Century-old wild Quito palms discovered in northern Peru

A population of spectacular Quito palms — a species that no longer occurs as a naturally wild plant in its original highland habitat — was discovered growing in a valley in northern Peru by a group of Peruvian scientists, daily El Comercio reported on Wednesday.

Lima’s La Catolica University scientists, led by Jesuit ethnobotanist Fernando Roca, discovered the century-old palms in the Tabaconas River Valley, located in Peru’s northern department of Cajamarca. They are most likely Latin America’s only wild Quito palm population.

“The small village of Tabaconas was built between these palms and some of (the palms) are located outside the village,” said Roca. “They are beautiful palm trees, with a great ornamental potential. They could adorn our country’s parks and city plazas. Some species can be cultivated at altitudes as high as 3,800 meters.”

Normally found only in cultivation, the Coco Cumbe or Quito palm, known scientifically as “Parajubaea cocoides,” is a flowering highland palm tree with graceful arching fronds and a smooth trunk. These plants experience sub-zero temperatures in their native range and edible oil can be obtained from their sweet-tasting seeds.

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