Skip to main content


tagua (tä´gwä), fruit of the ivory-nut palm (Phytelephas macrocarpa), which flourishes in tropical America from Paraguay to Panama. The female palms bear large woody, burrlike fruits, each containing several seeds about the size of hen's eggs. The immature seeds are gelatinous and edible. These are the ivory nuts, white or cream in color and very hard. Known in the trade also as vegetable ivory, the substance is used as a substitute for ivory and has long been carved into curios for tourists. Its commercial value originated in the mid-19th cent. when African ivory began to grow scarce. Tagua became a commodity of considerable importance, great quantities being exported to the United States and Europe for the manufacture of buttons and other small articles. It was largely supplanted by less expensive synthetic materials, although the demand has been rising in recent years. Tagua is classified in the division Magnoliophyta, class Liliopsida, order Arecales, family Palmae.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"tagua." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . 25 Mar. 2019 <>.

"tagua." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . (March 25, 2019).

"tagua." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved March 25, 2019 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.