The ita palm, Mauritia flexuosa, is a tall palm tree native to tropical regions of South America. It produces edible fruit and fibers suitable for making thread. Its common name, "Tree of Life," indicates its usefulness. The ita palm grows vigorously, but is restricted to tropical and sub-tropical regions.
Growth Habits of the Ita Palm
The ita palm grows to heights of 90 feet and crowds out other plants with its vigorous growth. The leaves are palmate or fan-like. The canopy is round and full.
Ita Palm Fruit
The fruit grows in bunches that can weigh 110 pounds. They are covered in reddish-brown or reddish-yellow scales. At the center of the fruit is a hard, oval shaped seed. The seed is also edible.
Uses for Ita Fruit
Indigenous people eat the fruit raw and dried. Alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages are made from the paste of the fruit. Ita fruit is also dried and ground into flour. Oil from the fruit is high in vitamin A and is often used to treat burns. The juice is high in vitamin C and useful in jam and liqueurs.
Uses for Ita Palm
The large leaves of the Ita palm make an excellent thatch covering; however, they are heavy and require a sturdy frame to support them. Starch can be extracted from the trunk. Both leaves and trunk are used for constructing housing in the Amazon.
Growing the Ita Palm
The ita palm grows in full sun near water. It is not cold-hearty and thrives only in tropical and sub-tropical climates. Due to its rapid growth habit, it is not a suitable container plant.