by Jose A. Grassia
Family: Arecaceae (Palmae)
Species: Acrocomia totai Mart. in A.D.d’Orbigny, Voy. Amér. Mér. 7(3): 78 (1844)
For its part, the name Acrocomia aculeata is accepted for the species with distribution in Central America according to: Acrocomia aculeata (Jacq.) Lodd. ex R. Keith, Miller’s Dict. Gard .: 63 (1834). with distribution in S. Mexico to Brazil, Caribbean 79 MXG MXS MXT 80 BLZ COS ELS GUA HON NIC PAN 81 CUB DOM HAI JAM LEE TRT VNA WIN 82 FRG GUY SUR VEN 83 CLM 84 BZC BZE BZL BZN
This classification has originated many discussions, specially the case of A. aculeata, as there are significant visible differences between specimens growing in different regions, such as: sheaths of old leaves staying on the trunk, bigger crowns, bigger fruits and, the strangest of all, that some of them have an undivided first eophyll and some have bifid eophylls.
Of course, this could be clarified through deeper studies and DNA research, thereby determining whether or not they belong to different species or if they are just phenotypes or ecotypes.
Geographical distribution: A. totai is broadly distributed in South America, found in Bolivia, Paraguay, central & south Brasil to the north of Argentina, in the provinces of Chaco, Corrientes, Misiones, Formosa and Salta.
Pinnate 2.5-3 m long leaves, with grayish green segments and abaxially whitish, several-ranked leaflets along a spiny 40-80 cm long petiole. The leave rachis, also spiny on both sides, has more than 100, 40-70 cm long and 1-2 cm wide, reduplicate, several-ranked and bifid tip leaflets. Leaves bases are split, spiny and have indument.
Phenology: A. totay blooms from the beginning of spring until mid-summer and its fruits mature by the end of winter, although they remain attached to the tree for some time after.
Something interesting to note, in relation to animal seed dispersers, is the fact that besides cattle and pigs, other animals play such role, such as Didelphus albiventris (Weasel), Nectomys squamipes (Water rat), Cebus apella (Cai monkey); and birds such as Turdus sp., Anodorhynchus hyacinthinus (Jacinto Macaw) y Ara glaucogularis (Blue-throated Macaw) Scariot 1998, Collar 1997, Yamashita & Machado de Barros 1997.
It is particularly noted that, during the early stages of development, the cotyledon petiole grows downwards and then strikes upwards out of the soil, thereafter sprouting the first ligule and eophyll. In this change of direction, a tight fold is formed, which keeps developing as time goes on, and changing into a sort of “bulb” that is part of the stem of the palm tree and, as the rest of the trunk, it is spiny. This underground spines are thought to be a defensive strategy against digging mammals, such as the wild pig, the armadillo (Dasypus septemcinctus), the Tatu Carreta or giant armadillo (Priodontes maximus), which, do not feed from this palm tree, but cause irreparable damage to the plant anatomy when digging up their nests.
The presence of spines on its whole structure makes this species unwelcomed for landscaping, nevertheless, it is very easy to take the spines away from the trunk so as to make it safe and enjoy it in our gardens. Another option would be planting climbing species such as Photus (Epipremnum aureus) or some of the many beautiful species of Philodendron to protect people against the trunk spines.
Present and future possibilities for Acrocomia totai
I should not fail to mention the great potentiality of this species in industrial exploitation, specially in those emerging countries which regional economies face difficulties and rural inhabitants undergo a hard daily life in their search for a means to sustenance and a better standard of life.
Despite the availability of such a noble vegetal species which is so easily propagated and cultivated, it is unbelievable that its massive or local industrialization, as an economic resource for subsistence, is neglected.
The following report backs-up the above:
SIXTH CONGRESS OF RESEARCH AND INTELECTUAL CREATION AT UNIMET
D.J. Ballesteros – A. Mieres-Pitre and C. Hernández
Universidad de Carabobo
For this research , an evaluation was made on the oil extraction from the nut of the “corozo” fruit to be used as raw material in the oil industry. The mentioned fruit comes from a native palm tree distributed in Central and South America. Forty mature fruits were randomly selected from the town of Macapo, Cojedes State. Their nuts were removed and then ground down to flour and sieved. Oil was extracted using the solvent (n-hexane) extraction procedure in a Soxhlet equipment, at lab and pilot scale.
The results obtained on the proximal composition of the nut were the following: 5.42% moisture, 2.99% ash, 46.63% fat, 11.40% protein and 33.41% carbohydrates. Crude corozo oil showed iodine and saponification values of 28,74 cgI/g y 228 mg KOH/g, respectively. Chromatography showed a higher proportion of lauric acid (35.8%p/p), oleic acid (17.75%p/p) and palmitic acid (12.13%p/o). The yielding at lab and pilot scale was 48.91% and 46.20%, respectively.
The conclusion is that “corozo” oil may be used in cosmetics and pharmaceutical industries, and in the elaboration of food products such as cookies, coverings, glazings and similar cacao products, as its composition is similar to that of coconut and palmiste oils
Besides the above-mentioned, we should not forget the strong possibilities of obtaining bio-fuel from this palm tree.
Be noted that Jathropa curcas, which has a 30% seed oil, yields only 4000 Kg/Ha, a total of 1240 liters of bio-diesel per hectare, while Acrocomia totai (Mbocaya), yields 19,000 Kg/Ha, which represents more than 2800 liters of bio-diesel per hectare.
And, most important, it would not be a long-term production… no need to sow and wait two, three or five years for harvesting. The palms are there, waiting…
I thank those colleagues and friends who have collaborated with their photos as illustrations for this article. Some of the pictures have been downloaded from internet