A solitary, tall, drought tolerant, alkaline soil tolerant, salt-tolerant, moderately fast growing, monoecious palm. Rare in cultivation, locally common in the wild. It has a spiny, grey trunk, 16 m. (52.5 ft.) tall, 28 cm. (11 inch) diameter with spaced ring leaf scars, and large segmented, pinnate (feather) leaves, 3 m. (10 ft.) long, 1.2 m. (4 ft.) wide, green above and, greyish green beneath.
The trunk has a prominent bulge in its length about halfway, and is covered its full length with black thorns 6 cm in length, except in the areas where fires have come through and burnt the thorns off. Leaves are plumose with thorny petioles. A mature tree has approximately 20 green leaves in the crown, with a further 5 or 6 retained old leaves waiting to drop. Trees require an open sunny position.
Acrocomia media can tolerate close to freezing conditions. But low temperatures are best avoided, it will not tolerate any duration of dormancy and anything other than the briefest of cold snaps will surely kill a young plant. It naturally occurs in dry, arid, sun exposed, grassland locations, and should be planted to maximise Summer heat & sunshine exposure. Its roots will travel down to find water. Under cold conditions we recommend you keep this palm as dry as possible, which will usually mean constructing a glass or plastic roof over the plant to keep rain off, and supplemental heat provided over duration. Any cover placed over this palm during times of rain or during cold nights must be removed or vented during hours of sunshine or the plant could be severely heat stressed.
The fruit and the seeds are edible and have a high oil content, but rarely are they used. Although, a favourite with cows, who will eat the whole fruit, and pass the large seeds in their droppings, this acts well as a preconditioner to germination. Otherwise, seed germination is somewhat difficult, and the seeds can survive as many as 6 years in the ground before germinating. In spite of its thorny trunk, the species has become popular as an ornamental landscape tree. A single tree can produce 2000 large, golf-ball to tennis-ball sized fruits per year, containing extremely tough golf-ball sized seeds.
Native to, Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands US
Native to Puerto Rico and St. Thomas, in the Virgin Islands of the United States, and has been introduced as an ornamental species to St. Croix, Virgin Islands of the United States, where it is now naturalized. The most favourable habitats are the humid coastal sands. These are marl sands and sands with pHs among 6.5 and 8.5, which can be found at elevations of 1 to several meters above sea level. Other sites include the abiertos valleys, the banks of rivers and amongst pastures in humid limestone hills within the high north of Puerto Rico and valleys and hills along the South coast of Puerto Rico. In the humid part of the island, the species does not grow to elevations of more than 200 m, but in the driest hills in the south it is possible to find trees at 400 m of elevation. The species rarely grows in the highest hills.