Journal of Oil Palm Research Vol. 7 No. 1  1995 June p.  35-56
DOI:

Colombia’s national tree : The wax palm Ceroxylon quindiuense and its relatives

Author(s): MADRINAN, S*; SCHULTES, R E**

A review of the nineteenth-century literature on the wax palms of the genus Ceroxylon is presented, together with the available information on the biology, systematics, economic uses, ornamental value, and conservation status of the species in this genus. The wax palms of the genus Ceroxylon are spectacular representatives of the palm family, Palmae. They grow at altitudes up to 3150 m, often in populations of hundreds of thousands of individuals, and their trunks reach 60 m in height. Travellers and naturalist, who for the last 200 years have visited the wax palm forests on the steep slopes of the Colombian central Andes, have admired their magnificence and referred to them extensively in their writings. Known as a source of an excellent wax, these palms have attracted the attention of chemists and industrialists alike. The genus Ceroxylon comprises eleven species distributed throughout the northern Andes from Venezuela to Bolivia. The genus is a member of a small, relatively ancient lineage, and its species are widely scattered throughout the southern hemisphere. The tallest and most populous species of wax palms, the Quindio wax palm Ceroxylon quindiuense (Karsten) Wendland, has been adopted as Colombia’s national tree and is now protected by law. However Ceroxylon quindiuense and other species of wax palms are threatened with extinction due to disturbance of their natural habitats, which interrupts their life cycles and increases their susceptibility to attack by pathogens. We here present an up-to-date review of the literature on wax palms. Although the bibliography may appear extensive, the great majority of these references date from the nineteenth century and are mainly of historical interest. After almost two centuries, from the introduction of the wax palms to western science and their great admiration by naturalists, very little has been published about the basic biology of these palms. We hope this will soon change, for any effort to conserve these species will have to be based upon detailed knowledge of their biology.

Keywords: , , ,

Author Information
* The Harvard University Herbaria, 22 Divinity Avenue Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138, USA.

** The Botanical Museum of Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.


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