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Tagua Nut Carvings

The Tagua Nut, also referred to as corozo or vegetable ivory, is the naturally occurring fruit of the Ivory-nut Palm (Phytelephas macrocarpa). Ivory-nut Palms are small understory trees (meaning between 20-30 feet in height) and range from Panama to Peru. The carvings on the Tagua Nut originally depicted the various animals of the region; however, in the 19th century, several household items such as buttons, jewelry, and dice, formerly made of animal ivory, began to be produced as a cheaper and renewable alternative which could easily be colored by the use of dyes.
Tagua Nuts, when ripe, are fully edible and have a consistency of jelly, the center of which holding a milky-sweet liquid. Once these nuts fall from the palms they are harvested and dried for several weeks. After they are dried, Tagua Nuts are made of pure cellulose.
Indigenous peoples such as the Embera and Wounaan (formerly known as the Choco tribe of Panama) maintain a sustainable income from the production and sale of Tagua Nut carvings. Due to this income, the increasingly declining rainforest does not need to be cleared for farmland or pastures for grazing animals.

Did you know?

Before the introduction of inexpensive plastic buttons, about 20% of buttons manufactured in the United States were made from tagua nuts. In the 1920's tagua exports brought $5 million per year into Ecuador. Ecological groups have been instrumental in increasing the number of major companies who are once again using tagua, a sustainably harvested natural resource, for buttons.
But what about the demand for elephant ivory? No artificial plastic can take its place; however, vegetable ivory is a very desirable substitute. Like elephant ivory, it is completely natural and it comes from a marvelous wild creature. Unlike elephants which must die for their precious ivory, tagua palms are a renewable resource; as long as their native habitat is preserved and sufficient seeds are left to perpetuate the palms. A single female tagua palm may produce up to 50 pounds of nuts in a year, that's roughly the amount of ivory in an average African elephant tusk. The elephant, however, yields its ivory only once while the palm produces nuts year after year.

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Tagua Nut Carvings