The Carnauba palm
is native to tropical areas of South America
. Called the “Tree of Life
,” its scientific name is Copernica Cerifera
. This slow-growing Carnauba palm flourishes in the northeastern regions of Brazil
, reaching an average height of 25-35 feet. It proliferate
s along river banks, streams and damp lowlands where the soil
is dark and fertile.
The tree exudes a wax through the petioles of its fan-shaped leaves, preventing dehydration from the equatorial climate. Of interest is the fact that only in northern Brazil does the Carnauba palm produce wax. The tree also grows in other parts of Brazil and adjacent countries in South America, Ceylon, and Equatorial Africa, but because of the irregular rainy seasons in these places the tree fails to produce the wax.
Leaves containing the wax are cut off the tree during the period from September to February. The cut leaves are sun-dried and mechanically thrashed to remove the crude wax. This crude wax, in its powder form, is transported from the countryside and sold to shippers for export. With a maximum cutting of twenty leaves per year from a tree, the average yield of wax for each tree is about one kilogram per cutting. The color and quality of the wax is governed by the age of the leaves and care used in processing of this hard, brittle, lustrous wax.
The Carnauba wax is useful in a vast variety of industries. It is widely used in cosmetics, particularly in stick applications. It is one of the hardest natural waxes and its lustrous composition makes it the leading choice for food coatings, pharmaceutical coatings and polishes.
The plant also has a variety of other uses. It has an edible root and a small edible black fruit (olive sized). Sugar is produced from the sap, fiber from the leaves is used to make rope, and the wood is used for building and to produce excellent veneers.
An additional note from liveforever:
You can also use it in painting. One (rarely-used) technique is painting on canvas with heated Carnauba wax, with pigments added. It can be a challenge to work with, but the color depth and luster are wonderful.