Chontaduro

Bactris gasipaes

Orden: Order: Arecales

Familia: Family: Arecaceae

Género: Genus: Bactris

Especie: Species: Gasipaes

Nombres comunes: Common names: Chontaduro, chocarrás, chonta palmito, pupuña.

Parte de la planta que se usa para el pigmento: Part of the plant used for pigment: Leaf

Color: Green

Preparation of chontaduro leaves.

Chontaduro pigment on paper. 102 x 68 cm

Herbarium. Dried Chontaduro leaves, sewn on rice paper.
77 x 57 cm. 2013.

Monotype on rice paper made from the dried Chontaduro leaves.
100 x 65 cm. 2013.

Planta

Plant

Chontaduro. Leticia, Colombia, 2011.

Descripción general

General Description

Palm with a straight, cylindrical and spiny stem, 10 to 25 cm in diameter, which when fully grown reaches up to twenty meters in height. Its leaves, which number between 9 and 20, are luxuriant and thorny, and form a group at the top of the plant, measuring up to 50 cm in width and 4 m in length. It has small, yellowish-white flowers, almost always enclosed in a large, spiny sheath. It produces clusters of up to 140 oval-shaped fruits, each up to 6 cm in diameter. The exocarp is hard, smooth or sometimes striated, and varies in color from yellow to deep red when ripe. It contains a single conical seed embedded in its juicy and succulent mesocarp.

Chontaduro. Leticia, Colombia, 2011.

Distribución geográfica
e historia natural

Geographic Distribution
and Natural History

Native to the tropical forests of Central and South America, its range extends from Nicaragua and Costa Rica—including some Caribbean islands—to Brazil and Bolivia; and from the Pacific coast of Ecuador to the mouth of the Amazon and the Guianas. It grows along river beds and in clearings mainly in primary forest, in the warm climate of the mountain lowlands and in non-flooding humid areas, up to 1,300 meters above sea level.   With 79 species, Bactris is the second-most numerous genus in the Neotropics. Within its genus, the palm Bactris gasipaes is the most important to be domesticated. It is known to have been used for more than 2,000 years and its cultivation spread throughout tropical America long before the arrival of the Spanish. In recent decades, it has been introduced to other countries such as Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, and the Hawaiian Islands.   It was first collected at the beginning of the 19th century close to Ibagué, Colombia by Alexander von Humboldt and Aimé Bonpland, who called it “peach palm.” Later, and at their request, it was botanically described in 1828 as Bactris gasipaes by the German botanist Carl Sigismund Kunth, responsible for the classification of the entire botanical collection left by the expedition of the two naturalists to America. The type specimen of this species was donated in 1833 by Bonpland to the Museum of Natural History in Paris, where it is preserved to this day.   In Latin America it is known by about fifty different names. In Colombia it is called chontaduro; in Costa Rica, pejibaye; pigibaio in Panama; as well as pijuayo in Peru and pupunha in Brazil. It is also known in other places as chontaruru, pipire, pixbae, pijibay, cachipay, pifá, chima or tembe.

Chontaduro pigment manual extraction. Leticia, Colombia, 2011.

Usos

Uses

In many chronicles of the Indies there are references to its use across much of the territory of New Granada (Colombia, Venezuela and Ecuador), Central America and Brazil. In Colombia, these references allow it to be located, since the Conquest, on the Pacific coast, the basins of the Atrato, Cauca and Magdalena rivers, the Orinoco and the Amazon. They set out in great detail its usefulness and importance, both for the Amerindians and for the first European explorers.   It is probable that the black palm sticks and clubs that Christopher Columbus saw being used by the indigenous people of Cariay in Costa Rica during his fourth voyage, in 1502, were made from the wood of the species Bactris gasipaes. However, the first historical references to the plant date from at least the first half of the 16th century. In their references to the province of Popayán, between 1540 and 1550, Pedro Cieza de León and Jorge Robledo name the palm, although they use the word pijibay or another of its variants from Central American indigenous languages; this suggests that it was in this region that the Spaniards learned about its uses for the first time.   In the last quarter of the 16th century, the form chonta-ruru, whose semantic relationship is described by the chronicler Juan de Velasco as “the fruit of any palm,” began to replace the other regional names. In 1583, Francisco Guillén Chaparro used the name chotarudo, which is much closer to the term currently used in Colombia, geographically linking the plant to northwestern South America. The first written mention of the Quechua word chontaduro was by the Spanish soldier and naturalist Bernardo de Vargas Machuca in 1599, and from then on this name became widespread. It is likely that it was spread in southern Colombia by indigenous Yanaconas of Quechua origin, from northern Ecuador. It has been said that a representation of the chontaduro palm appeared on the shield of Manco Cápac, the mythical founder of the Inca empire.   Considered the most important palm of those domesticated and cultivated by primitive American peoples, due to its great number of uses the chontaduro is a central pillar of the material and spiritual culture of the Amazonian indigenous peoples. Since pre-Hispanic times, in eastern Ecuador, the indigenous Shuar, also known as Jívaros, have used it in their most important religious celebrations. In their mythology it is known as uwi, the personification of the abundance of the jungle and the fecundity of the cosmos. When the fruits ripen, during the harvest they hold rituals for the fertility of animals and plants and the vitality of mankind. The chonta spear is their traditional weapon, used both for war and hunting.   According to records from the mid-18th century, the indigenous people of the upper Caquetá river basin made blowpipes with the wood of the chonta palm, and in Pasto and Quito “macona de chonta” looms were used to weave ruanas and capisayos.   In the 19th century, the Tayrona Indians of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta manufactured blowguns from macana wood to hunt birds, using an ancient technique. At the beginning of the 20th century, the Witoto in the Amazon were still building their blowguns of the same material.   The marimba is a musical instrument of African origin, typical of the Pacific coast in Ecuador and Colombia. It is composed of multiple pieces that are made with palm wood, and the first mentions of its use in America date back to the 18th century.   Despite European colonization, the ancestral use of chontaduro still persists in the Amazon and other tropical areas of Central and South America by indigenous groups from Colombia, Ecuador, Brazil, Nicaragua and Costa Rica.   In the Colombian Pacific, the Jaibaná, healers and Emberá shamans, use the wood of the stem of the chontaduro to carve their ceremonial batons, an essential element in their rituals and healing ceremonies. In Ecuador, the Tsáchila or Colorado people prepare a stew with the roots to ritually bathe and purify the young apprentices of the shaman.   Along with corn and cassava, chontaduro has played an essential role in indigenous diets across much of Latin America. The highly nutritious pulp is consumed raw, or after cooking, or in preparations such as chicha, or preserved in the form of dough or flour. An oil is extracted from the seed that is used in cooking. In addition, from the bud of its still young stem, the edible palm heart is extracted. When the palm is adult, its well-formed stems provide wood for the construction of huts and the manufacture of weapons and tools. Some Amazonian groups, such as the Shawi in Peru or the Tikuna in Colombia, extract a green pigment from the young leaves. The latter use it to paint on yanchama, a fabric of important symbolic value made from Poulsenia armata plant fibers, on which they use plant pigments to make their art.   In the Amazon basin, it is used by the Andoque, Barasana, Carijona, Cofán, Cubeo, Desana, Emberá, Macuna, Miraña, Muinane, Nukak, Ocaina, Piapoco, Piratapuyo, Pisamira, Puinave, Secoya, Tukano, Tunebo, Witoto, Yagua and Yurutí ethnic groups, among others.   Highly appreciated to this day, especially for its important nutritional properties, the fruit has been promoted as a “vegetable egg,” since it is rich in essential amino acids, proteins, omega 3 and omega 6 polyunsaturated fatty acids, fiber, carbohydrates, vitamins A, B and C, and minerals like iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and calcium.   It is usually eaten fresh or after thirty to sixty minutes of cooking in salted water. Today it is also processed together with flour for bread and pastry products, in jams and jellies, and many other food products.   It has been used medicinally to treat body aches, headaches, psoriasis, inflammations, and tuberculosis. It is useful against anemia, digestive disorders, lack of appetite or vitality, and memory problems. It helps reduce cholesterol levels and reduces the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases. It benefits intestinal health due to its high content of dietary fiber and helps maintain body weight and prevent diseases such as colon cancer and diabetes. It improves vision because it is a natural source of carotenoids, such as beta-carotene and lycopene, which also help with skin care thanks to their antioxidant properties.   The seeds possess antioxidant, nutritional, moisturizing and emollient properties and are useful in anti-aging dermatological formulations. The roots of the palm may be cooked and the extract used to treat colds, uterine infections, hepatitis, malaria, stomach pain, diarrhea and urinary infections.

Pigmento

Pigment

The chontaduro provides a green pigment when its leaflets are macerated. This is a very popular plant that can be found easily. Its pigment sets very well on paper, but not on fique (natural fiber); and on cotton it generates a low-intensity, pale green. It does not require exposure to fire to bind to the supports used.

Macerating the chontaduro leaves.

Extracción + teñido

Extraction + dyeing

Amacizo

Erythrina cf fusca

Orden: Order: Fabales

Familia: Family: Fabaceae

Género: Genus: Erythrina

Especie: Species: Fusca

Nombres comunes: Common names: Amaciza, bucayo, gallito, helequeme

Parte de la planta que se usa para el pigmento: Part of the plant used for pigment: Leaf

Color: Green

* La incertidumbre en la asignación del nombre, expresada en la abreviación «cf.» del latín confertus, o «por confirmar», se debe a que las características de los árboles con las que hemos trabajado en este proyecto no corresponden en su totalidad con las de Erythrina fusca, y, sin embargo, es la especie a la que más se asemeja, y de la que se ha registrado más comúnmente el nombre amacizo. Una identificación más exacta será posible cuando contemos con flores o frutos, lo cual no ha sido posible hasta ahora.

Amacizo pigment on paper.

Amacizo pigment on paper. 102 x 68 cm

Herbarium. Dried Amacizo leaves, sewn on rice paper.
77 x 57 cm. 2013.

Monotype on rice paper made from the dried Amacizo leaves.
100 x 65 cm. 2013.

Planta

Plant

Amacizo. Leticia, Colombia, 2011.

Descripción general

General Description

A tree that can reach thirty meters in height. Typically branches close to the ground, forming a low, leafy crown; the trunk may have small or large spines. The leaves are divided into three leaflets that are ovate in shape, that is to say, wider at the base, but which can be slightly elongated or oblong. These leaflets are between 7 and 14 cm long, with a tip that is generally rounded and whitish, with a few tiny hairs that are lost with age, which contrasts with the dark green of the upper part. The flowers are bright orange and are grouped in clusters at the end of the branches, and the fruits are legumes, like beans, up to 30 cm long. The seeds are a speckled brown.

Amacizo leaves.

Amacizo. Leticia, Colombia, 2011.

Distribución geográfica
e historia natural

Geographic Distribution
and Natural History

This species grows in all tropical areas of America, from sea level to approximately 1,100 meters above sea level. In Colombia it has been recorded in all natural regions, and grows in both dry and flooded areas. The seeds float in water, and can be dispersed that way; in fact, the preferred habitat of this species is the margins of rivers, lakes and swamps, where it becomes an important component of the vegetation. In some areasof the Pantanal wetland biome in Brazil, this is the dominant species, which is partly explained by the presence of secondary metabolites that prevent or reduce the growth of competing species around it.   In the Peruvian Amazon it flowers from July to August, and bears fruit from August to September. In Panama it flowers from December to May, and bears fruit from March to May; there, many birds have been identified that are attracted by the nectar of its flowers, especially species of orioles that migrate from the north. In the Colombian Amazon, twenty-two different species of birds have been observed visiting the flowers of this species, several of which act as pollinators, and in Brazil, twenty species were observed visiting it, some of them consuming the flowers. The flowers only open with the help of birds and it is one of the few species in which pollination by parrots has been reported. It is propagated by seeds, but this may also be achieved by cuttings.   In Colombia it is known as búcaro, cantagallo, cachimbo, amacise, amasisa, chengue, chengué, chambul, chocha, palo de agua, pito, zapato de reina, búcaro de pantano, cantagallo colorado, cachingo, cámbulo rosado, and pizamo. In Venezuela it is known as bucare anauco, reinoso, oparu, ubaru; and in Peru it is called gachico.

Amacizo during the maceration process. Leticia, Colombia, 2011.

Usos

Uses

Although infrequently used as an ornamental, it is occasionally employed as coffee shade or as a living fence. Where it is used in this way in some regions of Colombia thanks to its abundant foliage, studies have been carried out into its value as a supplementary cattle feed; however, treatment is recommended to denature the tannins which are abundant in leaves and reduce the availability of nutrients.   The alkaloids ertrahlina and erythramina, similar to curare, have been obtained from this species. The antimalarial effect of some flavonoids extracted from its bark has also been demonstrated.

Pigmento

Pigment

The amacizo produces a green pigment, which is obtained by macerating its leaves. This ink adheres to paper best, creating a strong and intense coloring. On cotton a pale green is obtained, while it does not adhere properly onto fique. It does not require exposure to fire to properly set.

Macerating the amacizo leaves.

Extracción + teñido

Extraction + dyeing