The Brazilian fiber belt: Harvest and management of Piassava palm (Attalea funifera Mart.)

TitleThe Brazilian fiber belt: Harvest and management of Piassava palm (Attalea funifera Mart.)
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication1988
AuthorsVoeks, RA
EditorBalick, MJ
Book TitleThe palm -- Tree of life: Biology, utilization, and conservation symposium at the 1986 Annual Meeting of the Society for Economic Botany, New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, New York, 13-14 June 1986
Secondary TitleAdvances in Economic Botany no. 6
Date Published1988
PublisherNew York Botanical Garden
CityNew York
Call NumberSB107.A3 v.6
KeywordsAttalea; Bahia; fire; palms; Piassava; rainforests

Piassava palm (Attalea funifera Mart.) is endemic to the coastal restinge forests of Bahia, Brazil. Its durable water resistant fiber has been commercially exploited since the 1500s, first in the fashioning of ship's anchor ropes and later in the manufacture of brooms and brushes. Although still destructively exploited on unattended land, piassava is increasingly being protected and managed as a valuable perennial crop. The leaf fibers harvested either seasonally or on a continuous basis, depending on the competing interests of the cutters and land owners. Management strategies for piassava habitat include:

  1. benign neglect
  2. burning
  3. planting

During burning, piassava's deep subterranean stems escape the flames, allowing this species to survive and numerically dominate the post-fire environment. Although widespread, the use of fire to "improve" piassave habitat is temporally infrequent. Land owners began planting on an experimental basis in the 1970s. Although geographical differences in fiber quality are recognized, planting is carried out exclusively with seed from local sources.

Piasava fiber exports have steadily declined since the beginning of this century due to over-exploitation and competition with other natural as well as synthetic materials. This situation has been aggravated by the rising value of the U.S. dollar. Export losses have been more than balanced, however, by the growing demand for piassava fiber within Brazil.

Short TitleThe Brazilian fiber belt