Chontaduro palm

Chontaduro palm for construction, food

Bactris gasipaes

Macás, Ecuador


What is it? This is a section of the outer wood from a species of palm tree with a distinctive spiny trunk, known as Chontaduro. In the Shuar language it is known as uwi.

Where does it come from? The Chontaduro palm is found throughout the tropical forests of Central and South America, particularly in the western Amazon region. 

How is it used? Almost every part of the Chontaduro is used by many rainforest peoples. The fruit and in particular the palm heart are staple food, while the fruit is also harvested and made into chicha beer. Chontaduro is home to its own species of beetle Rhynchophorus palmarum, whose larva or chontacuro is regarded as a delicacy. When someone spots a diseased palm it is felled and the sections of the soft white heart with larval nests are scooped out to provide a rich, valued, and convenient source of meat. Chontaduro wood, stripped of its spines, is very hard and long-lasting which is important in the humid tropics. It is used for making everything from spears to building walls, floors and furniture, as well as for crafts and musical instruments.

How important is it? For many Amazonian peoples the Chonta festival is their most important annual celebration. The fruiting season signals a time of plenty when many other fruits come into season and migratory animals arrive.

Linked objects:

Cassava tuber

Chicha beer bowl