An Eco-sustainable World
ArborealSpecies Plant

Syagrus picrophylla

Syagrus picrophylla

The lent coconut (Syagrus picrophylla Barb. Rodr., 1879) is an arboreal species belonging to the Arecaceae family.

Systematics –
From a systematic point of view it belongs to:
Eukaryota domain,
Kingdom Plantae,
Subkingdom Tracheobionta,
Spermatophyta superdivision,
Magnoliophyta division,
Class Liliopsida,
Arecales Order,
Arecaceae family,
Subfamily Arecoideae,
Tribe Cocoseae,
Subtribe Butiinae,
Genus Syagrus,
S. picrophylla species.
The terms are synonyms:
– Cocos catechucarpa Barb.Rodr.;
– Cocos oleracea Drude;
– Cocos oleracea Mart.;
– Cocos picrophylla (Barb.Rodr.) Barb.Rodr.;
– Syagrus catechucarpa (Barb.Rodr.) Becc.;
– Syagrus oleracea (Drude) Becc.;
– Syagrus oleracea (Mart.) Becc..

Etymology –
The term Syagrus is of unclear origin; the most probable hypothesis is that it derives from the name syagrus given by Pliny the Elder (23/24 AD – 79) to a variety of date palm.
The specific epithet picrophylla is the combination of the Greek adjective πικρός (pikrós), that is bitter and of the noun φύλλον (phyllon), that is leaf, probably with the bitter taste of the vegetative apexes.

Geographic Distribution and Habitat –
Syagrus picrophylla is a palm native to north-eastern and south-eastern Brazil, precisely in the states of: Bahia, Espírito Santo, Rio de Janeiro.
Its natural habitat is mainly that of the coastal rainforest (Mata Atlantica), montane savannah and semi-arid and open forests, where it grows on sandy to reddish and clayey soils, on steep slopes of granite rocks, at altitudes between 800 and 1,100 m meters.

Description –
Syagrus picrophylla is a monoecious palm with an erect, columnar stem, widened at the base, with a height varying between 3 and 7 m, 15-25 cm broad; the stem is in diameter, grayish in color with prominent annular scars of the attachment of the fallen leaves, except for a section under the crown where it is covered by the residues of the foliar bases.
The leaves are carried by a short petiole and are pinnate, 2,5-3,2 m long, with 90-160 pairs of linear leaflets with acuminate apex; they are rigid, irregularly arranged on the rachis in groups of 2-4 on slightly different angles, 40-60 cm long in the median part and 2,5-3,5 cm broad. The leaves have an intense green color on the upper side and pale on the underside; the leaf base is 1-1.5 m long, green in color and has fibrous margins.
The inflorescences are at the extremity of a 40-60 cm long peduncle; they are interleaving and 60-80 cm long; they have a yellowish cream colour, initially enclosed in a woody orange spathe, with first order ramifications and unisexual flowers arranged in triads (a female flower between two male ones), except in the terminal part of the rachillae where there are only solitary male flowers or in couple.
The fruits are ellipsoid in shape, 3,5-4,2 cm long and 2,5-3 cm of diameter; they have a chestnut-orange color when ripe and an epicarp and mesocarp often divided into three parts at the apex.
Inside there is only one ellipsoidal seed 1.5-2 cm long and about 1.5 cm in diameter.

Cultivation –
Syagrus microphylla is an evergreen palm that is sometimes harvested from the wild for local medicinal use.
This palm was almost unknown in cultivation until the second half of the 20th century, also due to the difficulty of obtaining seeds, due to the inaccessible places where it grows in its natural state.
However, this palm can be employed as single specimen, in group or as road tree in the tropical, subtropical and marginally warm temperate climate regions, where adult specimens can resist temperatures up to about -3 °C for a short time.
For its cultivation it requires full sun, except in the initial phases of growth when it needs partial shade, and it is not particular about the soil, even poor and rocky, but it grows more vigorously in regularly irrigated fertile soils in climates characterized by long summers hot and dry.
As well as being cold tolerant and also fast growing, making it very popular in cultivation.
The fruits are edible, with fibrous pulp, but with a sweet taste.
This palm reproduces by seed, previously kept in water for 3 days, in a draining substratum kept humid at the temperature of 26-28 °C, which germinates after 2-4 months.

Customs and Traditions –
Syagrus picrophylla is a palm known with some common names, such as: slow coconut (English); coco-de-quaresma, coco-de-quarta, coqueiro-gerivá, gerivá, jerivá, licuri (Portuguese-Brazil).
It is a palm that has great prospects for cultivation as an ornamental plant, both for its very rapid growth, robust, tolerant of cool temperatures and wind, easily transplantable and with seeds that are easy to germinate.
Due to its natural growth in inaccessible places, little is known about its use in the areas where it grew.
However, in addition to the presence of the edible fruits it has been used in the medicinal field, where the liquid endosperm of the unripe fruits has been used in the treatment of eye irritation.
Among other uses, its high potential as an ornamental or houseplant is underlined.

Method of Preparation –
Syagrus picrophylla is a palm whose fruits are edible and certainly eaten by the local populations where it grows in its natural state.
In the medicinal field it has been used in the treatment of eye irritation.

Guido Bissanti

– Acta Plantarum – Flora of the Italian Regions.
– Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
– GBIF, the Global Biodiversity Information Facility.
– Useful Tropical Plants Database.
– Conti F., Abbate G., Alessandrini A., Blasi C. (ed.), 2005. An annotated checklist of the Italian vascular flora, Palombi Editore.
– Pignatti S., 1982. Flora of Italy, Edagricole, Bologna.
– Treben M., 2000. Health from the Lord’s Pharmacy, Advice and experiences with medicinal herbs, Ennsthaler Editore.

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Attention: The pharmaceutical applications and alimurgical uses are indicated for informational purposes only, they do not in any way represent a medical prescription; we therefore decline all responsibility for their use for curative, aesthetic or food purposes.

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