Floridata Plant Encyclopedia

A Floridata Plant Profile 893 Copernicia prunifera

Common Names: carnauba wax palm Family: Arecacea (palm Family)

carnauba wax palm
Carnauba wax palm is a spectacularly symmetrically small palm.


The carnauba wax palm, Copernicia prunifera, may be one of the most economically important as well as aesthetically pleasing palms around. It gets its name from the valuable heat resistant wax, which is harvested from the leaves. The carnauba wax palm grows to 30 ft (9.1 m) tall with a single gray trunk which is usually smooth on the top 1/3, while the lower 2/3 is marked with persistent leaf bases in a pleasing spiraling pattern. The crown is composed of about 24 fan shaped blue to green waxy leaves. Each leaf is deeply divided halfway into many segments and is about 3-4 ft (0.9-1.2 m) wide. The petioles are 2 -3 ft (0.6-0.9 m) long and are protectively covered with long curved spines.


The carnauba wax palm is native to Brazil and like all palms in the Copernicia genus, prefers savanna or open forests that occasionally are subject to flooding.


This striking fan palm is adaptable to many different conditions. Originating in savannas, it is able to withstand droughts as well as the occasional flooding. It is not picky about soil and is moderately salt tolerant. Light: Full sun. Moisture: Canauba wax palm is moderately tolerant of drought. Hardiness: USDA Zones 10B - 11. Propagation: By seeds which germinate in about 1-4 months. Growth is slow.
leaf attachments
The old leaf base attachments are arranged the length of the carnauba palm's trunk in a hypnotic spiral.


Cultivated for commercial wax production in Brazil, the carnauba wax palm is also a highly prized, but little used, landscape specimen with few diseases or insect problems. With its ornamental blue/green fan shaped leaves and unique persistent lower leaf bases, this palm is ideal for the tropical home or commercial landscape. Care should be taken to allow plenty of room for this palm's future growth so it can achieve its best form.


The carnauba wax palm plays a very important economic role in Brazil where the extraction and exportation of its heat resistant wax in a major industry. This wax is used in numerous products such as car waxes and floor polishes and even to protect the coatings on candies.

There are several other members of this genus that are sometimes seen in South Florida. There's the Bailey palm (Copernicia baileyana) with it's "Coke bottle" trunk. From nearby Cuba we have the Cuban wax palm (Copernicia hospita) and the Cuban petticoat palm (Copernicia macroglossa) a very unique looker that has leaves that are almost stemless.


Care should be taken to avoid contact with the spiny teeth on the petioles.

Jeff Bielski 12/21/00; updated 11/14/03

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Copernicia species profiled on Floridata:

Copernicia baileyana

( Bailey palm, yarey palm )

Copernicia hospita

( Cuban Wax Palm, Guano Palm, Cano Palm, Guano Espinoso )

Copernicia macroglossa

( Cuban petticoat palm, petticoat palm )

Copernicia prunifera

( carnauba wax palm )

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