Tagua is the seed of the palm tree Phitelephas Aequatorialis, a native species that grows wild in the tropical rainforests of Ecuador, specifically in the Manabí Province. This natural product is widely known as “vegetable ivory” for its color and hardness. Currently the Tagua is mainly used to create unique pieces of jewelery and buttons. This all happens within a context of sustainable development, as the “vegetable ivory” is a versatile and renewable resource.
To learn more about the characteristics, benefits and uses of this natural material we have made a list of ten truths set forth below:
- The Tagua has been exploited since colonial times by the Spaniards who came to the Americas. From the first moment the tagua nut was used in the production of buttons, umbrella handles, walking sticks, pipes, napkin rings, chess pieces, among other things.
- The palm from which the tagua is obtained reaches between 5 and 6 meters high. Since the palm is planted we have to wait for 14-15 years to collect their first fruits.
- The Tagua tree continuously produces about three crops a year, and these production continues for over a hundred years.
- Each Tagua plant produces up to 15 fruits. These fruits have a shape which is very similar to a pineapple and they’re called “mococha” . Each mococha has approximately 30 seeds, which are called Corozo, or Tagua Nuts. After three months of drying in the sun, the tagua nut becomes the raw material to make the tagua beads jewelry.
- Throughout the process that turns the corozo into the tagua beads no tree is cut off. When ripe, the fruit falls on its own, so there’s absolutely no need for deforestation.
- It is estimated that in 1920, 20% of the buttons produced in the United States were made of Tagua.
- The tagua beads are an ancient tradition practiced by artisan families till these days.
- The tagua palm tree has other uses such as roof construction, and powder used to feed cattle.
- Tagua Handicrafts are the best option to replace ivory ornaments. By using vegetable ivory we are helping to stop elephant hunting.
- In one year a tagua tree produces 20 pounds of vegetable ivory, that’s the same amount of ivory a female elephant produces in a lifetime.