Tambopata Palm[tab: Description of the Tambopata Palm ]
Description of theTambopata Palm:
One thing that struck me when I first encountered a Neotropical rainforest was the abundance of palms. I always associated palm trees with Caribbean beaches and cocktails, however, they are common here and very important to the local people the aguaje palm, (Mauritia sp.), can be found along the edges of most lakes and is often the dominant tree type in swamps (hence the local name for such swamps-aguajales). Its reddish scaled fruits are collected by the locals and either eaten raw or made into a drink mixed with lots of sugar or used as a flavoring for ice-cream.
Tambopata Palm.- The fruit is an important source of Vitamin “A” for people in the region (said to have three times as much as carrots). The pona, or walking palm (Socratea sp.) is another common species found mainly in the wetter partially flooded parts of the forest. It as long, spiny, still roots that prop up its thin trunk and aid it in the uptakeof nutrients and water.
The Huacrapona (Iriarlea sp.) palm is a very distinctive tree because of its unique swollen midriff. This bulge is probably an adaptation to combat high winds as it is soft and pulpy inside allowing it to bend. It is also known as the penis palm due to its phallic prop roots. Local people use the bulge in the trunk to make a temporary canoe.
They hollow out the pulpy interior leaving the hard outer bark, which is a perfect canoe shape. The resulting craft will last for about three months before becoming saturated with water and sinking. Once chopped down and left for about a month, the rest of the trunk can then be carefully split open to reveal a network of maggot tunnels. These beetle larvae make their home in the fallen palm tree and can be extracted and eaten raw, although they are much nicer fried in oil with a touch of salt. They are about two inches long and the local name for them is suri.
The most species rich tree family in our rainforest is the legumes. This huge group includes the mimosa, acacias, beans, peas, many vines, lianas and herbs as well.
They are often characterized by having small fern-like leaves that look feathery and delicate from the ground, in stark contrast to the large waxy leaves of other tree groups,do not be surprised, when you ask your guide to identify a tree, if they respond with “another legume”.
They are not fobbing you off. Probably true, they are very abundant.[tab: Tambopata Palm Picture ]