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Copernicia prunifera - (Mill.) H.E.Moore

Common Name Brazilian Wax Palm, Carnauba Palm, Carnauba Wax
Family Arecaceae
USDA hardiness 10-12
Known Hazards Plant has spines or sharp edges; use extreme caution when handling
Habitats Dry forest areas of Brazil, growing along rivers in valleys, often in areas subject to periodic inundation and periodic drought[419, 768].
Range S. America - northeastern Brazil.
Edibility Rating    (3 of 5)
Other Uses    (4 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (3 of 5)
Care (info)
Tender Moist Soil Full sun
Copernicia prunifera Brazilian Wax Palm, Carnauba Palm, Carnauba Wax

Copernicia prunifera Brazilian Wax Palm, Carnauba Palm, Carnauba Wax


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Copernicia prunifera or Carnauba Palm is a tropical fan palm native to north eastern Brazil. It grows up to 20 m in height with trunk diameter of up to 25 cm. It has a circular tree crown. The flowers are bisexual. The fruits are round, small, and black. The plant, particularly the coating of the leaves, is a source of carnauba wax which is used to make varnishes, lubricant, soap, candles, etc. The fruit and pith are edible. The pith has high starch content and is used to make sago. The trunk also yields an edible gum. The leaves and the apical bud are both eaten as vegetable. The seed is used as coffee substitute and is a source of oil. The leaves are used as thatching and weaving material. Leaf fibres are made into ropes. The wood is used for fuel, poles, fencing, etc. The plant is drought resistant. Other names include wax palm and carnauba.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of cone
Copernicia prunifera is an evergreen Tree growing to 12 m (39ft) by 3 m (9ft) at a slow rate.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 10.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers moist soil and can tolerate drought.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Arrudaria cerifera (Arruda) Macedo Copernicia cerifera (Arruda) Mart. Corypha cerifera Arruda Palma


Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Oil
Edible Uses: Coffee  Gum  Oil

The pith of the trunk is rich in starch and is used to make sago[ 301 ]. An edible gum is obtained from the trunk[ 301 ]. Young inflorescences[ 301 ]. The seed is used as a coffee substitute[ 301 ]. Leaves - cooked[ 763 ]. The apical bud, often known as a 'palm heart', is eaten as a vegetable[ 763 ]. Eating this bud leads to the death of the tree because it is unable to make side shoots[ K ].

References   More on Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.
Antiarthritic  Antirheumatic  Depurative  Diuretic  Skin

The roots are depurative and diuretic. A decoction is considered a specific treatment for syphilis, and is also used in the treatment of arthritis, rheumatism, dermal afflictions and oedema[739]. A wax obtained from the leaves is used in the preparation of ointments and cataplasms[739].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses

Basketry  Fencing  Fibre  Fuel  Gum  Oil  Polish  Soap making  String  Thatching  Varnish  Wax  Wood

Other Uses: A high quality wax is obtained from the lower surfaces of the leaves[ 297 , 768 ]. It is very hard and has a high melting point[ 46 ]. It is used to make various high quality polishes and varnishes, phonographic records, lubricants, soaps, candles etc[ 46 , 297 , 419 ]. The leaves can be used for thatching and weaving into articles such as mats, baskets and hats[ 297 , 454 ]. The leaves (probably the fibre from them[ K ]) are used to make ropes[ 419 ]. An oil is obtained from the seeds[ 419 ]. The wood is soft, moderately heavy, long-lasting in salty water, easy to work. It is used for fencing, rustic buildings, laths, lathe work such as walking sticks etc[ 297 , 419 ]. The whole stems are used for poles[ 419 ]. The wood is used for fuel[ 419 ]. Landscape Uses: Attractive flowers.

Special Uses

Carbon Farming  Food Forest

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

Industrial Crop: Wax  Management: Standard  Regional Crop

Plants succeed in moist tropical climates where temperatures never fall below 10°c, the average annual rainfall is 1,500mm or more and the driest month has 25mm or more rain[ 297 ]. They can also succeed in drier areas with an annual rainfall as low as 250mm and one month or more where rainfall is below 25mm[ 297 ]. Plants grow well in full sun, even when small[ 297 ]. Prefers a moist, well-drained soil[ 314 ]. Succeeds in saline soils[ 419 ]. A slow-growing plant[ 419 ]. It is grown commercially for the production of wax.

Carbon Farming

  • Industrial Crop: Wax  Water resistant, malleable substances. Currently, most commercial wax is made from paraffin - a fossil fuel.
  • Management: Standard  Plants grow to their standard height. Harvest fruit, seeds, or other products. Non-Destructive management systems.
  • Regional Crop  These crops have been domesticated and cultivated regionally but have not been adopted elsewhere and are typically not traded globally, Examples in this broad category include perennial cottons and many nuts and staple fruits.

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

Temperature Converter

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Seed - there is no need to separate the seeds from the fruit before sowing. If stored seed is used then pre-soak for 24 hours in warm water. Sow the seed in a lightly shaded position in a nursery seedbed or in individual containers[ 419 ]. The seed can take 2 - 3 months to germinate[ 297 ]. Sprouting is slow, with a low germination rate[ 419 ]. Young seedlings grow slowly[ 419 ].

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Copernicia prunifera or Carnauba Palm. Also known as: Carnauba, Carnauba wax palm, Wax Palm.

Native Plant Search

Search over 900 plants ideal for food forests and permaculture gardens. Filter to search native plants to your area. The plants selected are the plants in our book 'Plants For Your Food Forest: 500 Plants for Temperate Food Forests and Permaculture Gardens, as well as plants chosen for our forthcoming related books for Tropical/Hot Wet Climates and Mediterranean/Hot Dry Climates. Native Plant Search

Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

Amazon, Asia, Australia, Brazil, Central America, East Africa, India, Madagascar, Mauritius, SE Asia, Singapore, South America, Sri Lanka, West Indies.

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

None Known

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status : This taxon has not yet been assessed

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther
Copernicia albaCaranday Palm, Caranda Palm, Caranda Palm WaxTree18.0 10-12 MLMHSNM204

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


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Expert comment


(Mill.) H.E.Moore

Botanical References

Links / References

For a list of references used on this page please go here
A special thanks to Ken Fern for some of the information used on this page.

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