Saturday, March 1, 2008

Ivory Nuts

“When people come to my place, they inevitably are drawn to the ivory nut palm I have planted in the the middle of a big area. When they see the nuts, they always pick them up and hold them. It’s like it wakes something up in them, like they’ve seen God, and suddenly have they have this connection with the earth,” says David Bennett, a grower of exotic tropical fruit, especially mangosteen, in Hakalau. Since I am a sucker reborn every minute and not one to miss out on a botanically transcendent experience, I purchased a few at the BIAN plant sale to take home: one for my brother, one to leave on my desk and meditate on, and one to try germinating.

There are several kinds of Ivory Nut palm, but this one, Metroxylon amicarum, is native to the Caroline Islands. The white endosperm of the nut is extremely hard, like elephant ivory tusk – you need a hacksaw to cut through it. It’s sometimes referred to as “vegetable ivory” and is used by jewelry makers, woodworkers, and by scrimshaw artists as a substitute for whalebone.

People concerned about the environment encourage the planting of this threatened ivory nut palm to give it more economic status, to preserve it as a rainforest species and to promote its use as an alternative to animal ivory. If you’re thinking about planting one, know that the tree can grow pretty close to heaven, about 80 feet. Read more about ivory nut palm here.


John D Prebula said...

Did not know there was more than one type of ivory nut. Your reference was very good.

Do you have a source of viable seed (nuts) of the species you discuss? I get to the big island regularly.

Janice said...

John, the fellow selling the ivory nuts at the Big Island Association of Nurseryman sale is David Bennett. He might sell you some. His website is and phone is (808) 963-6158. Good luck!