Brazil Nuts

Brazil nut trees ~ the giants of the rainforest

giant tree

Brazil nut trees [Bertholletia excelsa] are among the giants of South America’s Amazon. Famous for reaching heights up to 60 m (200 feet) and with a trunk 1-2 m (3-6.5 ft) in diameter, the Brazil nut tree towers above other trees in the Amazon rainforest. Known as an emergent, a true forest giant standing head and shoulders above the forest canopy below.

The stem is straight and commonly without branches for well over half the tree's height, with a large emergent crown of long branches above the surrounding canopy of other trees. Their spreading branches and flowers provide habitat and food for numerous forest creatures.

The Brazil nut tree is the only species in the monotypic genus Bertholletia. The genus is named after the French chemist Claude Louis Berthollet.

Berthollotia excelsa biology


The bark is grayish and smooth. The leaves are dry-season deciduous, alternate, simple, oblong, 20–35 cm long and 10–15 cm broad. The flowers are small, greenish-white, in panicles 5–10 cm long; each flower has a two-parted, deciduous calyx, six unequal cream-colored petals, and numerous stamens united into a broad, hood-shaped mass.


The fruit takes 14 months to mature after pollination of the flowers. The fruit itself is a large capsule 10–15 cm in diameter, resembling a coconut endocarp in size and weighing up to 2 kg (4.4 lb). It has a hard, woody shell 8–12 mm thick, which contains between 8 and 24 triangular seeds 4–5 cm long (the "Brazil nuts") packed like the segments of an orange.

The Brazil nut tree can live to be more than five centuries old, it may possibly even live for 1,000 years!


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