Distribution and habitat
It is native to the tropical rainforests of South America and is abundant in the wet zones at elevations less than 1,000 m (3,300 ft). Its distribution stretches from Panamá and Trinidad to the Amazon basin (Colombia, Venezuela, Guianas, Brazil, Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru). Two varieties are recognized:
- Oenocarpus bataua var. bataua - Panama and South America
- Oenocarpus bataua var. oligocarpus (Griseb. & H.Wendl.) A.J.Hend. - Trinidad, Venezuela, Guianas
In Western Amazonia O. bataua is one of the top three palm species in both frequency and abundance. It reaches its highest densities in soils of low to intermediate nutrient concentration. In Colombia, it is usually found in sandy soils with a high organic matter content that are subject to flooding, possibly because there are few other species which compete with it. It can grow extremely well on unflooded soils as witnessed by high-density stands in the pastures of the Colombian Chocó, though it is rarely found on terra firma in the wild since competition from other species is such that it rarely gets the high light levels it needs to set fruit.
Its stem is solitary, erect, 10–25 m (33–82 ft) in height and 2–3 dm (8–12 in) diameter, smooth, and ring-shaped. It has 10–16 leaf terminals, petiole 10–50 cm (3.9–19.7 in), rachis 3–7 m (9.8–23.0 ft) long; with leaflets up to 2 m (6 ft 7 in) long and 15 cm breadth, approximately 100 to each side, placed in the same plane.
Patawa fruits are a resource for cosmetics, food and pharmaceuticals purposes.
Traditionally indigenous peoples have collected the fruit and matured it in tepid water in order to prepare drinks and also to extract its oil. Its drupes are 8–10% oil. The fresh meolo is edible too. Additionally, Rhynchophorus larva are harvested from the palm.
Traditionally, patauá oil is used by Amazonian communities in fried foods.
It is also used in cosmetic production because it can be used as a tonic to soften the hair. A famous researcher who lived in a village Kayapó said that the indigenous peoples were their most beautiful, nourished and healthy during the fruiting season.
The oil is used in traditional medicine to treat cough and bronchitis and to fortify the hair.
The rachis have been used to manufacture arrows and the leaves to make baskets and construct provisional housings.
In the future, this palm could be industrialized for oil production, because of its quality, its adaptation in poor soils, and its abundant production of fruits.
- Martius, Carl von. 1823. Historia Naturalis Palmarum II: 23. Lipsiae (Leipzig): T.O. Weigel.
- Kew World Checklist of Selected Plant Families
- Vallejo Rendón, Darío 2002. "Oenocarpus bataua, seje"; Colombia Amazónica, separata especies promisorias 1. Corporación Colombiana para la Amazonia –Araracuara- COA.
- Cámara-Leret, Rodrigo (2017). "Modelling responses of western Amazonian palms to soil nutrients". Journal of Ecology. 105: 367–381. doi:10.1111/1365-2745.12708 – via Wiley Online Library.
- Galeano, Gloria 1991. Las palmas de la región del Araracuara. Bogotá: TOPEMBOS - Universidad Nacional. Segunda edición, 1992, p.p. 146-148.
- Amazonian palm Oenocarpus bataua (“patawa”): chemical and biological antioxidant activity - phytochemical composition. A. Rezaire, J.-C. Robinson, B. Bereau, A. Verbaere, N. Sommerer, M.K. Khan, P. Durand, E. Prost and B. Fils-Lycaon, Food Chemistry, In Press, Accepted Manuscript, doi:10.1016/j.foodchem.2013.10.077
- La Rotta, Constanza 1990. Especies utilizadas por la Comunidad Miraña: 296-297. Bogotá: WWF - FEN.
- Pataua. http://www.cifor.org/publications/pdf_files/Books/BShanley1001/203_208.pdf
- Data related to Oenocarpus bataua at Wikispecies