Botanical Name: Acrocomia aculeata
Species: A. aculeata
Synonyms: A. lasiospatha, A. sclerocarpa, and A. vinifera
Common Names: Grugru palm, Macaúba palm, Coyol palm, and Macaw palm.
Habitat: Acrocomia aculeata is native to tropical regions of the Americas, from southern Mexico and the Caribbean south to Paraguay and northern Argentina.It grows on barren lands and semi-deciduous, open forest. Semideciduous forests, occurring in both dense primary and more open secondary formations, favouring fertile soils in valleys and on lower hill slopes.
Acrocomia aculeata is an evergreen Tree growing up to 15–20 m tall, with a trunk up to 50 cm in diameter, characterized by numerous slender, black, viciously sharp 10 cm long spines jutting out from the trunk. The leaves are pinnate, 3–4 m long, with numerous slender, 50–100 cm long leaflets. Petioles of the leaves are also covered with spines. The flowers are small, produced on a large branched inflorescence 1.5 m long. The flowers are pollinated by Insects. The fruit is a yellowish-green drupe 2.5–5 cm in diameter. The inner fruit shell, also called endocarp, is very tough to break and contains usually one single, dark brown, nut-like seed 1–2 cm in diameter. The inside of the seed, also called endosperm, is a dry white filling that has a vaguely sweet taste like coconut when eaten.
A plant of semi-arid to very moist lowland regions of the tropics, where it is usually found below an elevation of 1,000 metres. It grows best in areas where temperatures never fall below 10c, preferring a mean annual temperature in the range 25 – 35c, whilst tolerating 20 – 45c. The mean annual rainfall it prefers is 1,000 – 2,000mm, though it can tolerate 500 – 3,000mm. The driest month has 25mm or more rain. Prefers a sunny position. Requires a well-drained soil. Prefers a rich soil, though it also succeeds in poor soils. Prefers a pH in the range 5.5 – 6.5, though it can tolerate from 5 – 7.5. Established plants are drought tolerant. Plants are fairly fire tolerant.
A starch can be obtained from the pith of the trunk and from the roots. The pith of the trunk can be fermented to produce an alcoholic drink. Fruit – cooked. Rich in oil, it can be quite bitter. The yellowish pulp is fibrous, mucilaginous and slightly sweet. The sweet, pulpy portion of the fruit is eaten raw. Eaten in times of scarcity. Seed – roasted. A high quality oil can be obtained from the seed kernel. When refined it can be used for cooking. Young leaves – cooked and eaten as a vegetable. The apical bud, known as a ‘palm heart’ is eaten. If the apical bud is removed, then the tree is condemned to a slow death since it is unable to produce side branche.The trunk of the palm can also be ‘milked’ to yield a fermented alcoholic beverage known as coyol wine.
The roots are used medicinally.
Agroforestry Uses: When growing wild, the plant is seen as an indicator of good, fertile soils. Other Uses A useful twine can be obtained from the leaves by tearing strips of the desired width from the leaflets. A good quality fibre is obtained from the leaves. Very strong, it is used to make ropes and cordage. A high quality oil can be obtained from the seed kernel. It can be used for making soap. Another oil can be obtained from the pulp of the fruit. It is used for making soap. The very hard endocarp that encloses the seed can be cut into rings or carved and pierced for use as rosary beads. It is also used for making jewellery and buttons. The stem consists o a central pithy section surrounded by a ring of wood. This outer wood is moderately heavy, hard and very durable. It is used locally as beams and laths in rural constructions.
The plants inhabit a wide variety of climates and situations; in Paraguay, for example, where it is ubiquitous, it is called the coco paraguayo (Paraguayan coconut), as it is much less common in the rest of the world. It has been suggested that grugru nuts, which come in mass numbers from each tree, can be used in the manufacture of biodiesel. The grugru nut, while very hard, can be sliced into thin circles to be sanded and worn as rings.