In Central America's rainforest
Because of Mother's Day, Palm Sunday and a global demand for exotic xate palm leaves, the unspoiled rainforests of Belize, Mexico, Guatemala and other South America countries are being exploited due to the leaf's usage in long-lasting flower arrangements.
The global flower trade is threatening the species' survival on a long-term basis, according to a UK study. At a peak demand worth $4 million annually, previous studies show that removing more than two leafs from the five-leafed wild xate palm will damage its reproductive capabilities.
New xate or "camedor palm plants" will take at least four years to mature for harvesting. The point is, will labeling an endangered rainforest palm leaf as such make a consumer discriminate against buying the flower arrangement?
"One of the reasons why florists like this leaf so much is because once you have cut it, it stays green for 30-40 days," explained co-author Sophie Williams, a researcher from Bangor University, Wales."There can be about two weeks from the forest to the florist, yet they can still store it for another two or three weeks."
To date there are no xate plantations for harvesting. The international market is forced to rely on unskilled Xateros who harvest the xate palm trees at $5 a day in order to make a living, willing to cross country lines into illegal areas in order to gather the leaves. It is only the middlemen and exporters who will benefit the most from this illegal harvest.
This exploitation, of both the plants and the workers, are directly threatening the stability and security of the rainforest ecosystem. The two primary countries responsible for purchasing the xate palms are the United States and Holland.