Leopoldinia pulchra (2)

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Figure 1. L. pulchra

The Jara or Jara miri (little Jara) is from ten to fifteen feet high. The stem is cylindrical, erect, and about two inches in diameter. The leaves are very regularly pinnate, about four feet long, with the leaflets slightly drooping and the terminal pair small. The leaf-stalks are slender and the sheathing bases are persistent, giving out from their margins abundance of flat fibrous processes which are curiously netted and interlaced together, clothing the stem with a firm covering often down to the very base. At the lower part this gradually rots and is rubbed away or falls off, leaving the stem bare. The flower-stalks or spadices are numerous, and very large and much branched; and the fruits are about an inch in diameter, oval and flattened, and of a pale greenish-yellow colour. The outer covering is firm and fleshy, and has a very bitter taste.

This species is found on the banks of the Rio Negro and some of its tributaries, from its mouth up to its source, and on the black-water tributaries of the Orinoco. It never grows far from the water's edge, though generally out of reach of the floods in the wet season. It is not known to occur beyond this very limited district.

The stem of this tree being very smooth and cylindrical, and of a convenient length, it is much used for fencing round yards snd gardens, and in the city of Barra do Rio Negro is universally employed for such purposes. The want of neatness out of doors, which is quite a characteristic of the Portuguese and Indian settlers on the Amazon, is always apparent in these fences. It is never thought worth while to cut the poles all to one length, but they are set up just as they are brought in from the forest; and the space between two handsome houses in the city may often be seen filled up with a Jara railing of most unpicturesque irregularity.

The bright green and glossy foliage of this tree also renders it suitable for another purpose. On certain saints' days, little altars and green avenues are made before the principal houses in Barra, the Jara palm being always used to construct them; and its graceful fronds rustling in the evening breeze, fitfully reflecting the light of the wax tapers which burn before the image of the saint, with the blazing torches of the rustic procession, have a very pleasing effect. The reticulate covering of the stem of this species offers a fine station for the epiphytal Orchidae to attach themselves, and the Jara palms are accordingly often adorned with their curious and ornamental flowers.

Extracted from:

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

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