Curiosities,  Mexico

The wildlife of the Riviera Maya and its environment II

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Scientific name:
Beaucarnea pliabilis Rose
Español: Despeinada
Maaya t’aan: Ts’iipil che’, X tuuk
English:Mexican ponytail

Description: Although it looks like a palm tree, this endemic plant—it is native to the area and grows naturally only here—is a member of the agave family.  Its slender trunk can grow to six meters (about 20 feet), arising from a characteristically enlarged base. Its long leaves emerge from the crown of the trunks, making it look like a tree, although technically it is not one. When in flower, a tall stalk emerges from the plant’s top.

Habitat: It is found in all types of coastal forest where the soil remains relatively dry, as it does not tolerate the steady flooding typical of mangrove forests.

Threats: Due to its handsome and interesting appearance, it is widely appreciated as a decorative plant in public and private gardens. As a result, it is in high demand, which is often met through illegal removal from the forest. Although seeds are collected and grown in nurseries for legal trade, the illegal removal from the forest and sale of large specimens ready for planting threatens these plants, which play an essential role in their ecosystem.

Uses and beliefs: In some Maya communities it is used for the treatment of earache; this is not recommended without first consulting a physician. In some areas, its leaves are used for thatching roofs.

How to protect it: Avoid cutting them down, harvesting their leaves, removing them from the forest, or purchasing them from vendors who are unauthorized to sell them.

Where to observe it: In the low-lying, coastal forested areas of the Grand Bahia Principe Riviera Maya grounds.

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