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Aphandra (Aphandra Natalia)
Aphandra Natalia Palm
The West Amazonian Piassaba fibre Aphandra is extracted from the palm Aphandra Natalia, which grows in tropical lowland rainforests in Ecuador and Peru close to the foothills of the Andes.
This palm has been known and exploited for centuries by indigenous communities for a multitude of purposes. Its leaves are used for thatch and for darts for blowguns, its male flowers are used for feeding domestic animals, the pulp of its fruits is used for attracting game animals, its seeds are used for making figurines etc., and most importantly the fibre from its leaf sheaths is extracted and used to make various brooms and brushes. This fibre is almost identical to “Piassaba” fibre extracted from species of Attalea and Leopoldinia elsewhere in the Amazon.
The Piassaba fibres from the Northern and Eastern Amazon have been known and amply documented in literature since they were discovered by western science in the 19th century. It was therefore surprising when in 1985 the west Amazonian Piassaba palm was discovered to belong to the group of ivory palms (subfamily Phytelephantoideae) that is distributed in the western parts of the South American continent (Balslev & Henderson, 1987).
Aphandra brooms in Ecuador
As it turned out, all brooms made from natural plant fibre throughout Ecuador were made with Aphandra Natalia fibre, and many indigenous communities in Amazonian Ecuador had and still have important economic incomes originating from this fibre palm – but it was believed until very recently that it was a local phenomenon restricted to Ecuador.
A few years ago our company imported some Aphandra, which was ideal for semi-stiff platform brooms, but the supply was erratic, and none has been imported recently.