Bertholletia excelsa • Castanha do Pará


Bertholletia excelsa is an Amazonian tree species of the subcanopy that prefers non-flooded forest (terra firma) in the Guianas, Colombia, Venezuela, Peru, Bolivia and Brazil (1). Agoutis are known to eat the seeds; they get a start into the hard fruit by gnawing around the small opercular opening, which they gradually enlarge until they can remove the seeds that they often bury for future consumption, thereby dispersing those seeds that are forgotten (1).

The tree yields valuable timber but is legally protected for its more valuable nut production, which is an important export product of the Amazon region (2). Brazil nut gathering became a significant source of income when the rubber market collapsed (3). A recent study found that intensive exploitation levels over the past century have resulted in insufficient juvenile trees to maintain populations over the long term, which threatens this cornerstone of the Amazonian extractive economy (4).

The edible nuts are rich in protein and oil. The tree is also known medicinally. For example, a tea prepared from the fruit is traditionally used as a cure (5). Crude extracts and fractions of Bertholletia excelsa stem barks have shown anti-parasitic activity (6)

(1) Hopkins, HCF (1998) The Biological Monograph; the importance of field studies and functional syndromes for taxonomy and evolution of tropical plants. RBG Kew 236 p.

(2) Parrotta, JA (1995) Trees of the Tapajós; A photographic field guide. USDA Forest Service. 370 p.

(3) LaFleur, JR (1992) Marketing of Brazil nuts. FAO, UN 61 p.

(4) Peres, CA, Baider, C, Zuidema, PA, Wadt, LHO, Kainer, KA, Gomes-Silva, DAP, Salomao, RP, Simoes, LL, Franciosi, ERN, Valverde, FC, Gribel, R, Shepard Jr., GH, Kanashiro, M, Coventry, P, Yu, DW, Watkinson, AR, Freckleton, RP (2003) Demographic Threats to the Sustainability of Brazil Nut Exploitation. Science 302; 2112-2114

(5) Mors, WB, Rizzini, CT and Pereira, NA (2000) Medicinal Plants of Brazil. Reference Publications Inc: 501 p.

(6) Campos FR, Januario AH, Rosas LV, Nascimento SK, Pereira PS, Franca SC, Cordeiro MS, Toldo MP, Albuquerque S (2005) Trypanocidal activity of extracts and fractions of Bertholletia excelsa. Fitoterapia 76(1): 26-9


Couratari spp. & Cariniana spp. • Tauari
The genera Couratari and Cariniana comprise canopy emergent tree species that are known to disperse their seeds by wind (1). Some species in these genera are known as Tauari. The bark of the Tauari tree at Amazonat grows in thin, sheet-like layers that can be separated and used as paper (2).

(1) Hopkins, HCF (1998) The Biological Monograph; the importance of field studies and functional syndromes for taxonomy and evolution of tropical plants. RBG Kew 236 p.

(2) Guides at Amazonat (pers. comm.)


Eschweilera sp. • Matá Matá
Several tree species are referred to as Matá Matá, at least one of which belongs to the genus Eschweilera. Matá Matá is a name for trees that are known for their fibrous barks, used to make some of the strongest ropes in the Amazon forest (1). With respect to medicinal properties, the plant genera Eschweilera, Gustavia and Couratari (Lecythidaceae) showed notable growth inhibitory activity against certain bacteria (2).

(1) Guides at Amazonat (pers. comm.)

(2) Rovira, I, Berkov, A, Parkinson, A, Tavakilian, G, Mori, S, Meurer-Grimes, B (1999) Antimicrobial Activity of Neotropical Wood and Bark Extracts. Pharmaceutical Biology (Formerly International Journal of Pharmacognosy) 37(3); 208-215