Wednesday, January 03, 2007
When you look at the mumbaca palm (Astrocaryum gynacanthum) you think, hum.... thorns! The slender 12-16 feet high trunks are protected by hundreds of 3 inch-long thorns, which also inject a toxin into the unlucky recipient. Providing some humor to my tour, I tell my clients that mumbaca is the palm that Richard Spruce made famous. You may remember that Richard Spruce was the English botanist who surveyed rubber tree species in South America in the mid-1800s. As I remember it, he discovered 14 different species of rubber trees but came to indicate Hevea brasiliensis as the best quality. It is no coincidence that the 70,000 rubber tree seeds taken from Santarém to Kew Gardens were of this variety. But back to the mumbaca palm. Before returning to England, Spruce accidently pricked a finger on a mumbaca thorn. Some 17 years later, he wrote in one of his books that there were still nights when he couldn't sleep because of the pain in that finger".