The Carnaúba palm: the pride of Piauí

The Carnaúba palm is the star of Ilha Grande, and of the North-East of Brazil in general. We listed some interesting facts about this magical native tree.

Scientific name: Copernicia prunifera (but also: Copernicia cerifera, Arrundaria cerifera, Corypha cerifera). This name refers to the round shape of the leaves, and is an homage to the Italian scientist Copernicus who first stated the earth was round.

Family: palm trees – Arecaceae

Commun name: Carnaúba, Carnaubeira, Carnaíba, Carnaba, Carnaúva, Carandaúba

Etymology: the name comes from the traditional Tupi-word ‘karana’iwa’, which means tree that scratch. This refers to the spines, which cover the lower parts of the trunk.

Nickname: Biologist Sir Humboldt called it ‘árvore da vida’ or tree of life, but also the name ‘árvore da providência’ or tree of providence exists

Origin: native plant of the North-East of Brazil

States with most Carnaúba trees: Piauí, Céara, Rio Grande do Norte

Symbol: symbol of the state Céara and inspiration of the cities’ name Carnaubal

Height: average 7 to 10 meters, but up to 15 meters high

Diameter trunk: 15-25 centimeters

Diameter crest: the crest of each tree is more or less the same, and consists out of 45 to 60 leaves. The whitish stems are around one meter long, and the leave itself also. The thorny leaves have the shape of a fan, and are green to bluish.

Weight of the wood: 0,94 gram/cubic centimeter

Life cycle: it can survive up to 200 years and through the seeds it plants itself again. If you cut all the leaves from the tree, it will die. At the middle of the tree, called the eye, you have to preserve at least three or four leaves.

Flowers: the flowers can become up to four meters long, and are affixed to the armpits of the leaves. The small exterior leaves are green, and inside they have a creamy, yellowish color. They appear from july till september.

Best season: the harvesting of the Carnaúba happens in the season with less agricultural work, from july till december. So economically speaking it’s an important factor for the local economy. It consists of two phases: the harvest of the leaves and of the wax.

Best habitat: the tree mainly grows on the clay banks around big rivers and lakes or in sandy grounds and can resist a high level of salinity and rain. But it can also handle the very dry and hot climate. It plays an important role in the biodiversity and sustainable development of the region.

Special characteristics: only in the north of Brazil this tree produces a wax, which makes the leaves waterproof and helps them to prevent the loss of humidity through transpiration. This valuable wax can be used in a variety of products.

Legend: when you use the wood of a mature tree, the construction will stay for eternity.