Family : Arecaceae
Text © Pietro Puccio
English translation by Mario Beltramini
The name of the genus comes from the Greek "tris" = thrice, and "thrinax" = tricuspid pitchfork, with reference both to the shape of calyx, corolla and androecium, and the triple number of carpels, in comparison to the Thrinax, monocarpellary genus of American palms.
The name of the species comes from the Latin "campestris" = "of broad field".
The Trithrinax campestris (Burmeist.) Drude & Griseb. (1879) is widespread in Argentina, where it grows up in the bottom of valleys or in open and arid locations characterized by a long and dry season, and, marginally, in Uruguay.
The fibres extracted from the leaves are locally utilized for handicrafts.
It is called "saro" in Argentina, and "caranday" in Uruguay, whilst in the English-speaking countries, it is usually known as "blue needle palm", "spiny fiber palm", or "caranday palm".
Common names: “blue needle palm”, “campestre palm”, “caranday palm”, “spiny fiber palm”, “thatch palm” (English); “palmier trident”, “trithrinax d’Argentine” (French); “caranday”, “palmera de Argentina”, “palmera del Uruguay”, “saro” (Spanish); “blaue nadelpalme” (Dutch).
Single trunk or cespitose palm, with trunks which can reach the height of 6 metres, with a diameter of about 25 cm, covered by a thick knot of fibres which have the consistency of real and proper thorns turned downwards.
The leaves, on unarmed petioles, are palmate, wide about 50 cm, of bluish grey colour and extremely rigid, with bifid, and sharp as thorns, segments. The dried up leaves remain for long time adherent to the trunk, covering it, at times, up to the base. The short inflorescences, very ramified and showy, are of a yellowish colour. The flowers, hermaphrodite, are followed by globular, yellowish fruits, of 1,5 cm of diameter. The seeds do germinate in 100-120 days.
Extremely rustic palm, it bears both high and low temperatures (up to -12 °C), and long periods of drought, furthermore, it adapts to poor and stony soils, with a certain preference to the alkaline ones.
For its ornamental and rustic characteristics, it would deserve a wider diffusion in the Mediterranean climate countries, with the only obvious shrewdness, seeing that it pricks, to keep it in due distance, in the frequented areas.
Synonyms: Copernicia campestris Burmeist. (1861); Chamaethrinax hookeriana H.Wendl. ex R.Pfister (1891).
The photographic file of Giuseppe Mazza