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Although described somewhat disdainfully by Charles Darwin as a 'very ugly tree', many consider the Chilean wine palm (Jubaea chilensis) to be one of the most impressive palms in the world. The Chilean wine palm flowers from November to December with fruits ripening from January onwards. The lifespan of this species is not known but there are reports of large specimens in Chile living for several hundred years.

[KSP]

Kew Species Profiles

General Description

Although Darwin described the Chilean wine palm as a 'very ugly tree', many consider it to be one of the world's most magnificent palms. The Chilean wine palm flowers from November to December with fruits ripening from January onwards. The lifespan of this species is not known but there are reports of large specimens in Chile living for several hundred years.

Species Profile
Geography and distribution

The Chilean wine palm is native to Chile where it has the most southerly distribution of any palm in South America. It is widely cultivated in warm temperate regions of the world.

Description

The immense dark-grey trunk of Jubaea chilensis grows to a vast height (up to 30 m), with a diameter of 1 m or more, and often has a swollen region though that generally tapers towards the crown. The dense crown supports between 40 and 50 green or blue grey, pinnate leaves, which on dying, fall cleanly to the ground rather than persisting on the stem. Borne amongst the leaves, the large inflorescences hang down and bear both male and female flowers. The spherical fruits are yellow or brown, and, like a mini-coconut, have a nut-like shell with three 'eyes' through which the root emerges at germination.

Threats and conservation

Historically, the Chilean wine palm was extremely abundant, but several centuries of destructive over-harvesting for the collection of sap have reduced it to just a few significant populations. The remaining populations of the Chilean wine palm are mainly restricted to protected areas. However, efforts are being made by local conservation groups in Chile to reforest areas lying within the Chilean wine palm's former range. Furthermore, the harvesting of palm sap is now limited under Chilean law, and it is hoped that non-destructive harvesting methods will eventually be implemented.

Uses

The sap from the Chilean wine palm can be fermented into a palm wine or, as is more common today, concentrated into a sweet syrup (palm honey) for culinary uses. In order to obtain the sap, the trunks are felled and the crown cut from the apex of the stem. The sap then drains out over a period lasting several months, sometimes yielding more than 300 litres. In addition to production of palm honey, the edible seeds are also harvested and the leaves are used to make baskets.

Millennium Seed Bank: Seed storage

Kew's Millennium Seed Bank Partnership aims to save plant life world wide, focusing on plants under threat and those of most use in the future. Seeds are dried, packaged and stored at a sub-zero temperature in our seed bank vault.

A collection of Jubaea chilensis seeds is held in Kew's Millennium Seed Bank based at Wakehurst in West Sussex.

See Kew's Seed Information Database for further information on Jubaea chilensis seeds

Cultivation

Jubaea chilensis is widely cultivated in warm temperate regions of the world as a magnificent ornamental. Adventurous gardeners in the southern parts of the UK are also finding it relatively hardy.

This species at Kew

An enormous specimen was grown in Kew's Temperate House. Raised from seed in 1846, it was widely believed to be the tallest glasshouse plant and certainly the largest palm under glass. Unfortunately it had to be removed as it outgrew its spot, but new specimens have been grown from the seed of this same tree.

Distribution
Chile
Ecology
Occurs at low elevations in dry river valleys or open hillsides, in seasonally dry regions with a Mediterranean climate.
Conservation
Classified as Vulnerable (VU) A1cd on the IUCN Red List.
Hazards

None recorded

[KSP]
Use
Production of palm honey.

Native to:

Chile Central

English
Chilean wine palm

Jubaea chilensis (Molina) Baill. appears in other Kew resources:

Date Reference Identified As Barcode Type Status
Dec 17, 1981 Chile 71306.000
29047.490

First published in Hist. Pl. 13: 397 (1895)

Accepted by

  • Govaerts, R. & Dransfield, J. (2005). World Checklist of Palms: 1-223. The Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
  • Grau, J. (2006). Palms of Chile: 1-203. Ediciones OIKOS Ltda., Santiago de Chile.
  • Zizka, G. (1991). Flowering plants of Easter island Palmarum Hortus Francofurtensis 3: 1-108.

Literature

Kew Species Profiles

  • Darwin, C.R. (1845). Journal of Researches into the Natural History and Geology of the Countries Visited During the Voyage of H.M.S. Beagle Round the World, Under the Command of Capt. Fitz Roy, R.N. 2nd edition. John Murray, London.
  • Dransfield, J., N. W. Uhl, C. B. Asmussen, W. J. Baker, M. M. Harley, and C. E. Lewis. (2008). Genera Palmarum: The Evolution and Classification of Palms. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
  • Grau, J. (2006). Palms of Chile. Ediciones Oikos Ltda, Santiago de Chile.
  • Henderson, A., Galeano, G. & Bernal, R. (1995). Field Guide to the Palms of the Americas. Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey, USA.
  • IUCN Red List (March, 2009).
  • PALMA Foundation (March, 2009).
  • Rundel, P.W. (2002). The Chilean wine palm. MEMBG Newsletter, 5(4).

Kew Backbone Distributions

  • Grau, J. (2006). Palms of Chile: 1-203. Ediciones OIKOS Ltda., Santiago de Chile.

Herbarium Catalogue Specimens

Kew Backbone Distributions
The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families 2021. Published on the Internet at http://www.ipni.org and http://apps.kew.org/wcsp/
© Copyright 2017 World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0

Kew Names and Taxonomic Backbone
The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families 2021. Published on the Internet at http://www.ipni.org and http://apps.kew.org/wcsp/
© Copyright 2017 International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0

Kew Science Photographs
Digital Image © Board of Trustees, RBG Kew http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Kew Species Profiles
Kew Species Profiles
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0

Palmweb - Palms of the World Online
Palmweb 2011. Palmweb: Palms of the World Online. Published on the internet http://www.palmweb.org. Accessed on 21/04/2013
Content licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0