and house brooms, 
and will probably soon be applied to many other pur- 
poses. It is cut with knives by men, women and 
children, from the upper part of the younger trees, so 
as to secure the freshest fibres, the taller trees which have 
only the old and half-rotten portion within reach, being 
left untouched. It is said to grow again in five or six 
years, the fibres being produced at the bases of the new 
leaves. The trees are much infested by venomous snakes, 
a species of Craspedocephalus, and the Indians are not 
unfrequently bitten by them when at work, and some- 
times with fatal consequences. 

The distribution of this tree is very peculiar. It 
grows in swampy or partially flooded lands on the 
banks of black-water rivers. It is first found on the 
river Padauari, a tributary of the Rio Negro on its 
northern side, about 400 miles above Barra, but whose 
waters are not so black as those of the Rio Negro. 
The Piassaba is found from near the mouth to more 
than a hundred miles up, where it ceases. On the 
banks of the Rio Negro itself not a tree is to be seen. 
The next river, the Daraha, also contains some. The 
next two, the Maraviha and Cababuris, are white-water 
rivers, and have no Piassaba. On the S. bank, though 
all the rivers are black water, there is no Piassaba till 
we reach the Marie, not far below St. Gabriel. Here it 
is extensively cut for about a hundred miles up, but there 
is still none immediately at the mouth or on the banks 


of the Rio Negro. The next rivers, the Curicuriari, the 
great river Uaupes, and the Isanna, though all black- 
water, have none ; while further on, in the Xie, it again 
appears. On entering Venezuela it is found near the 
banks of the Rio Negro, and is abundant all up to its 
sources, and in the Temi and Atabapo, black-water 
tributaries of the Orinoco. This seems to be its 
northern limit, and I cannot hear of its again appear- 
ing in any part of the Amazon or Orinoco or their 
tributaries. It is thus entirely restricted to a district 
about 300 miles from N. to S. and an equal distance 
from E. to W. I am enabled so exactly to mark out 
its range, from having resided more than two years in 
various parts of the Rio Negro, among people whose 
principal occupation consisted in obtaining the fibrous 
covering of this tree, and from whom no locality for it 
can have remained undiscovered, assisted as they are 
by the Indians, whose home is the forest, and who are 
almost as well acquainted with its trackless depths as 
we are with the well-beaten roads of our own island. 

The fibre imported into this country has been sup- 
posed to be produced only by the Attalea funifera, a 
species not found in the Amazon district. In the 
London Journal of Botany for 1849, Sir W. Hooker 
gave some account of the material, and of the tree pro- 
ducing it ; stating that he had received the fruit of the 
tree with the fibre from a mercantile house connected 
with Brazil, and that the fruit was that of the Attalea 
funifera. This species is mentioned by Martius as 
furnishing a fibre used for cordage and other purposes 


in Southern Brazil, and he states that it is called 
" piacaba " ; so that the Indian name is applied to two 
distinct trees producing a similar material in different 
localities ; and the two having been brought to England 
under the same name and from not very distant ports 
of the same country, were naturally supposed to be 
produced by the same tree. The greater part, if not all 
of the Piassaba now imported, comes, however, from 
the Rio Negro, where several hundred tons are cut 
annually and sent to Para, from which place scarcely a 
vessel sails for England without its forming a part of 
her cargo. 


Genus Euterpe, Gartner. 

Male and female flowers intermingled on the same 
spadix, the former more abundant in the upper part of 
the branches, the latter in the lower. Spathe entire, 
membranaceous, fusiform and deciduous. Flowers with 
bracts, male with six stamens and a rudimentary pistil, 
female with three sessile stigmas. Spadix simply 
branched, spreading horizontally. 

These are very elegant palms ; their stems are lofty, 
slender, smooth and faintly ringed. The leaves are 
terminal, pinnate, regular, and form a graceful feathery 
plume. The bases of the petioles are sheathing for a 
long distance down the stem, forming a thick column 
three or four feet long, of a green or reddish colour. 
The spadices, three or four in number, spring from 
beneath the leaves, and the spathes are very deciduous, 
falling to the ground as soon as they open. The fruit 
is small, globose, at first green, then violet or black, 
and consists of a thin edible pulp covering the hard 

Twelve species are known, inhabiting the West Indies, 
Mexico and South America, and there appear to be 
three species in the Amazon district, two of which I 
have figured. Some prefer marshy grounds near the 
level of the sea, others extend up the mountains to a 
height of 4000 feet- 


EDcdSLWest Lap. 




Euterpe oleracea, Martins. 

Assai, Lingoa Geral. 

The Assai of Para is a tall and slender tree, from sixty 
to eighty feet high, and about four inches in diameter. 
The stem is very smooth, of a pale colour, and generally 
waving, sometimes very much curved. The leaves are 
of moderate size, of a pale bright green, regularly 
pinnate, and with the leaflets much drooping. The 
column formed by the sheathing bases of the leaves is 
of an olive colour. The flowers are small, whitish, and 
very thickly set on the simply branched spadix. There 
are generally two or three, and sometimes even five or 
six spadices, growing out horizontally from a little 
below the leaf-column. The spathe is smooth and mem- 
branous, and falls off as the spadix opens. The fruit 
when ripe is about the size and colour of a sloe. It 
consists of a hard albuminous seed, with a rather fibrous 
exterior, and a very thin covering of a firm pulp or 

This species is very abundant in the neighbourhood 
of Para, and even in the city itself. It grows in swamps 
flooded by the high tides, — never on dry land. Its 
straight cylindrical stem is sometimes used for poles 
and rafters; but the tree is generally considered too 
valuable to be cut down for such purposes. A very 
favourite drink is made from the ripe fruit, and daily 


vended in the streets of Para. Indian and negro girls 
may be constantly seen walking about with small earthen 
pots on their heads, uttering at intervals a shrill cry of 

Assai i. If you call one of these dusky maidens, 

she will set down her pot, and you will see it filled with 
a thick creamy liquid, of a fine plum colour. A penny- 
worth of this will fill a tumbler, and you may then add 
a little sugar to your taste, and will find a peculiar nut- 
flavoured liquid, which you may not perhaps think a 
great deal of at first ; but, if you repeat your experience 
a few times, you will inevitably become so fond of it as 
to consider " Assai" one of the greatest luxuries the 
place produces. It is generally taken with farinha, the 
substitute for bread prepared from the mandiocca root, 
and with or without sugar, according to the taste of 
the consumer. 

During our walks in the suburbs of Para we had 
frequently opportunities of seeing the preparation of 
this favourite beverage. Two or three large bunches 
of fruit are brought in from the forest. The women of 
the house seize upon them, shake and strip them into 
a large earthen vessel, and pour on them warm water, 
not too hot to bear the hand in. The water soon 
becomes tinged with purple, and in about an hour the 
outer pulp has become soft enough to rub off. The 
water is now most of it poured away, a little cold added, 
and a damsel, with no sleeves to turn up, plunges both 
hands into the vessel, and rubs and kneads with great 
perseverance, adding fresh water as it is required, till 
the whole of the purple covering has been rubbed off 



and the greenish stones left bare. The liquid is now 
poured through a wicker sieve into another vessel, and 
is then ready for use. The smiling hostess will then 
fill a calabash, and give you another with farinha to 
mix to your taste ; and nothing will delight her more 
than your emptying your rustic basin and asking her 
to refill it. 

The inhabitants of Para are excessively attached to 
this beverage, and many never pass a day of their lives 
without it. They are particularly favoured too, in 
being able to get it at all seasons, for though in most 
places the trees only bear for a few months once in the 
year, yet in the neighbourhood of Para there is so much 
variety of soil and aspect, that within a day or two's 
journey, there is always some ripe Assai to supply the 
market. Boys climb up the trees to get it, with a cord 
round the ankles (as shown on the Plate), and with its 
own leaves make a neatly interlaced basket to carry it 
home. From the great island of Marajo, its igaripes * 
and marshes, from the rivers Guama and Moju, from 
the thousand islands in the river, and from the vast 
palm swamps in the depths of the forest, baskets of the 
fruit are brought every morning to the city, where half 
the population look to the Assai to supply a daily meal, 
and hundreds are said to make it, with farinha, almost 
their main subsistence. 

The trees of this genus also furnish another article 
of food. The undeveloped leaves in the centre of the 
column form a white sweetish mass, which when boiled 
* A small stream, literally " path of the canoe." 



somewhat resembles artichoke or parsnep, and is a very 
good and wholesome vegetable. It may also be eaten 
raw, cut up and dressed as a salad with oil and vinegar. 
As, however, to obtain it the tree must be destroyed, 
it is not much used in Para, except by travellers in the 
forest who have no particular interest in the preserva- 
tion of the trees for fruit. The Cabbage Palm of the 
West Indies is an allied species, and is used for food in 
the same manner. 

Very fine specimens of this tree may be seen in the 
great Palm House at Kew, where they grow almost as 
luxuriantly as in their native forests. 

In the Plate, the unopened spathe, flower- spadix and 
fruit are represented, as they are often found, together 
on the same tree. 

Euterpe ? 

On the banks of the Rio Negro there appears to be 
another species of this genus, closely allied to the 
Euterpe oleracea, but the stem is thicker and straighter, 
the whole tree larger, and the leaf-column thicker, and 
of a clear green colour. It grows on the dry land of 
the virgin forest, or sometimes within the limits of the 
winter's inundations. I unfortunately neglected to 
examine into its peculiar characters, as until my return 
to Para I had considered it identical with the species 
so common there. 

I was also informed that in the island of Marajo 
there is a species or variety having white fruit, but I 
had no opportunity of examining it. 




Euterpe catinga, n. sp. 

Assai de catinga, Lingoa Geral. 

This species differs from the last in its slenderer stem 
and less drooping leaves and leaflets. It grows to 
forty or fifty feet high. The spadices are fewer and 
much smaller. The fruit also is smaller, and has more 
pulpy matter, so that a small quantity of it makes more 
of the " vinho d' Assai " (the Assai wine) than the same 
quantity of fruit of the larger kind. The column 
formed by the sheathing bases of the leaves is smaller 
than in the last species, and always of a red colour. 
The roots rise considerably above the ground, forming 
a distinct cone, which is not the case in the E. oleracea. 
It inhabits the forests on a dry sarjdy soil, of the Upper 
Rio Negro. These districts are called Catinga forests 
by the natives, and have very peculiar vegetable pro- 
ductions, differing almost entirely from those of the 
lofty virgin forest. 

The preparation of the fruit of this species is sweeter 
and more finely flavoured than that of any other, and 
is therefore much sought after, but it takes the produce 
of four or five trees to yield as much as a single spadix 
of the larger kind will often produce. I found the 
fruit ripe in the month of April on the river Uaupes, a 
branch of the Rio Negro above the Falls. 

d 2 


Genus (Enocakptjs, Martins. 

Male and female flowers on the same spadix, the 
former most abundant. Spathe double, the interior 
complete, woody, and deciduous. Flowers without 
distinct bracts; the male with six stamens and rudi- 
ments of a pistil, the female with three sessile stigmas, 
but with no rudiment of stamens. 

These are tall majestic trees with large smooth stems, 
generally distinctly ringed. The leaves are large, ter- 
minal, more or less regularly pinnate, and have the 
bases expanded and clasping the stem, but not forming 
a sheathing column as in the last genus. The spadices 
spring from beneath the leaves and are simply branched; 
the branches are very lax, hanging down vertically 
except when forced outwards by the ripening fruit. 
The spathe is very large, fusiform and woody, and falls 
off the moment the spadix escapes from it. The fruit 
is small, nearly globular, and has an edible pulpy 
covering, like that of the genus Euterpe. 

Six species only are known, and all inhabit tropical 
America, where they prefer dry, slightly elevated lands, 
none being known to extend more than 1600 feet above 
the sea. 




CEnocarptjs baccaba, Martins, 

Baccaba, Lingoa Geral. 

This is a smooth thick-stemmed handsome tree, faintly 
ringed, and reaching fifty or sixty feet in height. The 
leaves are large, terminal, and pinnate. The leaflets 
are long ; gradually pointed, and set at equal distances 
along the midrib. When young, the leaves are flat, the 
leaflets or pinnae all standing out in the same plane; 
but in the full-grown tree the leaflets are in groups of 
two or three standing out at different angles from the 
general plane of the leaf, so as to give an irregular 
mixed appearance to the leaf. The petioles are greatly 
dilated at the base where they clasp the stem, and 
have a fibrous margin. The leaves as they die fall 
clean off from the stem, no part of the base remaining. 
The spathe is deciduous, being comparatively seldom 
visible. The fruits are of a violet or black colour when 
ripe, but are covered with a dense whitish bloom. They 
are prepared in the same way as the Assai, but the 
pulp is of a pinkish cream-colour instead of purple, and 
the liquid is more oily, and of delicious flavour, some- 
what resembling filberts and cream. It is said, how- 
ever, not to be so wholesome as the Assai, and in 
districts where intermittent fevers are prevalent, to 
bring them on, and to be particularly hurtful to persons 
recovering from that disease. A very beautiful oil is 


sometimes extracted from the pulp by pressure ; it is 
perfectly clear, liquid, and inodorous; and serves as 
a substitute for olive oil, as well as being very good for 
lamps. The leaves are sometimes used for thatching 
when none better can be obtained ; but owing to the 
irregularity of the pinnae before mentioned, they are 
not much used. 

This species inhabits the dry virgin forests of the 
Rio Negro and Upper Amazon. In the lower parts of 
that river and in the neighbourhood of Para it is 
replaced by another species, the (Enocarpus distichus. 

The GE. baccdba is growing at Kew. 

One figure on the Plate shows the unopened spathe ; 
the other has spadices with flowers and fruit. 




PLATES X. and XI. 

(Enocarptjs batawa, Martins. 

Patawa, Lingoa Geral. 

This species can hardly be distinguished from the 
(Enocarpus baccdba when young. In the full-grown 
plant, however, the leaves preserve their regularity, the 
leaflets spreading out regularly in one plane and having 
a very beautiful appearance. The stem in old trees is 
fifty or sixty feet high and quite smooth, but in those 
growing in the shade of the forest, and in all young 
trees, the stem is completely hidden by the persistent 
bases of the decayed and fallen leaves. I have figured 
a tree in this state (Plate XI.). 

The sheathing bases of the petioles give out from 
their margins numerous long spinous processes of a 
very singular character. They are from eighteen inches 
to three feet long, of a black colour, flattish, and gene- 
rally broken or fibrous at the point. They are much 
sought after by the Indians, who use them to make 
arrows for their "gravatanas" or blow-pipes. One of 
these arrows is here represented with the wicker quiver 
in which they are carried. They are about fifteen or 
eighteen inches long, sharply pointed at the end, which 
is covered with " curari" poison for three or four inches 
down, and notched so as to break off in the wound. 
Near the bottom a little of the soft down of the silk- 
cotton-tree is twisted round into a smooth spindle- 


shaped mass, and carefully secured with a fibre of a 
" bromelia." The cotton just fits easily into the tube, 
offering a light resisting body for the breath to act 

The fruit of this species is very similar to that of the 
Baccaba, and is said to be of even superior flavour. 

The Patawa is found in the whole of the Amazon 
and Rio Negro in the virgin forest, though apparently 
nowhere very abundant. Specimens are now growing 
in the Palm House at Kew. 

The fruit is represented on PL X. of the natural size. 

(Enocarpus minor, Martins. 

Baccaba miri, Lingoa Geral. 

This is a small species common on the upper Rio 
Negro. The stem is not half so thick as in the 
QL. baccaba, and the leaves are in proportion. The 
fruit is also very small, but is very fleshy and fine- 
flavoured, and ripens at a different time of year from 
the larger kind. It grows in the dry virgin forest. My 
drawing of this tree was unfortunately lost on my 
voyage home. 



CEnocakpus distichus, Martim. 

Baccaba, of Para. 

This is the species known as the Baccaba at Para, 
where the (E. baccaba is not found. It is quite distinct 
from the allied species by the leaves being distichous; 
or arranged nearly in one plane on each side of the 
stem, which gives it a very peculiar aspect, unlike any 
other Palm. 

On my return to Para from the interior, I was 
suffering so much from ague, as to be unable to go in 
search of a specimen of this tree to figure as I had 

This, like all other species of the genus, grows in 
dry and rather elevated forest land. 


Genus Ibiartea, Ruiz et Pavon. 

Female flowers few, interspersed among the males, 
bracteate. Spathe membranous, incomplete. Male 
flowers with from twelve to fifty stamens and the 
rudiments of a pistil. Female flowers with three 
sessile stigmas. 

These singular and beautiful Palms have lofty, 
smooth, cylindrical or ventricose stems, very faintly 
ringed. The roots grow more or less above ground. 
The leaves are terminal and pinnate, and the leaflets 
are somewhat triangular, notched, often twisted or 
curled, and have radiating nerves. The sheathing 
bases form a column as in Euterpe. The spadices 
grow from beneath the leaves and are simply branched 
and drooping. The spathes vary in number and size ; 
they are membranous, and fall off before the fruit 
ripens. The fruit is oval, of moderate size, generally 
of a red or yellow colour, and the pulpy part is bitter 
and uneatable. The stems of this genus increase in 
thickness within certain limits, differing from most 
other palms, which, when the stem is once formed, 
only increase in height. 

Nine species of this genus are known, all natives of 
South America. Four of them occur in the Amazon 
district, three in Bolivia, one in Venezuela, and one 
near Bogota, reaching a height above the sea of 5000 
to 8000 feet. 


Tui-i&'West jb$> 




Iriartea exorhiza, Martins. 

Pashiuba, Lingoa Geral, 

This curious and beautiful tree is common in the 
forests about Para and on the banks of the Amazon. 
It reaches fifty or sixty feet in height, with the stem 
moderately thick and very smooth, there being scarcely 
any rings or scars left by the fallen leaves. 

The leaves are large and pinnate, with the leaflets 
triangular and very deeply notched, standing out at 
different angles with the midrib. The leaves curve over 
gracefully, and the character and aspect of the foliage 
is very different from that of most other palms. The 
column formed by the sheathing leaf-stalks is swollen at 
the base and of a deep green colour. 

The spadices are three or four in number, growing 
rather upwards from the stem below the leaf-column.. 
They are small and simply branched, and bear small 
oval red fruits about the size of a damson, the outer 
pulp of which is bitter and only eaten by some birds. 

But what most strikes attention in this tree, and 
renders it so peculiar, is, that the roots are almost 
entirely above ground. They spring out from the stem, 
each one at a higher point than the last, and extend 
diagonally downwards till they approach the ground, 
when they often divide into many rootlets, each of 
which secures itself in the soil. As fresh ones spring 
out from the stem, those below become rotten and die 
off; and it is not an uncommon thing to see a lofty 
tree supported entirely by three or four roots, so that a 
person may walk erect beneath them, or stand with a 


tree seventy feet high growing immediately over his 

In the forests where these trees grow, numbers of 
young plants of every age may be seen, all miniature 
copies of their parents, except that they seldom possess 
more than three legs, which gives them a strange and 
almost ludicrous appearance. 

The figure on the opposite page (Plate XIII.) repre- 
sents accurately the roots of a tree which had been 
partly blown down in the forest of the Upper Rio 
Negro. My friend Mr. Spruce informs me that it is 
a distinct species from that found at Para, though 
closely allied to it, and scarcely differing in the cha- 
racter of the roots. 

The wood of these trees is very hard on the outside, 
but soft and pithy within. It splits easily and very 
straight, and is much used for forming the floors of 
canoes, the ceilings of houses, shelves, seats, and various 
other purposes. Perfectly straight laths are more 
readily made from it than from any other wood, and 
they are so hard and durable as to serve for fish- weirs, 
corals for turtles, and for harpoons. The air-roots are 
covered with tubercular prickles, and are used by some 
Indians to grate their mandiocca. 

This species grows in swamps or marshy ground in 
the virgin forest, not in the tide-flooded lands on the 
river banks. 

Young plants may be seen in the great Palrn House 
at Kew. 

A fruit is represented on Plate III. fig. 5. of the 
natural size. 






Pashiuba barriguda, Brazil. 

This is the most majestic tree of the genus. The 
stem reaches eighty or a hundred feet in height, and 
besides being rather thicker in proportion than in the 
last species, offers a remarkable character in being con- 
stantly more or less swollen near the middle or towards 
the top. The trunk is generally cylindrical to a height 
of forty or fifty feet, where it swells out to double its 
former diameter or more for ten or fifteen feet further, 
when it again diminishes and becomes cylindrical for 
about twenty feet to the summit. It is only when the 
trees have reached their full height or nearly so that 
the swelling commences. In a forest where they 
abound many may be seen of a large size, but quite 
cylindrical from top to bottom, while others present 
every degree of swelling from a just perceptible thick- 
ening to a most extraordinary enlargement. The 
column of air-roots in this species is six or eight feet 
high, forming a compact conical mass, the separate 
roots being more slender than in the Iriartea exorhiza. 

The leaves are very large, with the leaflets broadly 
triangular and much cut and waved, forming a very 
elegant and yet massive head of foliage. The leaf- 
column is very thick, much swollen at the base, and of 
a deep bluish green colour. 

The unopened spathes are lunate in shape and curved 


downwards, and the spadices are small and simply 

The wood of this tree is very hard, heavy and black, 
and is used by the Indians for making harpoons and 
spears with which they hunt the cow-fish. The swollen 
part of the stem is sometimes cut down and made into 
a canoe, when one is required in a hurry ; otherwise it 
is not made use of. 

The tree grows on the Upper Amazon and Rio Negro, 
on hill sides and on the banks of brooks and springs ; 
and the Indians say that wherever it abounds salsapa- 
rilha will be found growing near. 

A fruit is represented on the Plate of the natural 





Iriartea setigera, Martins. 

Pashiuba miri, Lingoa Geral. 

This small species has the stem from fifteen to twenty 
feet high, and varying from the thickness of a finger 
to that of the wrist, which it never exceeds. The stem 
is smooth and cylindrical, but distinctly ringed. The 
roots appear only a few inches above the ground. The 
leaves are pinnate, the leaflets elongate, triangular and 
cut at the ends. The column is short and cylindrical, 
and both it and the petioles are covered with short hairs 
or down. The spadices have long stalks and grow from 
beneath or from among the leaves ; they are rather 
large and are simply branched. The spathes form 
sheaths at the base's of the spadices, and are persistent. 
The fruit is oval, of an orange-red colour, and about the 
size of the " hip " or wild rose fruit. 

These trees grow on the Upper Amazon and Rio 
Negro in the dry virgin forest, where they occur in 
small scattered groves. 

This species is of great importance to the Indian of 
the Rio Negro. With its stem he constructs his 
"gravatana" or blowing tube, which, with the little 
arrows before described as made from the spines of the 
Patawa, forms a most valuable weapon, enabling him 
to bring down monkeys, parrots and curassow birds 

e 2 


from their favourite stations on the summits of the 
loftiest trees of the forest. 

When he wishes to make a " gravatana n he searches 
in the forest till he finds two straight and tall stems of 
the " Pashiuba miri M of such proportionate thicknesses 
that one could be contained within the other. When 
he returns home he takes a long slender rod which he 
has prepared on purpose, generally made of the hard 
and elastic wood of the " Pashiuba barriguda," and 
with it pushes out the pith from both the stems, and 
then with a little bunch of the roots of a tree fern, 
cleans and polishes the inside till the bore becomes as 
hard and as smooth as polished ebony. He then care- 
fully inserts the slenderer tube within the larger, 
placing it so that any curve in the one may counteract 
that in the other. Should it still be not quite correct, 
he binds it carefully to a post in his house till it is per- 
fectly straight and dry. He then fits a mouth-piece of 
wood to the smaller end of the tube, so that the arrow 
may go out freely at the other ; and when he wishes to 
finish his work neatly, winds spirally round it from end 
to end, the shining bark of a creeper. Near the lower 
extremity he forms a sight with the large curved cutting 
tooth of the Paca (Ccelogenus paca), which he fixes on 
with pitch, and the gravatana is then fit for use. 

These tubes are never less than eight and are often 
ten or twelve feet long, and on looking through a good 
one, not the slightest irregularity can be detected from 
one end to the other. The bore is generally not large 
enough to admit the tip of the little finger, so that the 


breath more readily fills the whole tube and propels the 
arrow with great velocity. The vertical direction is 
that in which the surest aim can be taken, and for 
which the gravatana is best adapted. When birds are 
feeding at the top of a lofty tree where the result of a 
gun-shot would be doubtful, a skilful Indian will take 
his station beneath it, and with a puff from his powerful 
lungs, will send up his little poisoned arrows with un- 
erring aim. The w T ounded birds sometimes turn giddy 
and drop in a few seconds, or fly away to a neighbour- 
ing tree and in a minute fall heavily to the ground, or 
try to pluck out the arrows with their beaks, which, 
however, invariably break in the wound. The hunter 
carefully marks the direction in which each one falls, 
and when his quiver is emptied of arrows or the tree 
of birds, walks round and gathers up the game. His 
weapon makes no noise, and he therefore often does 
more execution than the best European sportsman 
armed with his double-barrel Manton. 

On Plate XV. fig. 1. is a fruit of the natural size; 
fig. 2. is the gravatana or Indian blowpipe. 


Genus Haphia, Commerson. 

Male and female flowers intermixed on the same 
spadix. T^o common spathe, but many small incomplete 
sheaths. Male flowers with from six to twelve stamens 
and no rudiments of a pistil. Female flowers with 
three sessile stigmas and barren stamens. 

The stems are short, thick and ringed. The leaves 
are very large, regular and pinnate ; the leaflets are 
linear and have spinulose midribs and edges. The 
bases of the petioles are sheathing, and persistent some 
way down the stem, and the margins are fibrous. The 
spadices grow from among the leaves, and are very 
large and much branched ; and the fruit is oblong and 
covered with large imbricated scales. 

There are three species of the genus known ; one is 
a native of the west coast of Africa, another of Mada- 
gascar, while a third is found on the banks of the 
Lower Amazon. 




Eaphia t.edigera, Martins. 

Jupati, Lingoa GeraL 

This is one of the most striking of the many noble 
Palms which grow on the rich alluvium of the Amazon. 
Its comparatively short stem enables us fully to appre- 
ciate the enormous size of its leaves, which are at the 
same time equally remarkable for their elegant form. 
They rise nearly vertically from the stem and bend out 
on every side in graceful curves, forming a magnificent 
plume seventy feet in height and forty in diameter. I 
have cut down and measured leaves forty-eight and 
fifty feet long, but could never get at the largest. The 
leaflets spread out four feet on each side of the midrib. 
They are rather irregularly scattered and not very 
closely set ; they droop at the tips and have weak 
spinules along the margins. 

The stem does not generally exceed six or eight feet 
in height and is about a foot in diameter, clothed for 
some distance down with the persistent sheathing bases 
of the leaf-stalks and the numerous spinous processes 
which proceed from them. These spines are something 
like those of the " Patawa," but not so thick and strong. 

The spadices are very large, compoundly branched 
and drooping ; they grow from among the leaves and 
have numerous bract-like sheaths in the place of spathes. 

The flowers are of a greenish olive colour and densely 


crowded, and the fruit is large, oblong, and reticulated 
with large scales. 

The petiole or leaf-stalk of this tree is most exten- 
sively useful. It is often twelve or fifteen feet long 
below the first leaflets, and four or five inches in dia- 
meter, perfectly straight and cylindrical. When dried, 
it almost equals the quill of a bird for strength and 
lightness, owing to its thin hard outer covering and 
soft internal pith. But it is too valuable to the Indian 
for him to use it entire. He splits off the smooth 
glossy rind in perfectly straight strips and makes 
baskets and window blinds. The remaining part is of a 
consistence between pith and wood, and is split up into 
laths about half an inch thick and serves for a variety of 
purposes. Window shutters, boxes, bird-cages, par- 
titions and even entire houses are constructed of it. In 
the little village of Nazare near Para, many houses of 
this kind may be seen in which all the walls are of this 
material, supported by a few posts at the angles and 
fastened together with pegs and slender creepers (sipos) . 

The hand may be easily pushed through one of these 
walls, but as the inhabitants do not trouble themselves 
with the possession of any article worth stealing, they 
sleep as composedly as if stone walls and iron bolts shut 
them in with all the security of a more advanced civili- 

The same material is also used for stoppers for 
bottles, and we found it answer admirably for lining 
our insect boxes, holding the pins securely and being 
more uniform in its texture than cork. 


This is the only American species of the genus, and 
it inhabits exclusively the tide-flooded lands of the 
Lower Amazon and Para rivers, being quite unknown in 
the interior. When descending from the Rio Negro to 
Para in the summer of 1852, I observed some of our 
Indians who had made the voyage before, pointing out 
this tree to their less travelled companions as one of the 
curiosities of the lower country not to be found in the 
" Sertao." 

It is probable that the leaf, though not entire, is the 
largest in the whole vegetable kingdom, some of them 
covering a surface of more than 200 square feet. In a 
few years we may be able to see them in the magnificent 
Palm House at Kew, where young plants are now grow- 

Plate II. fig. 1, a fruit of Raphia tcecligera of the 
natural size. 


Genus Mauritia, Linnaeus. 

Male flowers on one tree, female or hermaphrodite 
flowers on another. The spathes are imperfect, bract - 
like, tubular sheaths. The male flowers have six 
stamens. The female flowers have a three-lobed stigma 
and six imperfect stamens. 

The stems are either tall, columnar and smooth, or 
more slender and armed with strong conical spines. 
The leaves are all fan- shaped or radiating from a centre. 
The spadix is very large and pinnately branched, and 
grows from among the leaves. The fruits are of mo- 
derate size, oval or globular, and covered with rather 
small imbricated scales pointing downwards. 

Four species are described by Martius, three of which 
occur in the Amazon district, and four more were met 
with by me on the Rio Negro, so that the genus seems 
confined to the hottest parts of the American Continent 
from the level of the sea to an altitude of about 3000 


MAURI T I A F L EXUO S A . Ht . 100 Ft 



Mauritia flexttosa, Linnceus. 

Miriti, Lingoa Geral. 
Murichi, in Venezuela. 
Ita ? Mouth of the Orinoco. 

This is one of the most noble and majestic of the 
American Palms. It grows to a height of eighty or 
a hundred feet. The stem is straight and smooth, 
about five feet in circumference, often perfectly cylin- 
drical, but sometimes swollen near the middle or 
towards the top, so that the bottom is the thinnest part. 

The leaves spread out in every direction from the top 
of the stem. They are very large and fan-shaped, the 
leaflets spreading out rigidly on all sides and only 
drooping at the tips and at the midrib or elongation of 
the petiole. The leaves stand on long stalks which are 
very straight and thick, and much swollen at the base 
which clasps the stem. A full-grown fallen leaf of this 
tree is a grand sight. The expanded sheathing base is 
a foot in diameter ; the petiole is a solid beam ten or 
twelve feet long, and the leaf itself is nine or ten in 
diameter. An entire leaf is a load for a man. 

The spadices grow out from among the leaves ; they 
are very large, pinnately branched and horizontal or 
drooping. The fruit is spherical, the size of a small 


apple and covered with rather small, smooth, brown, 
reticulated scales, beneath which is a thin coating of 
pulp. A spadix loaded with fruit is of immense weight, 
often more than two men could carry between them. 

The leaves, fruit and stem of this tree are all useful 
to the natives of the interior. The leaf-stalks are 
applied to the same purposes as those of the species last 
described, the Jupati. The epidermis of the leaves 
furnishes the material of which the string for hammocks, 
and cordage for a variety of purposes is made. The 
unopened leaves form a thick-pointed column rising 
from the very centre of the crown of foliage. This is 
cut down, and by a little shaking the tender leaflets 
fall apart. Each one is then skilfully stripped of its 
outer covering, a thin riband-like pellicle of a pale 
yellow colour which shrivels up almost into a thread. 
These are then tied in bundles and dried, and are after- 
wards twisted by rolling on the breast or thigh into 
string, or with the fingers into thicker cords. The 
article most commonly made from it is the " rede," or 
netted hammock, which is the almost universal bed of 
the native tribes of the Amazon. These are formed by 
doubling the string over two rods or poles about six or 
seven feet apart, till there are forty or fifty parallel 
threads, which are then secured at intervals of about a 
foot by cross strings twisted and tied on to every longi- 
tudinal one. A strong cord is then passed through the 
loop formed by all the strings brought together at each 
end, by which the hammock is hung up a few feet from 
the ground, and in this open net the naked Indian 


sleeps beside his fire as comfortably as we do in our 
beds of down. 

Other tribes twist the strings together in a com- 
plicated manner so that the hammock is more elastic, 
and the Brazilians have introduced a variety of improve- 
ments by using a kind of knitting needles producing a 
closer web, or by a large wooden frame with rollers, on 
which they weave in a rude manner with a woof and 
weft as in a regular loom. They also dye the string of 
many brilliant colours which they work in symmetrical 
patterns, making the redes or " maqueiras " as they are 
there called, among the gayest articles of furniture to be 
seen in a Brazilian house on the Amazon. 

From the fruits a favourite Indian beverage is pro- 
duced. They are soaked in water till they begin to 
ferment, and the scales and pulpy matter soften and can 
be easily rubbed off in water. When strained through 
a sieve it is ready for use, and has a slight acid taste 
and a peculiar flavour of the fruit at first rather 
disagreeable to European palates. 

In the tidal districts about Para, the massive trunks 
of these trees are often used to form a raised pathway 
across the expanse of soft mud generally left at low 
water between "terra firma" and the water's edge. 
A smooth and slippery cylinder is certainly not the best 
thing that could be devised for this purpose, but as it is 
the most easily procured and the least expensive it is 
proportionately common, and on paying a visit to many 
a Brazilian country house, should you arrive at low 
water, you will have no other means of getting ashore. 



The Miriti is a social palm, covering large tracts of 
tide-flooded lands on the Lower Amazon. In these 
places there is no underwood to break the view among 
interminable ranges of huge columnar stems rising un- 
disturbed by branch or leaf to the height of eighty or a 
hundred feet, — a vast natural temple which does not 
yield in grandeur and sublimity to those of Palmyra or 

Of the age of these noble trees we have no know- 
ledge, but it is remarkable how uniform they appear in 
size, there often being not a single young tree over 
a considerable extent of ground, particularly in places 
now flooded daily by the tide. One would therefore 
imagine that the present trees sprung up when the 
ground was more elevated than at present, and that it 
has since gradually sunk (or the waters risen) till the 
conditions have become unfavourable for the growth of 
young plants, though not hurtful to those which had 
already attained a certain age. Whether such is the 
true explanation of the phenomenon can only be 
decided by continued observation on the spot. 

Besides this species which is mentioned by Martius 
as occurring at Para, my friend Mr. Spruce ascer- 
tained that another closely allied palm, the Mauritia 
vinifera, also occurs there. On the Upper Amazon and 
Rio Negro a palm is found supposed to be the M. 
flexuosa, but it is not so lofty a tree, which may per- 
haps be accounted for by its growing on annually in- 
stead of diurnally flooded lands. It is believed to be 
the same species which Humboldt observed on the 


Serra Duida. The Ita palm growing on the delta of 
the Orinoco is also thought to be the same species. 
On the river Uaupes, a branch of the Upper Rio Negro, 
I observed an allied species called by the natives " Ca- 
rana assu." The stem was smooth and much more 
slender and waving, and the leaves much smaller. 

Plants of the Mauritia flexuosa are growing in the 
Palm House at Kew. 

On Plate XVII. a single leaf is represented, showing 
the flabellate form produced by abbreviation of the 

Plate II. fig. 2. is a fruit of the natural size. 





Mauritia C ARAN a, n. sp. 

Carana, Lingoa Geral. 

This is a large smooth-stemmed species allied to 
M.flexuosa, but quite distinct and hitherto undescribed. 
The stem is about a foot in diameter and from twenty 
to forty feet high, smooth and obscurely ringed. The 
leaves are very similar to those of the Miriti, but the 
leaflets are not so deeply divided, being united together 
at the base for one-third of their entire length, and 
much more drooping at the tips. The petioles are 
very large, straight and cylindrical ; their dilated 
bases are persistent for a considerable distance down 
the stem, and their margins give out a quantity of 
fibres which clothe it as in the Leopoldinia piassaba, 
though rather less densely. 

The spadices grow from among the leaves and are 
somewhat more erect and much smaller than in the 
Miriti, and the fruits are less abundant, smaller and 
slightly ovate. 

The leaf-stalks of this species are used for the same 
purposes as those of the Miriti and Jupati already de- 
scribed, as those palms are generally absent where 
this is abundant. The part most generally used, how- 
ever, is the leaf, which for thatching is preferred to 
that of any other species, on account of its having so 
large a portion of the base entire and being of a very 


durable texture. A roof well-thatched with Carana 
will last eight or teu years without renewing, and the 
leaves are so constantly cut for this purpose that it is 
hardly possible to find an entire and handsome tree. 
Though so closely resembling the Miriti, the epidermis 
is never used for cordage, and on my asking an Indian 
the reason, he quite laughed at the idea, saying that it 
was quite impossible because the Carana " did not pro- 
duce any thread." 

This tree grows in the district of the Rio Negro and 
Upper Orinoco, but is not found on the Amazon. It 
prefers the dry Catinga forests, or the sandy margins of 
streams out of reach of the highest floods. At Javita 
I observed it growing within a few yards of the Miriti, 
but still preserving all its distinctive characters. 

It is called by the natives Carana, the smaller prickly 
stemmed species being known by the name of Caranai. 





Mauritia aculeata, Humboldt. 

Caranai, Lingoa Geral (Rio Negro). 
Carana? (Para). 

This species has a tall, erect and slender stem reaching 
about forty or fifty feet in height and armed with 
numerous, long, conical, woody spines arranged in 
rings. The leaves are rather small with the leaflets 
rigid and very slightly drooping at the tips, and united 
at the base for about one-eighth of their length. The 
petioles are long and slender and are deciduous, the 
entire leaf falling away from the stem. The midrib 
and edges of the leaflets are armed with weak spinules. 
The spadices are small and grow somewhat erect so as 
to be partly concealed among the leaves, and the fruit 
is oval and rather small. 

This species grows on the Upper Rio Negro and 
Atabapo, in marshes, with a rocky subsoil, and in the 
moist parts of the Catinga forest. The Carana, com- 
mon in the swamps (not in the tide-flooded lands) about 
Para, is very closely allied or may be the same species. 


* Y 




Matjmtia gracilis, n. sp. 

Caranai, Lingo a Geral. 

This very elegant species is rather smaller than the 
last. The stem is from twenty to thirty feet high, 
slender, waving, and ringed with conical spines rather 
smaller than in M. aculeata. 

The leaves are from five to eight in number with 
much-drooping leaflets. The petioles are slender, short, 
and greatly dilated at the base. The spadices are three 
or four in number, growing from among the leaves, of 
very large size in proportion to the tree, much -branched 
and drooping. They bear great quantities of fruit, 
which is of an oval shape and nearly as large as that of 
the Mauritia carana. 

This beautiful little palm is first met with about 
Barcellos on the Rio Negro, more than 300 miles up 
the river, and is thence common as far as the black- 
water tributaries of the Orinoco. It always grows 
close to the water's edge in clumps of thirty or forty 
individuals, and its drooping leaves of a pale hoary 
green colour, never so" much crowded as to lose their 
distinct outline, with the bending clusters of rich brown 
fruit, render it one of the greatest ornaments of its 
native river. The fruit is eaten, after being softened by 
soaking some time in water. 

It seems closely allied to M. armata of Martius, 



which is found much farther south, on the banks of 
the S. Francisco River, but is probably quite a distinct 




Mauritia pumila, n. sp. 

Caranai, Lingoa Geral. 

This curious little palm is only eight or ten feet high, 
and has the stem slender, ringed, and armed with strong 
conical spines. The leaves are rather small and few in 
number, and the leaflets are much shorter, broader and 
more rigid than in any other palm of this genus. The 
petioles are long and rather thick, much sheathing at 
the bases which are persistent, clothing the stem some 
distance down after the leaves have dropped away from 
them, a character not found in any other prickly- 
stemmed species. The spadix is very long, branched 
and drooping. The fruit was not seen. 

I only met with this palm on the Upper Rio Negro 
in two localities on the sandy margins of rivers and 
lakes just above the limits of the winter floods. 


Genus Lepidocarytjm, Martins. 

Male flowers on one tree, female or hermaphrodite 
flowers on another. Spathes, imperfect, bract-like, 
tubular sheaths. The male flowers have six stamens. 
The female flowers have three sessile stigmas and six 
imperfect stamens. 

The stems are very slender, unarmed with spines or 
tubercles and deeply ringed. The leaves are fan-shaped, 
and have slender petioles and long swollen sheaths. 
The spadices are elongate and pinnately branched, 
growing from among the leaves. The fruits are oblong 
and covered with imbricated scales. 

These delicate and very rare little Palms scarcely 
differ botanically from the last genus. Two species 
only are known, inhabiting the dense virgin forests of 
the Upper Amazon and Rio Negro, where they appear 
to be very locally distributed. 


Ford &West Imp 




Lepidocaryum tentte, Martins. 

Caranai do Mato, of the Rio Negro. 

This, the smallest of the fan-leaved Palms, has a 
smooth, ringed, waving stem as thick as one's finger 
and six or eight feet high. Its dark green glossy leaves, 
with narrow drooping leaflets, grow on long and slender 
stalks which have their sheathing bases much swollen 
and lengthened. 

The spadices are small and slender, and the fruits, 
which are not abundant, are scaled in the same manner 
as those of the Mauritias, and are about the size of a 
large hazel-nut. 

This rare and elegant species grows in the gloomiest 
depths of the virgin forest of the Upper Rio Negro, 
generally at some distance inland from the rivers, and 
shaded by the loftiest forest trees. 

Plate II. fig. 4. represents a fruit of this species of 
the natural size. 



Genus Geonoma, Willdenow. 

Male and female flowers on distinct trees, or rarely 
on distinct spadices of the same tree. Spathe small, 
incomplete. Male flowers with six stamens and a 
rudimentary pistil. Female flowers with three stigmas 
and a six-toothed ring of abortive stamens. 

These are small palms with slender, smooth, ringed, 
reed-like stems. The leaves are large, regularly or 
irregularly pinnate, with the leaflets broad, and the 
bases of the petioles sheathing. The spadices are 
slender and more or less branched, and the spathes are 
double but small and membranous. The fruits are 
small, round or ovate, and are not eatable. 

There are thirty-three species of this genus known, 
all of small size, and inhabiting various parts of South 
America and Mexico, from the level of the sea to 2000 
feet above it. Many species may be seen flourishing in 
the Palm House at Kew. 


W Fitoh litk Ford fWest Imp. 




Geonoma multielora, Martins. 

Ubimrana, Lingoa GeraL 

This handsome species is from eight to fifteen feet 
high, and has the stem regularly ringed or jointed, 
giving it a reed-like appearance. The leaves are very 
large, regularly pinnate and gracefully drooping on 
every side. The leaflets are very regularly placed on 
the midrib, and the terminal pair are much larger and 
broader. The petioles are slender and smooth, and 
the sheathing bases have an expanded fibrous mar- 

The spadices grow from among the lower leaves, and 
are short, erect and simply branched. The spathes 
are very small and concealed among the petioles. The 
fruit is small, ovate, and when ripe of a red colour. 

This appears to be the Geonoma multiflora of Mar- 
tius, but the species are so closely allied that without a 
comparison of specimens it is very difficult absolutely 
to identify them. 

I have found it only in the Catinga forests of the 
Upper Rio Negro, where it occurs very sparingly. 

A fruit is represented on the Plate of the natural 



Kjri iWest Imp 




Geonoma paniculigera, Martins. 

Ubim de Cotiw T iya, Lingoa Geral. 

This is a species from six to nine feet high and very 
similar in appearance to the last. The leaves, however, 
have only three or four pairs of leaflets of irregular 
width, the terminal pair being always very large and 
broad, and the others not being always placed opposite 
each other on the midrib. 

The spadix is large, much branched and somewhat 
drooping, and has a small, soft and inconspicuous basal 
spathe. The fruit is small and round. 

This species grows in the same localities and in the 
same soil as the last, but is much more abundant. It 
appears to agree well with the G. paniculigera of Mar- 

There is a very closely allied species abundant in 
certain parts of the flooded lands or "gapo" of the 
Rio Negro, which is much used for thatching. The 
leaves being cut, the leaf-stalks are doubled and hitched 
on side by side to a strip of " pashhiba," and secured 
with "sipos" (which are the air-roots of Arums and 
other plants) . They are said to make one of the most 
durable kinds of roof, and are much used for covering 
the semicircular "toldas" of canoes. They are also 
considered the best material for lining baskets of salt, 


and persons often go several days' journey to procure 
them for both these purposes. 

I had no opportunity of closely examining the spe- 
cies which produces these leaves, and which is called 
" Ubim," in contradistinction to the other allied species 
which are termed "Ubimrana" (false ubim), "Ubim 
de cotiwiya " (Agouti's ubim) and other such names, 
and all of which, though sometimes used as substitutes, 
are said to be much less durable. 


W Btet Mi Ford & "West Imp 




Geonoma kectifolia, n. sp. 

Ubimrana, Lingoa Geral. 

This little species is nearly allied to the last. It 
reaches six or eight feet in height and has the stem 
distinctly jointed and the leaves persistent some way 
down it. The petioles grow very upright, and there 
are three or four pair of long, narrow and rather rigid 
leaflets, the terminal being the largest. 

The spadices are numerous from the axils of the 
lower leaves, and are small and simply branched ; and 
the fruit is very small, round and black. 

This palm may be distinguished from G. paniculigera, 
to which it is most closely allied, by its very long 
narrow leaflets and much more erect habit ; and by its 
smaller and less-branched spadices growing lower down 
on the stem, often below the leaves. 

I found it in a few localities only on the Upper Rio 
Negro, growing in the sandy Catinga forest near the 
margin of the river. 

A fruit is represented on the Plate of the natural 


Genus Manicaria, Gartner. 

Male and female flowers in the same spadix. Spathe 
fusiform, fibrous, complete, breaking open irregularly. 
Male flowers with twenty-four to thirty stamens. Fe- 
male flowers (situated below the male) with three sessile 
stigmas and twelve rudimentary stamens. 

Stem short, thick and irregularly ringed. Leaves 
very large, entire and rigid, the sheathing bases per- 
sistent. Spadices simply branched, growing from 
among the leaves, nearly erect. Fruit large, hard, 
somewhat triangular or three-lobed and three-seeded, 
externally very rugose. 

Only one species of this genus is known, which in- 
habits the Lower Amazon at the level of the sea. 

pi xxvi 

.? | - 












\ ' . \ 

: \ ' Y\ ■/ 1 V 

W Fitck Jifli Fora. a "West imp . 



Manicaria saccifera, Gartner. 

Bussii, Lingoa Geral. 

This unique and handsome palm has the stem from ten 
to fifteen feet high, curved or crooked and deeply 
ringed. The leaves are very large, entire, rigid and 
furrowed, and have a serrated margin ; they are often 
thirty feet long and four or five wide, and split irre- 
gularly with age. The petioles are slender with a 
broadly expanded fibrous-edged sheath at the base. 
These sheaths are persistent and often cover the stem 
down to the ground. 

The spadices are numerous, growing from among the 
leaves, and are simply branched and drooping. The 
fruit is of an olive colour, somewhat three-lobed and 
with a rugose or papillate exterior covering. The 
spathe is fusiform and entire, of a fibrous cloth-like 
texture and of a brown colour. As the spadix expands 
it breaks open irregularly, but in some cases a dead 
unopened flower bunch is found enclosed in an entire 
half-rotten spathe, as if the vital powers of the plant 


had not been sufficient to tear asunder the tough 
fibrous sheath. 

The "bussu" produces the largest entire leaves of 
any known palm, and for this reason, as well as on 
account of their firm and rigid texture, they form the 
very best and most durable thatch. The leaves are 
split down the midrib and the halves laid obliquely on 
the rafters, so that the furrows formed by the veins lie 
in a nearly vertical direction and serve as so many 
little gutters to carry off the water more rapidly. A 
well-made thatch of "bussii" will last ten or twelve 
years, and an Indian will often take a week's voyage 
in order to get a canoe-load of the leaves to cover his 

The spathe too is much valued by the Indian, fur- 
nishing him with an excellent and durable cloth. 
Taken off entire it forms bags in which he keeps the 
red paint for his toilet or the silk cotton for his arrows, 
or he even stretches out the larger ones to make him- 
self a cap, — cunningly woven by nature without seam 
or joining. When cut open longitudinally and pressed 
flat, it is used to preserve his delicate feather orna- 
ments and gala dresses, which are kept in a chest of 
plaited palm leaves between layers of the smooth 
"bussu" cloth. 

This species inhabits the tidal swamps of the Lower 
Amazon. A palm called "bussu" is also found on 
the Rio Negro and Upper Amazon, but it is of a 
smaller size and is probably a distinct species. 


A spathe is represented on the Plate and a dead stem 
from which the leaves have entirely fallen. 

Plate II. fig. 3, a fruit of Manicaria saccifera of the 
natural size. 


Genus Desmoncus, Martins. 

Male flowers on the upper parts of the branches of 
the spadix, females on the lower. Spathe fusiform, 
woody, at length deciduous. Male flowers with six 
stamens and linear acute anthers. Female flowers with 
a short style and three stigmas and six small scaly 
rudiments of stamens. 

Stems slender, flexible, climbing over shrubs or trees. 
Leaves alternate, pinnate, much sheathing, with long 
hooked spines in the place of the three or four terminal 
pair of leaflets. The spadices are axillary and simply 
branched, the spathes double, fusiform or ventricose, 
and the fruits are small, round, and generally red. The 
stems and leaves are more or less prickly. 

Fourteen species of these curious Palms are found 
in various parts of South America, principally in the 
low lands, as they are not known at a greater height 
than 2000 feet above the level of the sea. They differ 
remarkably from all other American palms in their long 
climbing stems, in which they resemble the Calami or 
Canes so abundant in the East Indies. 


W.l : U£b Bwl it West Imp. 




Desmoncus macroacanthus, Martins. 

Jacitara, Lingoa Geral. 

The stem of this palm is very slender, weak and 
flexible, often sixty or seventy feet long, and climbing 
over bushes and trees or trailing along the ground. It 
is armed with scattered tubercular prickles. The leaves 
grow alternately along the stem ; they are pinnate, 
with from three to five pairs of leaflets, beyond which 
the midrib is produced and armed with several pairs of 
strong spines directed backwards, and with numerous 
smaller prickles. The leaflets are ovate, with the edges 
waved or curled. The bases of the petioles are expanded 
into long membranous sheaths. 

The spadices grow on long stalks from the axils of 
the leaves and are simply branched. The spathes are 
ventricose, erect, persistent and prickly, and the fruit is 
globular, of a red colour, and not eatable. 

The rind or bark of this species is much used for 
making the "tipitis" or elastic plaited cylinders used 
for squeezing the juice out of the grated Mandiocca-root 
in the manufacture of farinha. These cylinders are some- 
times made of the rind of certain water plants and of 
the petioles of several palms, but those constructed of 
"Jacitara" are said to outlast two or three of the 
others, and though they are much more difficult to 



make, are most generally used among the Indian tribes. 
When the cylinders are used they are suspended from 
a strong pole, having been first filled with the grated 
pulp. A long lever is passed through the loop at the 
lower end of the "tipiti," by means of which it is 
stretched, the power being applied by a woman sitting 
on the further extremity of the pole. The cylinder 
thus becomes powerfully contracted, and the poisonous 
juice runs out at every part of the surface and is caught 
in a pan below in order to be carefully thrown away, 
for it would cause speedy death to any domestic animal 
which should drink it. 

This species grows in the Catinga forests of the 
Upper Rio Negro and on the margins of small streams, 
climbing over trees and hanging in festoons between 
them, throwing out its armed leaves on every side to 
catch the unwary traveller. How often will they seize 
the insect-net of the ardent Entomologist just as he is 
making a dash at some rare butterfly, or fasten in his 
jacket or shirt-sleeve, or pull the cap from his head ! 
Woe then to the impatient wanderer ! a pull or a tug 
will inevitably cause a portion of the fractured garment 
to stay behind, for the "jacitara" never looses its hold, 
and it is only by deliberately extracting its fangs that 
the intruder can expect to depart unhurt. 

In some places small igaripes or forest streams are 
almost filled up with various climbing grasses and 
creepers, among which the "jacitara" holds a promi- 
nent place, and it is up these streams that the Indians 
often delight to fix their abode. In such cases they 


never cut down a branch, but pass and repass daily m 
their little canoes which wind like snakes among the 
tangled mass of thorny vegetation. They are thus 
almost safe against the incursions of the white traders, 
who often attack them in their most distant retreats, 
carry fire and sword into their peaceful houses and take 
captive their wives and children. But few white men 
can penetrate for miles along a little winding stream 
such as is here described, where not a broken twig or 
cut branch is found to show that a human being has 
ever passed before. Thus does the thorny "jacitara" 
help to secure the independence of the wild Indian in 
the depths of the forests which he loves. 

This species most nearly agrees with the D. macro- 
acanthus of Martius. Fine specimens of an allied species 
may be seen growing in the Palm House at Kew. 

A fruit is represented on the Plate of the natural size. 

h 2 


Genus Bactris, Jacquin. 

Male and female flowers intermingled in the same 
spadix, the females being more abundant in the lower 
parts and the males in the upper. Spathe double, ex- 
terior short and membranous, interior complete, woody. 
Male flowers with six, nine or twelve stamens. Female 
flowers with three sessile stigmas, and the stamens 
represented by a rudimentary ring. 

The stems in this genus are very slender, ringed, 
nearly smooth or with a few scattered spines. The 
leaves are more or less terminal, generally few in num- 
ber, pinnate or entire, with the bases of the petioles 
much sheathing and very spiny. The spathe is also 
clothed with spines. The spadices are simple or simply 
branched and grow from the axils of the leaves. The 
fruit is small and round, and the outer pulp is often 
subacid and eatable. 

This very extensive genus of small prickly Palms 
contains forty-six species, all natives of South America. 
Two species described by Martius are here figured, 
together with six others apparently new, but as it may 
be impossible to identify those not seen in fruit, some 
of them have been left unnamed. 

The species here figured are all from the Rio Negro, 
where I began studying them, and are sufficient to give 
an idea of their general characteristics and aspect. 

pi xxvnr 

F-ird S-.TAfest Imp 




Bactris pectinata, Martins. 

Iu, Lingoa GeraL 

The stem of this species is from six to ten feet high, 
very slender, strongly ringed or jointed and smooth, 
but all other parts of the plant, the petioles, sheaths, 
spathes, &c., are prickly. The leaves are regularly 
pinnate, with the leaflets long, narrow, pointed and 
hairy beneath. The long sheathing bases of the 
petioles are persistent, covering the stem often half way 
down to the ground. 

The spadices grow from among the persistent leaf- 
sheaths ; they are very small, simple or two- or three- 
branched, and have a small persistent fibrous spathe. 
The fruit is very small and globular and of a red colour, 
and is not eatable. 

This very hairy and prickly little palm grows in the 
sandy Catinga forest of the Upper Rio Negro and in 
the most exposed localities. It seems to agree well 
with the B. pectinata of Martius. 

A fruit is shown on the Plate of the natural size. 


Hi {'?. Fi 



Bactris , n. sp. 

Marayarana, Lingoa Geral. 

The stem of this species is about an inch in diameter 
and ten or twelve feet high, thickly set with flat black 
spines disposed in rings. The leaves are rather large 
and irregularly pinnate, the leaflets being in little 
groups of two or four, standing out at various angles 
from the midrib, the groups themselves being set alter- 
nately along it. The leaflets are elongate and have the 
midrib produced in a bristly point, and the terminal 
pair are not larger than the rest. The petioles are 
armed with flat whitish spines, which on the long 
sheathing bases become black. 

I met with this palm only once, growing in the dry 
virgin forest on the banks of the Rio Negro. Though 
it had neither flowers nor fruit at the time, yet its habit 
is so peculiar as to leave little doubt of its being a new 
species. It seems most nearly allied to the Bactris 
macroacantha of Martius. 


End feWssI '; ■■;■ 




Bactris elatior, n. sp. 

Marayarana, Lingoa Geral, 

This is a tall and elegant species. The stem is from 
fifteen to twenty feet high and about one inch in dia- 
meter, with a few scattered groups of small spines. 
The leaves are regularly pinnate, with broad leaflets 
narrowed at the base and ending in a lengthened point, 
the terminal pair being rather broader. The petioles 
and their sheathing bases are covered with broad, flat, 
whitish spines. 

The spadices grow from among the lower leaves on 
long stalks and are simply branched and drooping. 
The spathes are elongate fusiform and spiny, and are 
persistent. The fruit is small and globular. 

This very graceful palm grows in the moist part of 
the virgin forest of the Upper Rio Negro, where I 
found it on the banks of small forest streams ; and it 
seems quite distinct from any of the very numerous 
species described by Martius. 


Ford S VW Imu 


Ht 20 Bi 



Bactris , n. sp. 

Native name unknown. 

The stem of this curious palm is from twenty to twenty- 
five feet high and very slender. It is marked with 
slightly sunk rings and has a few scattered spines. 
The leaves are rather small, few in number and terminal. 
The leaflets are rigid, narrowed at the base, widest near 
the end and suddenly tapering to a point. They are 
arranged in groups of three or four at short intervals 
along the midrib, from which they stand out at different 
angles. The petioles and their sheathing bases are 
thickly set with slender, flattish, black spines generally 
pointing downwards. 

This species was only found once, growing in the 
" gapo" or flooded lands of the Upper Rio Negro, and 
at the time had neither flowers nor fruit. The form 
and arrangement of the leaflets are so peculiar that it 
cannot be confounded with any species yet described. 

A leaflet is represented of a larger size to show the 
peculiar form. 

p:i ixm 




Bactris macrocarpa, n. sp. 

Iu, Lingoa Geral. 

This species has the stem about an inch in diameter 
and ten or twelve feet high, distinctly jointed, smooth 
and reed -like, but with a few spines in small groups at 
the joints. The leaves are terminal, of moderate size 
and rather interruptedly pinnate. The leaflets often 
grow in pairs and are broad, narrowed at the base and 
have the midrib produced at the point, the terminal 
pair being the largest. The petioles and sheaths are 
thickly set with whitish flat prickles. 

The spadices are small, five- or six- branched, and 
rather long-stalked. The spathe is small, smooth and 
persistent. The fruit is oval, with a produced apex, 
large in proportion to the tree, of a reddish or yellowish 
olive colour, and not eatable, the outer covering being- 
dry and woolly. 

The smooth reed-like stem of this species resembles 
those of the Geonomas, and it is also remarkable for 
the large size of its fruit. It grows on the dry sandy 


soil of the Catinga forests of the Upper Rio Negro. 
It seems most nearly allied to B. mitis of Martius. 

A fruit is represented on the Plate of the natural 
size, and a leaflet reduced one-fourth to show the peculiar 




Bactris tenuis, n. sp. 

Iu, Lingoa Geral. 

In this species the stem is not thicker than a goose 
quill, distinctly jointed and smooth. The leaves are 
terminal, four or five in number, and rather irregularly 
pinnate. The leaflets are elongate and acute, with 
produced points, four or five in number, on each side 
of the midrib, the terminal pair being the broadest. 
The petioles and their sheathing bases are covered with 
small, flat, black spines. 

The spadices grow from below the leaves and are 
very small and unbranched. The spathes are fusiform, 
erect, persistent and smooth. The fruit is small, 
globose, and of a red colour. 

This is one of the smallest of Palms, and in every 
part of its structure offers a striking contrast to the 
great Mauritia and other giants of the family. While 
they possess huge columnar stems a hundred feet in 
height and two feet in diameter, this has but a slender 
stalk the thickness of a quill; and while their fruit 
bunches are the largest in the vegetable kingdom, the 
whole spadix of this species is smaller than a bunch of 

It is allied to B. cuspidata and to B. fissifrons of 
Martius, but seems sufficiently distinct from either of 

i 2 


them. It grows exposed to the sun in the sandy 
Catinga forests of the Upper Rio Negro. 

An entire spadix with fruit is represented on the 
Plate, of the natural size. 





Bactris simplicifrons, Martkis. 

Iii, Lingoa Geral. 

The stem of this little palm resembles in size and ap- 
pearance that of B. tenuis. The leaves are five or 
six in number, terminal, and consist of a single broad 
bifid leaflet, or more properly a pair of opposite terminal 
leaflets. The petioles and their sheathing bases are 
thickly set with spines. 

The spadices grow from below the leaves ; they are 
unbranched and bend downwards, and the spathes are 
elongate, small, erect or horizontal, smooth and per- 

This pretty little species seems identical with one 
described by Martius under the name of Bactris sim- 
plicifrons. It is not uncommon in the dry Catinga 
forests of the Upper Rio Negro. 


Bactris mar a j a, Martins. 

Maraja, Lingoa Geral. 

This is a palm rather larger than most others of the 
genus, and inhabiting the flooded banks of the Amazon. 

It produces large clusters of fruit resembling small 
black grapes, and having a thin pulp of an agreeable 
subacid flavour, — a peculiarity not found in the fruit of 
any other American palm that I am acquainted with. 
The places where it grows are often so deeply flooded 
that the fruit hangs close to the surface of the water, 
and can be plucked while passing in a canoe. 

Dried specimens of the tree and fruit are in the Mu- 
seum, and young plants are growing in the Palm House 
at Kew. 






Bactris integrifolia, n. sp. 

Iu, Lingoa GeraL 

This beautiful species has the stern hardly so thick as 
the little finger, and nine or ten feet high, smooth and 
distinctly jointed. The leaves are four or five in num- 
ber, terminal, entire, three or four times as long as they 
are wide, and not very deeply bifid at the end. The 
petioles and their sheathing bases are thickly set with 
long, flat, black spines. 

The spadices are very small, erect and two-branched, 
growing from among the persistent sheathing bases 
below the leaves. The spathes are small, erect and 
persistent, clothed with adpressed brown spines. The 
fruit is small and globular, and of a black colour. 

This palm was found at S. Carlos on the Upper Rio 
Negro and on the " Estrada de Javita," a road through 
the forest for ten miles, which connects the river- 
systems of the Rio Negro and Orinoco, and along which 
most of the traffic between Venezuela and Brazil passes. 
In both cases it grew in the shady virgin forest. 


Genus Guilielma, Martins. 

Male and female flowers mixed in the same spadix, 
bracteate. Spathe double; exterior bifid; interior 
complete, woody. Male flowers with six stamens and 
a rudimentary pistil. Female flowers with three sessile 
stigmas, but with no rudiments of stamens. 

The stems are lofty, rather slender, and armed with 
dense black cylindrical spines disposed in regular rings. 
The leaves are terminal and pinnate, but in the young 
plants entire, and the petioles are very spiny. The 
spadices are simply branched, growing from beneath 
the leaves, and the fruits are large, ovate, fleshy or 
mealy and eatable. 

Three species only of this genus are known, inhabit- 
ing the lower mountain ranges of Peru and New Gra- 
nada. They are lofty and conspicuous Palms with a 
remarkably handsome crown of foliage. One species 
only is found in the Amazon district, in all parts of 
which it is commonly cultivated. 





Pupunha, Lingoa Geral. 

Pirijao, Indians of Venezuela, Humboldt. 

u The Peach Palm." 

This most picturesque and elegant palm has the stem 
slender, cylindrical, and thickly set with long needle- 
shaped spines disposed in rings or bands. It reaches sixty 
feet in height, and grows quite erect, though in exposed 
situations it becomes curved and waving. The leaves 
are very numerous, terminal, pinnate and drooping, 
forming a nearly spherical crown to the stem ; and the 
leaflets growing out from the midrib in various direc- 
tions, and being themselves curled or waved, give the 
whole mass of foliage a singularly plumy appearance. 
The young plants have the leaves entire like those of 
the Bussii, but as the age of the tree increases they 
break up into regular narrow leaflets. 

The spadices grow from beneath the leaves, and are 
small, simply branched and drooping. The spathes 
are ventricose, woody and persistent, curving over the 

The fruit is about the size of an apricot, of a trian- 
gular oval shape, and fine reddish-yellow colour. In 
most instances the seed is abortive, the whole fruit 


being a farinaceous mass. Occasionally, however, fruits 
are found containing the perfect stony seed, and they 
are then nearly double the usual size. This production 
of undeveloped fruits may be partly due to change of 
soil and climate, for the tree is not found wild in the 
Amazon district, but is invariably planted near the 
Indians' houses. In their villages many hundreds of 
these trees may often be seen, adding to the beauty of 
the landscape, and supplying the inhabitants with an 
abundance of wholesome food. In fact it here takes 
the place of the cocoa-nut in the East, and is almost as 
much esteemed. 

As the stems are so spiny, it is impossible to climb 
up them to procure the fruit in the ordinary way. The 
Indians therefore construct rough stages up the sides 
of the trees, or form rude ladders by securing cross 
pieces between two of them, by which they mount so 
high as to be able to pull down the bunches of fruit 
with hooked poles. 

The fruits are eaten either boiled or roasted, when 
they somewhat resemble Spanish chestnuts, but have a 
peculiar oily flavour. They are also ground up into a 
kind of flour, and made into cakes which are roasted 
like cassava bread ; or the meal is fermented in water 
and forms a subacid creamy liquid. Parrots, macaws 
and many other fruit-eating birds devour them, and 
tame monkeys eat them greedily, though the wild ones 
cannot climb the spiny stems to obtain them. 

The wood of this tree when old and black is exceed- 
ingly hard, turning the edge of any ordinary axe. 
When descending the River Uaupes in April 1852, I 


had a number of parrots whose objections to any 
restraint upon their liberty caused me much trouble. 
Their first cage was of wicker, and in a couple of hours 
they had all set themselves at liberty. Then tough 
green wood was tried, but the same time only was 
required to gnaw that through. Thick bars of deal 
were bitten through in a single night, so I then tried 
the hard wood of the Pashiuba. This checked them for 
a short time, but in less than a week by continual 
gnawing they had chipped these away and again 
escaped. I now began to despair ; no iron for bars 
was to be procured and my resources were exhausted, 
when one of my Indians recommended me to try Pu- 
piinha, assuring me that if their beaks were of iron they 
could not bite that. A tree was accordingly cut down 
and bars made from it, and I had the satisfaction of 
seeing that their most persevering efforts now made 
little impression. 

The very sharp needle-like spines of this tree are 
used by some tribes to puncture the skin, in order to 
produce the tattooed marks with which they decorate 
various parts of their bodies. Soot produced from 
burning pitch rubbed into the wounds is said to make 
the indelible bluish stain which these markings present. 

This palm appears to be indigenous to the countries 
near the Andes. On the Amazon and Rio Negro it is 
never found wild. It is mentioned by Humboldt as 
having a smooth polished stem, which is a mistake. 

Very fine specimens of this tree are growing in the 
great Palm House at Kew. 

Plate III. fig. 4. represents a fruit of the natural size. 


Genus Acrocomia, Martins. 

Female flowers in the inner, male flowers in the outer 
part of the same spadix. Spathe complete, woody. 
Male flowers with six stamens and a rudimentary pistil. 
Female flowers with a short style and three stigmas, 
and a ring of abortive stamens. 

The stems of these Palms are tall, strong, and more 
or less prickly. The leaves are large, pinnate, much 
drooping, and forming a dense spherical head of foliage. 
The leaflets are linear, and with the petioles are very 
prickly. The spadix is simply branched, and the fruit 
is round or oval, of an olive-green colour, and has a 
firm fleshy outer covering, which is often eaten. 

Eight species of this genus are known, inhabiting 
various parts of South America, but more particularly 
Brazil. One or perhaps two species are found at Para, 
but none on the Upper Amazon, where the alluvial soil 
and dense forests are unsuited to their growth. 







Mucuja, Lingo a Geral. 

The stem of this tree is about forty feet high, strong, 
smooth and ringed. The leaves are rather large, ter- 
minal and drooping. The leaflets are long and narrow, 
and spread irregularly from the midrib, every part of 
which is very spiny. The sheathing bases of the leaf- 
stalks are persistent on the upper part of the stem, and 
in young trees clothe it down to the ground. 

The spadices grow from among the leaves, erect or 
somewhat drooping, and are simply branched. The 
spathes are woody, persistent and clothed with spines. 
The fruit is the size of an apricot, globular, and of a 
greenish-olive colour, and has a thin layer of firm edible 
pulp of an orange colour covering the seed. 

This species is common in the neighbourhood of 
Para, where its nearly globular crown of drooping 
feathery leaves is very ornamental. The fruit, though 
oily and bitter, is very much esteemed and is eagerly 
sought after. It grows on dry soil about Para and 
the Lower Amazon, but it is quite unknown in the 

Several young plants of this and a species closely 
resembling it, the A. sclerocarpa, are growing in the 



Palm House at Kew, and in the Museum at the same 
place are specimens of the stem and fruit sent by- 
Mr. Bates and myself from Para. 

Martius mentions the A. sclerocarpa only as being 
found at Para, but his description of the other species 
agrees best with the tree here figured. The two, how- 
ever, seem very closely allied, if they are really distinct 

A fruit is represented on the Plate of the natural 


Genus Astrocaryum, Meyer. 

Female flowers few in number, situated beneath the 
males on the same spadix. Spathe complete, woody. 
Male flowers with six stamens and a rudimentary pistil. 
Female flowers with three stigmas and a rudimentary 
ring of stamens. 

In this genus the stems are generally lofty and 
thickly set with rings of spines, but some species are 
stemless. The leaves are large and pinnate, the leaflets 
elongate and linear, and as well as the petioles very 
prickly. The spadices are simply branched, and the 
fruits are ovate or globose, with a fibrous or fleshy 
covering, sometimes eatable. 

Sixteen species of these Palms are known, inhabiting 
Mexico, Brazil, and other parts of South America, but 
not extending higher up the mountains than 2000 feet 
above the sea. They have rather a repulsive aspect, 
from almost every part, — stem, leaves, fruit-stalk and 
spathe, being armed with acute spines in some cases a 
foot long. 






Murumuru, Lingoa GeraL 

This palm has the stem from eight to twelve feet high, 
irregularly ringed, and armed with long scattered black 
spines. The leaves are terminal and of moderate size, 
regularly pinnate, the leaflets spreading out uniformly 
in one plane, elongate, acute, with the terminal pair 
shorter and broader. The petioles and sheathing bases 
are thickly covered with long black spines generally 
directed downwards, and often eight inches long. 

The spadices grow from among the leaves and are 
simply branched and spiny, erect when in flower, but 
drooping with the fruit. The spathes are elongate, 
splitting open and deciduous. The fruit is of a mode- 
rate size, oval, of a yellowish colour, and with a small 
quantity of rather juicy eatable pulp covering the stony 

On the Upper Amazon cattle eat the fruits of the 
Murumuru, wandering about for days in the forest to 
procure it. The hard stony seeds pass through their 
bodies undigested and become thickly scattered over the 
pastures adjoining the houses. They are so hard that 
it is almost impossible to break them, except by a very 
hard blow with a large hammer. The internal albumen 
or kernel is also excessively hard, nearly approaching 
to vegetable ivory. Yet pigs are very fond of these 


little cocoa-nuts, and on one estate on the Upper Ama- 
zon where I was staying, they had scarcely anything else 
to eat during a part of the year but those which had 
passed through the stomachs of the cows. They might 
constantly be seen cracking the shell with their powerful 
jaws, and grinding up the hard kernels, on which the 
teeth of few other animals could make any impression. 
They not only existed on this food, but in some cases 
got actually fat upon it. The black vultures (Cathartes) 
occasionally eat the outer covering of this and other 
palm fruits, when hard-pushed for food. 

This tree grows on the tide-flooded lands of the 
Lower Amazon and on the margins of the rivers and 
gapos of the Upper Amazon, though it is possible that 
the two may be distinct species. The specimen figured 
is from near Para. There are living plants in the 
Palm House at the Royal Kew Gardens. 

A portion of a leaf is enlarged to show the spines, 
and a fruit is represented of the natural size. 





Mumbaca, Lingoa Geral. 

This species has a rather slender stem about fifteen 
feet high, covered with long, flat, black spines, arranged 
in regular rings and pointing downwards. The leaves 
are terminal, rather large and pinnate. The leaflets 
spread regularly in one plane, and are elongate and 
acute, the terminal pair being rather shorter and 
broader. The bases of the petioles are broadly sheath- 
ing, and are all densely spiny. 

The spadices grow from the bases of the lower leaves, 
and are erect when in flower, but hang down with the 
ripe fruit, which grows in a dense cluster at the end of 
the long stalk which is very spiny, as is also the elon- 
gate persistent spathe. The fruit is small, ovate, of a 
red colour and not eatable. 

This palm grows in the virgin forests of the Upper 
Rio Negro, and a nearly allied or perhaps identical 
species is common about the city of Para. 

PI .XL. 




Tucum, Lingoa Geral. 

This is a lofty tree, the stem growing to a height of 
forty or fifty feet, with a diameter of six or eight inches. 
It is covered with regular broad bands or rings of 
thickly set black spines, with narrow spaces between 
them. The leaves are terminal, large and regularly 
pinnate. The leaflets are elongate, regularly spreading 
and drooping. The midrib and expanded sheaths of 
the petioles are densely clothed with long, flat, dusky 
spines, having a pale expanded margin. The edges of 
the leaflets are also armed with fine spines. 

The spadix is erect and simply branched, and is often 
hid among the foliage. The spathe is persistent, and 
the fruit is oval, of a greenish colour and not eatable. 

Every part of this palm bristles with sharp spines so 
as to render it difficult to handle any portion of it ; yet 
it is of great importance to the Indians, and in places 
where it is not indigenous, is cultivated with care in 
their mandiocca fields and about their houses, along 
with the " Pupunha " and other fruit trees. Yet they 
use neither the fruit, the stem, nor the full-grown leaves. 
It is only the unopened leaves which they make use of 
to manufacture cordage, superior in fineness, strength 
and durability to that procured from the Mauritia 


fleocuosa. They strip off the epidermis and prepare it 
in the same manner as described in the account of that 
species, but while the " miriti " is principally used for 
hammocks, the {t tucum " serves for bow strings, fish- 
ing-nets and other purposes where fineness, combined 
with strength, is required. Some of the tribes on the 
Upper Amazon, however, make all their hammocks of 
" tucum," which renders it probable that the Mauritia 
ftexuosa does not grow there. 

The Brazilians of the Rio Negro and Upper Amazon 
make very beautiful hammocks of fine " tucum " thread, 
knitted by hand into a compact web of so fine a texture 
as to occupy two persons three or four months in their 
completion. They then sell at about £3 each, and 
when ornamented with the feather-work borders, at 
double that sum. Most of them are sent as presents to 
Rio de Janeiro. 

Dr. Martius has mistaken the species from which 
this cordage is manufactured, stating it to be the 
" Tucuma," which, though very nearly allied, is never 
used for the purpose. The close resemblance of the 
native names is probably what led to the mistake, 
though they are never confounded by the Brazilians. 

The " tucum " is found on the " terra firme " or dry 
forest land of the Amazon and Rio Negro. It is grow- 
ing in the Palm House at Kew. 






Tucuma, Lingoa Geral. 

This palm is from thirty to forty feet in height, and 
has the stem armed with narrow rings of black spines. 
The leaves are terminal, rather large and regularly pin- 
nate. The leaflets are elongate, linear and much 
drooping, and the midribs and petioles are very prickly. 
The sheathing bases of the leaf- stalks are very much 
swollen where they spring from the stem. The spadix 
grows erect from among the leaves and is simply 
branched. The fruit is nearly globular, of a greenish 
yellow colour, with a layer of yellow fleshy pulp covering 
the stony seed, much resembling the fruit of the Mu- 
cuja and equally esteemed for food by the Indians. 

This species is very nearly allied to the last, but may 
readily be distinguished by its globular fruit, more 
drooping leaflets, less prickly habit, and the peculiar 
aspect of its swollen petioles. It is abundant near 
Para, and is also found in the dry virgin forests of the 
Upper Amazon and Rio Negro. 

There are young living plants in the Palm House of 
the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew. 

Plate II. fig. 5. represents a fruit of the natural size. 




AsmocARYUM jauari, Martins, 

Jauari, Lingoa Geral, 

The Jauari has the stem rather slenderer than the 
Tucuma, but of about equal height, and armed with 
regular narrow rings of spines. The leaves are terminal 
and of moderate size. The leaflets are long, narrow 
and very much drooping, and the midribs and sheaths 
are thickly covered with long, flat, black spines. 

The spadices are erect, simply branched, and hidden 
amongst the leaves. The fruit is small, oval, green, 
and not eatable. 

The rather small dense head of foliage, combined 
with the prickly habit of this palm, render it altogether 
one of the least pleasing of the family ; and the feeling 
is increased by its abundance in many localities, ex- 
tending for miles along the river-banks to the exclusion 
of any other species. It is moreover one of the least 
useful among the larger palms, the only part which is 
applied to any purpose being the hard, black, oval seeds, 
of which the Brazilian ladies of the Upper Amazon make 
heads for their lace-making bobbins. 

This species is unknown in the neighbourhood of 
Para and on the Lower Amazon. It first occurs near 
Villa Nova, about five hundred miles up the river, 
where the tidal rise and fall of the water ceases and the 


annual floods rise to a considerable height. From this 
point upwards it is very abundant, growing everywhere 
on the margins of the rivers, in places which are for six 
or eight months in the year under water. It is never 
found beyond the limits of the floods, and in travelling 
up the Rio Negro it is for hundreds of miles the only 
species of Astrocaryum met with. 


jEFWft^*.* ". 




Astrocaryum aculeatum ? Meyer. 

Maraya, Lingoa Geral. 

This small species has the stem from fifteen to twenty 
feet high and about two inches in diameter, with 
obscure rings of spines at irregular intervals. The 
leaves are terminal, rather large and regularly pinnate. 
The leaflets are narrow, rigid and scarcely drooping, 
with the terminal pair broader. The midrib and 
leaflets are smooth, but the bases and sheaths of the 
petioles are very prickly. 

The spadices grow from below the leaves and are 
very small and simply branched. The spathes are 
small, ovate, swollen, erect, persistent and very prickly. 
The trees were not found in fruit. 

This tree agrees pretty well with Dr. Martins' de- 
scription of A. aculeatum. It grows in the virgin 
forest of the Upper Rio Negro. 




Iu, Lingoa Geral. 

This palm never has any stem, the leaves springing at 
once from the ground. They are eight or ten feet long, 
slender and pinnate. The leaflets are very narrow and 
drooping, and are disposed in groups of three or four, 
at intervals along the midrib, the separate leaflets 
standing out in different directions. The whole plant 
is exceedingly spiny, the midrib and petioles having 
long, flat, black spines directed downwards, and the 
leaflets are also spiny beneath. 

The spadix grows from among the leaves on a long- 
stalk and is simply branched. The spathe is elongate 
and fusiform, at first erect, but gradually bends over at 
the end, forming a hood over the fruit, and is densely 
clothed with spines. The fruit is oval with a produced 
apex, of a pale yellow colour, and has a thin layer of 
firm pulp which is sometimes eaten, but is not very 

The rind of the leaf-stalks of this palm is used by 
the Indians for making baskets. It grows in the dry 
Catinga forests of the Upper Rio Negro, often covering 


large tracts of ground. It has altogether a rather 
repulsive and inelegant appearance. 

A fruit is shown on the Plate of the natural size, 
and a spadix reduced showing the spathe bent over it. 




Iu, Lingoa Geral. 

This species has a stem two or three feet high, or is 
altogether stemless like the last. The leaves are six 
or eight feet long, slender and pinnate. The leaflets 
are much broader than in A. acaule, similarly disposed 
in spreading groups, but not so much drooping. The 
midribs and petioles are armed with long, slender, 
cylindrical spines pointing in various directions. 

The spadices grow from among the leaves and are 
erect and simply branched. The spathes are erect or 
somewhat curved over the fruit, and clothed with 
thickly set bristly spines. The fruit is globular, 
covered with scattered stiff hairs, and of an orange-red 
colour. It is not eatable. 

This species is not uncommon in the same situations 
as the last. The specimen with a stem was growing in 
a moister part of the forest. It seems to be an unde- 
scribed species. 

The stemless and short-stemmed state of this plant 
are shown on the Plate, and a fruit is represented of 
the natural size. 


Genus Attalea, Humboldt. 

Flowers bracteate, male and female in the same spa- 
dix, and male in another spadix, on the same or on a 
different tree. Spathes double, the interior one complete 
and woody. Male flowers with from six to twenty-four 
stamens and a small rudimentary pistil. Female 
flowers with a short style and three stigmas, and a cup- 
shaped ring of rudimentary stamens. 

The stems of these palms are generally lofty, cylin- 
drical and smooth, but there are some stemless species. 
The leaves of all are very handsome, large and regularly 
pinnate ; the petioles have the margins of the sheathing 
bases often more or less fibrous. The spadix grows 
from among the lower leaves, and is simply branched ; 
and the fruit is ovate or oblong, and has a dry fibrous 
outer covering. 

Sixteen species of these beautiful Palms are known, 
inhabiting various parts of South America, from the 
level of the sea to a height of 4000 feet above it. Their 
smooth and regularly pinnate leaves render them very 
suitable for thatching. One species, the A.funifera, 
produces a fibre very similar to that of the Leopoldinia 
piassaba, and the stony seeds from the same tree supply 
a kind of vegetable ivory. 


Attalea speciosa, Martins. 

Uauassu, Lingoa Geral. 

This noble palm has the stem fifty or sixty feet high, 
straight, cylindrical and nearly smooth. The leaves are 
very large, terminal and regularly pinnate. The leaflets 
are elongate, rigid, closely set together, and spreading 
out flat on each side of the midrib. The sheathing 
bases of the petioles are persistent for a greater or less 
distance down the stem, and in young trees down to 
the ground, as in the (Enocarpus batawd. 

The spadices grow from among the leaves and are 
large and simply branched. The fruit is of large size 
compared with most American palms, being about three 
inches long, and from this circumstance it derives its 
native name " Uauassu," signifying " large fruit." 

The foliage of this tree is very extensively used for 
thatching. The young plants produce very large leaves 
before the stem is formed, and it is in this state that 
they are generally used. The unopened leaves from 
the centre are preferred, as, though they require some 
preparation, they produce a more uniform thatch. The 
leaf is shaken till it falls partially open, and then each 
leaflet is torn at the base so as to remain hanging by 
its midrib only, which is however quite sufficient to 
secure it firmly. They thus hang all at right angles to 


the midrib of the leaf, which admits of their being laid 
in a very regular manner on the rafters. They are 
generally known as "paiha branca" or "white thatch/' 
from the pale yellow colour of the unopened leaves, and 
are considered the best covering for houses in places 
where Bussu cannot be obtained. 

This species grows on the dry forest lands of the 
Upper Amazon. On the Rio Negro a stemless species 
called " Curua " [Attalea spectabilis) is found and is 
often used for thatching. On the Lower Amazon and 
in the neighbourhood of Para the Attalea excelsa is not 
uncommon. It is a handsome lofty species which grows 
on lands flooded at high tides, and is called by the 
natives Urucuri. The fruit of this tree is burnt, and 
the smoke is used to black the newly made india-rubber. 
Martius says that the fruit of the A. speciosa is used 
for this purpose, but that species is not found in the 
principal rubber districts, while the A. excelsa is abun- 
dant there. 

Several species of Attalea are cultivated in the Palm 
House at Kew. 

Plate III. fig. 1. is a fruit of Attalea spectabilis of 
the natural size. 



Genus Maximiliana, Martins. 

Some spadices with only male flowers, others with 
male and female flowers on the same tree. Spathes 
large, complete, woody. Flowers with bracts. Male 
flowers with three or six stamens, and with a minute 
rudimentary pistil. Female flowers with a short style 
and three stigmas, and rudimentary stamens forming a 
membranaceous cup. 

The stems of these magnificent Palms are tall, erect 
and smooth. The leaves are very large and irregularly 
pinnate. The bases of the petioles are persistent, often 
covering the stem quite down to the ground. The 
spathe is woody, complete, longitudinally cut and beaked. 
The spadices grow from among the lower leaves and are 
simply branched, but very densely clustered with the 
fruit, which is ovate, and has a dry external covering. 

Only three species of this genus are known, all very 
handsome plants. One is a native of the West India 
Islands, one of Brazil, and a third is common in the 
Amazon district. 


: MILIANA RE GIA Ht . 80 Ft . 


Maximiliana regia, Martins, 

Inaja, Lingo a Geral. 

This palm has a lofty massive stem, smooth and ob- 
scurely ringed. The leaves are very large, terminal 
and pinnate. The leaflets are arranged in groups of 
three, four or five, at intervals along the midrib, from 
which they stand out in different directions, and are 
very long and drooping. The bases of the petioles are 
persistent a short distance down the stem, and some- 
times down to the ground, even when the trees are 
forty or fifty feet high. 

The spadices are numerous, growing from the bases 
of the lower leaves. They are simply branched and 
very densely clustered. The spathes are large, spindle- 
shaped, ventricose and woody, with a long beak. The 
fruits are elongate and beaked, with a tough, brown, 
outer skin, beneath which is a layer of soft fleshy pulp 
of an agreeable subacid flavour, covering a hard stony 

The leaves of this tree are truly gigantic. I have 
measured specimens which have been cut by the In- 
dians fifty feet long, and these did not contain the 
entire petiole, nor were they of the largest size. Owing, 
however, to the loose irregular distribution of the 



leaflets, they do not produce such an effect of great 
size as those of the Jupati, which are more regular. 
The great woody spathes are used by hunters to cook 
meat in, as with water in them they stand the fire well. 
They are also used as baskets for carrying earth, and 
sometimes for cradles. The fruits are often eaten by 
the Indians, and are particularly attractive to monkeys 
and to some fruit-eating birds. 

This magnificent palm is abundant from Para to the 
Upper Amazon and the sources of the Rio Negro. It 
grows only in the dry virgin forest. 

Young trees are growing in the Palm House at Kew, 
and fruit clusters and spathes are preserved in the 

Plate III. fig. 3. is a view of the spathe, and fig. 2, 
represents a fruit, the natural size. 


Genus Cocos, Linnceas. 

Female flowers less plentiful than the males, and 
situated below them in the same spadix. Spathe 
double, outer small, interior woody. Flowers with 
bracts. Male flowers with six stamens and a rudi- 
mentary pistil. Female flowers with three stigmas. 

The stems of this genus are lofty, generally cylin- 
drical and smooth. The leaves are large and regularly 
pinnate. The spadix is simply branched, and the fruit 
is ovate oblong, and with an outer fibrous covering. 

Eighteen species of Cocos are known, seventeen 
being natives of South America, principally of Brazil, 
while one only, the well-known Cocoa-nut, is a native 
of the Old World, though it is now universally culti- 
vated in every part of the tropics. Few species of the 
genus are found in the Amazon district. They appear 
to prefer drier and more elevated countries, some of 
them reaching an altitude of near 8000 feet above 
the sea. 




>ord&West Imp. 

_ - FERA Hi 60 Ft: 



Cocos nucifera, Linnceus. 

Coqueiro, Portuguese. 
The Cocoa-nut. 

The stem of this well-known palm is very smooth, 
seldom quite erect, and often much thicker at the bottom. 
The leaves are large, terminal and regularly pinnate. 
The leaflets are rigid, and spread out very flat on each 
side of the midrib. From the sheathing bases of the 
petioles grows a compact fibrous material resembling in 
texture the spathe of the Bussu. 

The spadices are produced from among the leaves, 
and are large and simply branched. The fruits are very 
large, and have a dense fibrous external covering over 
the well-known cocoa-nut. 

This tree is not a native of South America, but as it 
is generally cultivated in every part of the tropics, I 
have given a figure of it. Its peculiar characteristic 
is the rigidity of its leaves, which curve or droop very 
slightly, and the leaflets spread out with remarkable 
flatness and regularity. The stem also is rather 
massive in accordance with the immense weight of 
fruit which it produces, and the whole tree, though 
exceedingly handsome, has not that light and feathery 
appearance which it is often represented as possessing. 
It is not impossible, however, that it may have ac- 


quired by its naturalization in America an aspect 
differing somewhat from its characteristic features 
when growing on the sea-shore, on the coral islands 
of India and the Pacific. 

There it is of the greatest utility to man. It supplies 
food and drink and oil. Its fibres are woven into 
cordage and matting, and it even furnishes animal as 
well as vegetable food, herds of swine being fed and 
fattened entirely on its fruit. 

On the banks of the Amazon, on the contrary, we 
see at once that it is in a foreign land. It flourishes 
indeed with great luxuriance, but no part of it is applied 
to any useful purpose, the fruit only being consumed as 
an occasional luxury. In the towns and larger villages 
where the Portuguese have settled it has been planted, 
but among the Indians of the interior it is still quite 

of the amazon. 127 

List of the Palms described in this Work, with 
their Native Names and Uses. 

Botanical Name. Native Name. Uses. 


pulchra Jara Stem used for fencing, rafters, &c. 

major Jara assu Fruit for making salt. 

piassaba Piassaba Fibre for cordage, brooms, &c. ; 

leaves for thatching ; fruit eat- 

oleracea Assai Fruit for making a drink; stem 

for rafters, &c. 
catinga Assaide Catinga. Fruit for making a drink. 


baccaba Baccaba Fruit makes a drink and oil ; leaves 

for thatching, 
batawa, Patawa Fruit makes a drink ; spinous pro- 
cesses used for making arrows. 

disticha Baccaba Leaves for thatching. 

minor Baccaba miri ... Fruit makes a drink. 


exorhiza Pashiuba Stem split for floors and ceilings, 

&c. ; air-roots for graters. 

ventricosa Pashiuba barri- Stem split for lances, harpoons, 

guda floors, &c. ; swollen part of stem 

for canoes, 
setigera Pashiuba miri... Stem hollowed for making blow- 
tubes or Gravatanas. 


taedigera Jupati Leaf-stalks split for making boxes, 

partitioning houses, doors, &c. 


flexuosa Miruti Fruit makes a drink; fibres of 

leaves are twisted into string 
for hammocks, &c. ; leaf-stalks 
as the last. 

aculeata Caranai Fruit makes a drink. 

gracilis Caranai Fruit makes a drink. 

pumila Caranai Not known. 

carana Carana Leaves good for thatch; leaf- 
stalks used as those of Raphia 

tenue Caranai do Mato. None. 


Botanical Name. Native Name. Uses. 


multifl 1 ora nK m lTr;"l These species and others allied all 

pamcuhgera ... Ubim de Coti- I have l the leaves more or less 

reetifolia Ubhmana J USed f ° r thatchin * 


saccifera Bussu Leaves the best for thatching; 

spathe for caps, wrappers, &c. 


macroacanthus. Jacitara Bark makes "tipitis" or elastic 

cylinders for squeezing the 
grated mandiocca. 
pectinata Iu 

These little prickly palms seem 
not to be applied to any parti- 
cular uses. 

n.s Marayarana 

elatior Marayarana 

n.s Unknown.. 

macrocarpa ... Iu 

tenuis Iu 

simplicifrons ... Iu 

maraja Maraja Fruit eatable. 

integrifolia Iu None. 


speciosa Pupunha Fruit very good and nutritious ; 

wood very hard, black and du- 

lasiospatha Mucuja Fruit eatable. 


murumuru Murumuru Cattle eat fruit. 

gynacanthum ... Mumbaca None. 

vulgare Tucum Leaf-fibres for cordage. 

tucuma Tucuma Fruit eatable. 

jauari Jauari Nuts for lace-bobbin heads. 

aculeatum Maraya None. Others with the same 

name have eatable fruit. 

acaule Iu Bark of leaf-stalks for baskets. 

humile Iu Fruit eatable. 


speciosa Uauassu Leaves for thatch. 

excelsa Urucuri Fruit burnt for smoking rubber. 

spectabilis Curua Leaves for thatch. 

regia Inaja Fruit eatable. 


nucifera Coqueiro The Cocoa-nut ; fruit eatable. 



The genera of Palms found in America are thirty- 
six in number. Thirty-two of these are entirely con- 
fined to it, while only four are common to the Old and 
New Worlds, as shown in the following list : — 

List of the American Genera of Palms. 

Name of Genus. 

No. of species 


in this 






Species of 


Genera in the 

Old World. 










































A strocaryum 














^ :