Waxes are found on the outside of plants. They play a minor role in the economy. Some synthetic substances are available, but they are not as good quality as the plant derived substances.

Carnauba wax
Among all of the waxes, carnauba wax is the most important. It is mostly imported from Brazil. The wax occurs on the surface of the leaves of Copernicia cerifera(Arecaceae). The wax is obtained by collecting the new or immature leaves of the palm and allowing them to dry. The wax can then be removed by beating.
It is used primarily in car polishes and shoe polish.

Candelilla wax
Candelilla wax is often substituted for carnauba wax. It comes from Euphorbia antisyphyllitica (Euphorbiaceae). The plant is native to the Chihuahuan desert in Mexico and southern Texas.
The plant is wild harvested and is in some danger of being extincted by collectors. It is illegal to do so in Texas.


Jojoba wax
Jojoba wax comes from the seed of Simmondsia chinensis, Simmondsiaceae, of the southwestern U.S. and Mexico. The seeds contain a liquid wax that has many desirable properties. The plant can be cultivated on lands that are unsuitable for cultivation of most other crops.
The wax has been used as a lubricant and appears to be extremely good for this purpose. Jojoba oil is widely used in cosmetics already.
Over the next few years lots of new acreage of jojoba will come into production and the price will probably go down dramatically.

Jojoba male flowers
Jojoba female flowers
Jojoba fruit

Sugar cane wax
Sugar cane wax is a by-product of the sugar industry. This wax is not as good as carnauba wax, but is available and used for many of the same purposes.

Bayberry wax (Myrica pennsylvanica, Myricaceae) is from low wet areas in the eastern U.S. In New England the fruits were collected and the wax melted off to make candles. Bayberry candles are still used because of the nice odor they produce.

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Oils and Fats

Revised March 2005

© David S. Seigler, Integrative Biology 363, Plants and Their Uses, Department of Plant Biology, 265 Morrill Hall, 505 S. Goodwin Ave., University of Illinois, Urbana, Illinois 61801, USA. 217-333-7577. seigler@life.uiuc.edu.