What is carnauba?
By Chelsie Vandaveer
March 2, 2004
Suggested Reading – Plus The Inventors & Edison Effect: Click here.
The carnaubeira or carnauba palm (Copernicia prunifera
(Miller) H.E. Moore) is native to northeastern Brazil. The palm grows to
about 14 meters (45 feet) in height; the leaves bases are retained on the
trunk giving it a spiraled appearance. The fronds (leaves) have a petiole
about one meter in length; the blade is almost round with its edge divided
into 40 to 60 segments.
palm fronds are protected on both surfaces from drying by a thick cuticle
of wax. The wax is unique; it is the hardest of all the natural waxes. It
does not become cloudy or hazy and it provides a beautiful shine. Although
the palm can grow in many locations, in northeastern Brazil it produces the
best carnauba wax.
wax does not need any special chemistry to separate it from the frond. The
fronds are cut from the palm and may be chopped into pieces. The fronds are
allowed to dry and then beaten. The wax flakes off. The flakes are formed
into blocks for shipping to manufacturers.
as the finest of car polishes, carnauba does not react with dried paint and
protects the car's finish by resisting dirt and pollutants, refracting UV
radiation, and sealing the paint away from moisture and corrosives. But carnauba
is in numerous products used every day. Carnauba is the base of fine furniture
polish and hardwood floor wax, the coating used to make paper cups and cardboard
water resistant, is the shine and protection in shoe polishes and waxes,
and allows the dental floss to slide easier between the teeth.
prevents the loss of water from the palm frond; it also prevents skin from
drying and chapping in the wind. It is in lip balm and lipstick, added to
lotions, and makes makeup easier to apply. It keeps eye and lip liners shiny
and fresh-looking. A thin coat of the wax prevents apples and other fruit
from drying and slows spoilage. Carnauba makes candies like jelly beans gleam.
It even changed the way we heard the world. Carnauba was the wax of the wax
cylinders that made the very first audio recordings.
(Compiled from: "Copernicia", Hortus Third,
Staff of L.H. Bailey Hortorium, New York State College of Agriculture and
Life Sciences, Cornell University, MacMillan, NY, 1976; Palms and Cycads of the World, Lynette Stewart, Angus & Robertson Publication, 1994; and DriveWerks)
Palm and Cycad Societies of Australia have photographs of and some interesting
information about the carnauba palm. To view the page, click on the link:
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