Bactris gasipaes

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Peach Palm

Bactris (BAHK-triss)
gasipaes (gah-ZEE-pehz)
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La Selva, Costa Rica. Photo by Dr. John Dransfield, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew/Palmweb.
Scientific Classification
Genus: Bactris (BAHK-triss)
Species:
gasipaes (gah-ZEE-pehz)
Synonyms
None set.
Native Continent
America
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Morphology
Habit: Solitary & clustering.
Leaf type: Pinnate
Height: 4-18m
Trunk diameter: 10-25cm
Culture
Sun exposure: Partial Shade
Survivability index
Common names
Pejibaye, Chonta, Peach Palm.

Habitat and Distribution

Bactris gasipaes is found in Bolivia, Brazil North, Brazil West-Central, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, French Guiana, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panamá, Peru, and Venezuela. Widespread in the neotropics, mostly cultivated. This useful palm is apparently indigenous to Amazonian areas of Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Brazil, but it has been cultivated and distributed by Indians from ancient times, and is so commonly naturalized as an escape that its natural boundaries are obscure. Of prehistoric introduction into Costa Rica, it is plentiful in a seemingly wild state of the Atlantic side of that country and also much cultivated.

Mindo, Ecuador. Photo by Jake Kloepfer, edric.

Description

Bactris gasipaes grows erect, with a single slender stem or, more often, several stems to 8 in (20 cm) thick, caespitose (growing in tufts or clumps); generally armed with stiff, black spines in circular rows from the base to the summit. There are occasional specimens with only a few spines. It can typically grow to 20 metres (66 ft) or taller . The leaves 8-10 per crown, are pinnate, 3 metres (9.8 ft) long on a 1 metre (3.3 ft) long petiole. The fruit is a drupe with edible pulp surrounding the single seed, 4–6 cm long and 3–5 cm broad. The rind (epicarp) of the fruit can be red, yellow, or orange when the fruit is ripe, depending on the variety of the palm. Highly regarded today as a source of nutritious food, the pejibaye, Bactris gasipaes HBK. (syns. B. speciosa Karst.; Guilielma gasipaes L.H. Bailey; G. speciosa Mart.; G. utilis Orst.), family Palmae, is also called peach palm. It is known as pejivalle in Costa Rica; peach-nut, pewa or pupunha in Trinidad; piva in Panama; cachipay, chichagai, chichaguai, contaruro, chonta, choritadura, chenga, jijirre, pijiguay, pipire, pirijao, pupunha, or tenga in Colombia; bobi, cachipaes, rnacanilla, melocoton, pichiguao, pihiguao, pijiguao, piriguao, or pixabay in Venezuela; comer, chonta, and tempe in Bolivia; chonta dura, chonta ruru, pijuanyo, pifuayo, sara-pifuayo, pisho-guayo in Peru; amana, in Surinam; parepon in French Guiana; popunha in Brazil. (Borchsenius, F. 1998)/Palmweb. Editing by edric.

The pejibaye attains a height of 65 to 100 ft (20 30 m), and usually produces suckers freely. The leaves, with short, spiny petioles, are pinnate, about 8 to 12 ft (2.4-3.6 m) long, with many linear, pointed leaflets to 2 ft (60 cm) long and 1 1/4 in (3.2 cm) wide; dark green above, pale beneath, spiny on the veins. The inflorescence, at first enclosed in a spiny spathe, is composed of slender racemes 8 to 12 in (20-30 cm) long on which the yellowish male and female flowers are mingled except for the terminal few inches where there are only male flowers. The fruit, hanging in clusters of 50 to 100 or sometimes as many as 300, weighing 25 lbs (11 kg) or more, is yellow to orange or scarlet, yellow-and-red, or brownish at first, turning purple when fully ripe. It is ovoid, oblate, cylindrical or conical, 1 to 2 in (2.5-5 cm) long, cupped at the base by a green, leathery, 3-pointed calyx. A single stem may bear 5 or 6 clusters at a time. The skin is thin, the flesh yellow to light-orange, sweet, occasionally with a trace of bitterness, dry and mealy. Some fruits are seedless. Normally there is a single conical seed 3/4 in (2 cm) long, with a hard, thin shell and a white, oily, coconut-flavored kernel. Rarely one finds 2 fused seeds.

Subcanopy palm. Stems solitary or clustering, but often cespitose (growing in tufts or clumps), 5-15 m tall, 10-20 cm in diameter. Leaves 8-10 per crown, leaf blade 2-3.5 m long; pinnae 100-125 on each side, inserted in groups and spreading in different planes, the central ones 60-80 cm long and 3-5 cm wide. Inflorescences 40-75 cm long; branches 50-80, to 35 cm long. Female flowers scattered along the branches. Fruit globose to ovoid, yellow to red, smooth, 1.5-5 cm long; fruiting perianth with a very small calyx and a much longer, briefly lobed corolla; staminodial ring absent. (Borchsenius, F. 1998)/Palmweb.

Includes two varities, more or less identical vegetatively, but different in the size of their fruits: a cultivated/domesticated large fruited form, var. gasipaes, and a native, small fruited form, var. chichagui. (Borchsenius, F. 1998)/Palmweb.

Culture

Young plants must be protected from ants which will destroy the tender shoots. The palm grows rapidly and reaches 43 ft (13 m) in 10 to 15 years. At low altitudes, seedlings begin to bear in 6 to 8 years. In cool regions, bearing may not begin until the plant is 10 to 12 years old. Productive life is said to be 50 to 75 years.

Comments and Curiosities


External Links

http://www.fao.org/docrep/X0451E/X0451e08.htm

References

Phonetic spelling of Latin names by edric.

Special thanks to Geoff Stein, (Palmbob) for his hundreds of photos.

Special thanks to Palmweb.org, Dr. John Dransfield, Dr. Bill Baker & team, for their volumes of information and photos.

Glossary of Palm Terms; Based on the glossary in Dransfield, J., N.W. Uhl, C.B. Asmussen-Lange, W.J. Baker, M.M. Harley & C.E. Lewis. 2008. Genera Palmarum - Evolution and Classification of the Palms. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. All images copyright of the artists and photographers (see images for credits).

Borchsenius, F.1998. Manual to the palms of Ecuador. AAU Reports 37. Department of Systematic Botany, University of Aarhus, Denmark in collaboration with Pontificia Universidad Catalica del Ecuador.


Many Special Thanks to Ed Vaile for his long hours of tireless editing and numerous contributions.

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