Carludovica palmata

Carludovica palmata
Jardin des plantes, Paris

Carludovica palmata or Panama hat palm is not a palm tree nor from Panama.

It is a herb whose fibers are used to make hats in Panama, from where they are exported.

It is quite easy to grow, it needs a lot of water and does not tolerate drought.

Can be grown in the garden only in the tropics but elsewhere it grows easily in pot as a patio or house plant.

Description:

Carludovica palmata is a stemless, palm-like, evergreen shrub of up to 3-4 m high.

The leaves are fan-shaped and form large clusters. The petioles form a sheath at the base of palm-like, deep-lobed leaves.

The flowers are unisexual, with both male and female flowers on the same plant. The inflorescences are dense, axillary spadixes with 2 or more deciduous spathes.

Usage:

  • Ornamental
  • All parts of the plant are edible but the fruits contain calcium oxalate crystals
  • Fibers of the petiole are used to manufacture Panama hats, cigar cases, bags, mats…
  • The leaves are used as roofing or emergency umbrella

Nomenclature:

Common names:

Jipijapa palm, palmita, Panama hat palm, toquilla palm

Synonyms:

Carludovica gigantea, Carludovica humilis, Carludovica incisa, Carludovica jamaicensis, Carludovica palmata var. humilis, Carludovica serrata, Ludovia palmata, Salmia jamaicensis, Salmia palmata

Etymology:

Carludovica: after King Charles IV of Spain (1748-1819) and his Queen, Luisa (1751-1819)
Palmata: from the Latin palmātus (palm-like)

Origin:

Western South America

Habitat:

Lowland and submontane rainforests, 0-800 m altitude

Hardiness:

USDA zone 10-11

Care:

Soil:

Fertile, moist but well-drained soil

Light:

Light, partial shadow

Water:

Keep moist all year round

Feed:

In the garden: organic fertilizer, 3-4 times a year
In pot: general garden fertilizer (10-30-10) monthly

Propagation:

Mostly by dividing the roots but also by seed.

Sowing instructions:

  • sow in moist sowing substrate
  • 25-30 °C
  • germination: 2 weeks
  • protect the seedlings from direct sunlight

Image sources

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