Ceroxylon quindiuense

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Ceroxylon quindiuense
Ceroxylon quindiuense 2.png
Ceroxylon quindiuense growing wild in Cocora Valley near Salento, Colombia
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Monocots
(unranked): Commelinids
Order: Arecales
Family: Arecaceae
Genus: Ceroxylon
Species: C. quindiuense
Binomial name
Ceroxylon quindiuense
(Karst.) H.Wendl.
  • Ceroxylon floccosum Burret
  • Klopstockia quindiuensis H. Karst.

Ceroxylon quindiuense (palma de cera del quindio, Quindio wax palm), is a palm native to the Andean high-altitude valley Cocora in the department of Quindío, northwest Colombia.


View of Cocora Valley with wax palms

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.[2]


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[edit]

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.[3] The fruit was used as feed for cattle and pigs. The leaves were extensively used in the Catholic celebrations of Palm Sunday.[4] All of these circumstances produced a drastic reduction of the number of wax palms,[5] which motivated the Colombian government of Belisario Betancur to begin providing protection for the remaining trees.

Cultivation and uses[edit]

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.