|Ceroxylon quindiuense growing wild in Cocora Valley near Salento, Colombia|
Under ideal growing conditions, the wax palm can grow to a height of 50 m (160 ft)—or rarely, even as high as 60 m (200 ft)—making it the tallest palm and by extension the tallest monocot in the world. The leaves are dark green and grayish, with a petiole up to 2 m (6.6 ft) long. The trunk is cylindrical, smooth, light colored, and covered with wax, When the leaves die, they fall and this forms a dark ring around the trunk. The palm is recognized as the national tree of Colombia, and since the implementation of Law 61 of 1985, it is legally a protected species in that country. C. quindiuense has an extremely slow growth and can live up to 100 years. Its first recorded observation was in 1801 by explorer Alexander von Humboldt.
Wax palms provide habitats for many unique life forms, including endangered species such as the yellow-eared parrot (loro orejiamarillo, Ognorhynchus icterotis). It grows in groups spread out over the hills of the western side of the Andean mountains, between 2,500 and 2,800 m (8,200 and 9,200 ft) above sea level. Its habitat is sandy soils with a high acidity, and an average rainfall of 1,800 mm (71 in) per year. It requires a temperature range of 12–19°C (54–66°F).
Threat of extinction
This palm faced extinction due to human action. The wax of the trunk was used to make candles, until the introduction of electricity. The outer part of the stem of the palm has been used locally for building houses, and was used to build water supply systems for poor farmers. The fruit was used as feed for cattle and pigs. The leaves were extensively used in the Catholic celebrations of Palm Sunday. All of these circumstances produced a drastic reduction of the number of wax palms, which motivated the Colombian government of Belisario Betancur to begin providing protection for the remaining trees.
Cultivation and uses
In its natural environment, it can tolerate occasional frosts for brief periods of time, and it is planted as an ornamental at sea level in California, Southern Europe, New Zealand, and Southern Australia.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Ceroxylon quindiuense.|
- "The Plant List: A Working List of All Plant Species".
- Presidencia de la República de Colombia. "Símbolos patrios".
- Madriñan, S. and Schultes, R.E. (1995). "Colombia's national tree: the wax palm Ceroxylon quindiuense and its relatives". Elaeis 7 (1): 35–56.
- Portal Bogota WACG
- Por Dios ¡No las corten! | Biodiversity Reporting Award
- Bernal, M., Navas, A. & Madriñan, S. 2007. Developmental morphology and growth patterns of the wax palm Ceroxylon quindiuense.
- Henderson, A. 1995. Field Guide to the Palms of the Americas.