Arecaceae, Mauritia flexuosa, Moriche Palm, Ité
M. flexuosa is a South American palm, occurring naturally across a large area of the northern regions, east of the Andes Mountains, including all of Amazonia except its most eastern part. The tree always grows in open sites, along rivers and streams and in swamps from elevations a few hundred feet above sea level to about 3000 feet. In swamps and flatlands it forms immense colonies in the exclusion of most other trees.
The species name “flexuosa” means translates to flexible, in reference to the leaf segments and the massive petioles.
The solitary trunks of this palm can reach heights of 80 feet, with diameters often in excess of 2 ft.
The leaves are 15 feet wide on large petioles up to 30 feet long with four foot wide bases.
Mauritia flexuosa is definitely one of the most massive and impressive and beautiful of all palms. The species is only adaptable to zones 10b and 11. It is nearly aquatic and, although it will grow in drier areas, the tree will not fulfill its growing potential unless planted in moist environs. It prefers acidic soil.
This species has probably been used by humans for thousands of years and is still of great significance to many human and non-human organisms. It’s highly nutritious fruit can be eaten raw, also made into a type of flour. It is also fermented in an alcoholic beverage. An oil extracted from the fruit is an important commercial produce in Brazil. Fibers from the leaves are used for making ropes, hammocks and other misc. utensils. The petiole pith is used to make mats and paper. A wine and sago startch are derived from the trunks of felled trees.
Here’s an interesting and informative overview of the palm and its traditional uses by an author from Guayana: http://forestkeeper.blogspot.com/2010/01/amazonian-tree-of-life.html