Leopoldinia major

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Figure 1. L. major

Tns Jara assu or "greater Jara" closely resembles the last species, but it is considerably larger. The stem is four inches in diameter and reaches thirty feet in height. It is often much thicker at the bottom than in the upper part, and has a greater proportion of the stem bare. Thc leaves are very similar, but the spadices are larger, and the fruit is also larger and much more abundant.

This tree occurs plentifully on the lakes and inlets of the upper Rio Negro, but is not found at the mouth of the river like the last species. It grows too at a lower level, being often found with a part of the stem under water.

The Indians collect the fruit in large quantities, and by burning and washing extract a floury substance, which they use as a substitute for salt when they cannot procure that article. They assert positively that the smaller species of Jara will not yield the same product; but perhaps this may be only because the fruit is less abundant, and they do not take the trouble to collect it.

Coarse Portugal salt is used in the Rio Negro, and among the Indiana in the upper part of the river serves as a circulating medium, about a pound of it being reckoned equivalent to a day's work. The supply however is very uncertain, and there are many distant tribes which it scarcely ever reaches; and it is among them that the substitute is manufactured from the fruit of the Jara. It is doubtful, however whether it contains any true salt, for it is described as being more bitter than saline in taste; yet with this alone to season their fish and cassava the Indians enjoy almost perfect health. Perhaps, therefore, mineral salt may not be such a necessary of life as we are accustomed to consider it.

Extracted from:

Palm Trees of the Amazon, Alfred Russel Wallace Pub: John van Voorst; 1853

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