Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Ivory Nut Palm

Part of the immature seed of the ivory nut palm is pulpy and sweet and is used as food for both people and animals. The mature, dry seeds however, become so hard that it requires a hacksaw to cut one in half. They are known as vegetable ivory and are a sustainable, alternative to animal ivory.  Many beautiful carvings have been produced from these seeds.

During Victorian times, thimbles, dice and jewelry were manufactured from this substance. Before plastic buttons became popular, it was a key material in the button industry. During the 1920′s, 20% of all buttons made in the United States were made out of the seed of the ivory nut palm. If you have never seen the beautiful carvings made from these seeds, check out a web site like

Germinating seeds of the ivory nut palm is difficult. Therefore, plant as many as possible since not all will germinate.  Ones that do germinate, may take several months or even up to a year.  If possible, allow the fruit to fall, do not pick it from the tree.

One method of germination is to plant the seed, anywhere from half buried to just under the soil, in a sterile, well-drained planting media. Keep it moist but saturate log the soil. Some horticulturalists insist that removing the seed coat from around the seed is important while others have been successful without removing it.

 Since the seeds take a long time to sprout, there is always the danger of insects and fungi destroying the seed. Yet as long as the seed has not turned to mush, there is still hope for germination.   The seed will send down roots before it sends up a sprout.  Once germinated, the problems are not over.  A number of people have been successful in germinating the seed only to have it die from an unknown cause shortly thereafter.

The second approach to germinating the seed is to mimic nature.  As the seed lies on the ground, there are hundreds of different types of fungi, bacteria and other microorganisms growing on and around that seed. The exact role of these organisms is uncertain, but it is possible that the gases and other chemicals that they produce may trigger and aid in the germination of the seed. That is why some recommend placing the seed in a plastic bag with organic matter (OM) and allow the OM to decompose. Leave the seed in the bag for a couple of weeks to a month. Then plant it in a pot with a well draining soil mix.