The tagua nut is the endosperm of a seed that come from the palm species Phytelephas aequatorialis. The palm tree that produces the tagua nut grows naturally in the rain forests of South America where it is a sustainable and renewable resource.
The tagua or vegetable ivory is obtained from the white and hard endosperm, from the seeds of the palm tree Phytelephas sp, of the Arecaceae family. In these palm trees there is a difference between the male and the female. The former do not produce Tagua, so they are often mistakenly cut. The species is distributed in northwestern South America. The polished endosperm of the seed is very similar to ivory, despite its completely different properties. In Ecuador, the species used to obtain tagua is Phitelephas aequatorialis, which exists in the subtropical zone between the Andes and the coast, especially in the province of Manabí up to an altitude of approximately 1,500 meters, especially in the city of Montecristi where many foreigners and ecuadorians stroll in search of beautiful and cheap figures made with tagua. Tagua (tagua flour) serves as food for animals (cattle, pigs, birds). The product has been in great demand in the countries of the northern hemisphere until the beginning of the last century, mainly for the production of buttons. It is estimated that, in 1920, 20% of the buttons produced in the United States were made of tagua, mainly from Ecuador, Colombia and Panama. The industry has had a great setback after the Second World War, when plastic almost totally replaced the use of tagua.
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