Scientific Name: Ceroxylon quindiuense
Common Names: Andean Wax Palm
Family: Arecaceae / Palmae
Plant Type: Tree
Environment: Native in the cloud forests in Colombia at altitudes of 6500 to 9800 feet, this tree thrives in the cool, foggy summers and mild winters of San Francisco.
Bloom: 2-5 years in their native habitat
Uses: Ceroxylon quindiuense is suited to park, estate, and avenue planting, but other species, such as Ceroxylon parvifrons and Ceroxylon parvum, are much smaller at maturity and perfectly suited to residential gardens. Easy to grow from seed in coastal Central and Northern California.
Other: Stems of C. quindiuense are used for fences and for house walls. Extraction of wax from trunks was an important economic activity in Quindio region in the nineteenth century; it often led to the felling of entire trees. Immature plants, such as those in our South America section (planted in the early 1980s), hold their leaves in an upright, shaving-brush arrangement suited to penetrating their native cloud-forest canopy. As they reach into full sun and begin to produce flowers and fruit, crowns open into the more-familiar and graceful hemispherical silhouette seen in most palms.
Ceroxylon quindiuensecan be found in the South America Garden (Bed 55A).
In Columbia it has been the custom for centuries for Christian worshippers to cut palms fronds from their wax palm trees to celebrate Palm Sunday, waving graceful waxy branches in celebration of Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem. By the 20th century Colombians realized that their unique tree was on the verge of extinction! In 1985, an edict sponsored by both the Catholic Church and the government, forbid the cutting of wax palms frond under threat of penalty. The trees were saved, and a preserve in Valle de Cocora, a cloud forest area of the Andes, was created to protect those that remained. C. quidiuense is the national tree of Columbia.
The wax palm, one of 3000 palms distributed worldwide, is the tallest palm in the world. Its pale grey trunk can reach 200 feet and rings of wax coat the trunk and the fronds lending the wax palm it’s common name. Historically, the wax was scraped off the trunk to make soap and candles. The handsome clusters of scarlet fruit (shaped like berries) dangling from the crown are a favorite food of toucans and parrots, and also of the rare spectacled bear in the Andes.
Cerox-ylon is Greek for wax-tree. According to palm biologist, Dr Scott Zona, our botanical garden with its mild climate and extra moisture from the fog, is unique as the only botanical garden in the United States that can grow the wax palm.
IN BLOOM CONTRIBUTORS:
Joanne Taylor and Kathy McNeil, Profile Contributor: Palm expert Jason Dewees and David Kruse-Pickler