|Synonymy: Guilielma gasipaes||Distribution: Amazonian Brazil, Colombia, Peru, and Central America|
|Common names: Peach palm, pejibaye, chonta, pupunha||Conservation status: Unknown in wild; abundant in cultivation|
As with many types of fruit native to the Amazon, consumption was restricted to a relatively small geographical area because of the farming practices of the native Indians. Pupunha (Bactris gasipaes) is a multi-stemmed palm tree that can reach up to 20 meters (65 feet) in height. When the tree is an adult, 10 to 15 secondary stems develop, guaranteeing the regeneration of the plant. While not all of these stems produce fruit, they are all used to extract the delicious heart of palm. In the wild, the pupunha bears fruit in large bunches in approximately five years, but this time can be reduced by half under managed growing conditions. The male flowers fall after releasing pollen, while the female flower develops into a small red, yellow or orange fruit, measuring around 5 cm (2 inches) in diameter. The fruit is rich in vitamin A, and has a high protein and starch value. It can be eaten after being cooked in boiling water, but can also be used to produce oil and flour. Animal feed is produced with the remaining parts of the tree and fruit. In the 1970's the pupunha became a focus for research and for intensive farming in various regions of Brazil. In the state of Bahia, the first Brazilian state to commercially cultivate the fruit, the harvesting of the pupunha takes place from November to March each year. This palm is also cultivated throughout much of the rest of South and Central America, and is actually unknown in the wild.
(Description modified from the Dutch site on Brazilian fruits, http://www.brasilien.dk/hovedside/links/palmer/guarana/guarana01.htm)
Top and bottom photos copyright © 1997-98, Jody Haynes; taken at Fairchild Tropical Garden, Miami, FL. Middle photo copyright © 1996, T. B. Croat; courtesy Missouri Botanical Garden.
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