Attalea speciosa

Attalea speciosa (babassu, babassu palm, babaçu, cusi) is a palm native to the Amazon Rainforest region in South America. The babassu palm is the predominant species in the Maranhão Babaçu forests of Maranhão and Piauí states.

This plant has commercial value because its seeds produce an edible oil called babassu oil, which is also used in cleaners and skin care products. The fruit is used to produce products such as medicines, beauty aids, and beverages. Traditional communities of the Maranhão region also produce a flour from the fruit and this is commercialized as a nutritional supplement. The leaves are also used to provide thatch for houses and can be woven into mats for constructing house walls. The stems are used for timbers. The Babassu palm is considered a weed in pasture areas of Cerrado vegetation in Brazil.

Its fruits and leaves are one of the main materials used by the artisans of Tocantins (Brazil) to manufacture different products very popular with tourists.

Attalea speciosa is a single- stemmed, monocular palm that grows up to 30 m tall and reaches trunk diameters of 20-50 cm. The palm can live to 200 years and bears fruit for the first time after 8-10 years. The 12-20 leaves are disposed on the crown, they are six to nine feet long and stand outwards and upwards at an acute angle, the tips are curved downward arching and often twisted. The petiole is up to 1.5-2 meters long, the leaves carry 150 or more 30 to 70 cm long and 3-4 cm wide, dull green, lineallanzettliche, simple folded leaflets along the rachis.

The one to eight, up to a meter or longer pedunculated inflorescences are hanging and either purely male, female or bisexual (androgynous). They can reach lengths of one to two meters. There is an about one meter long leaflet available. At the bud stage the inflorescences are from about 2 meters long and about 20 cm wide, boat-shaped and long-pointed and lignified bractsurround. Male inflorescences have up to 400 lateral branches, each with 15-100 flowers. The male flowers are whitish-yellowish, they have 12-24 stamens with twisted anthers. The female inflorescences bear female and sterile male flowers. The bisexual inflorescences have slightly more lateral branches, each carrying one to two (rarely three) female flowers and one to several male flowers, which often do not fully develop.

The beak-pointed fruit is an ellipsoidal stone fruit 6-15 cm long and 4-10 cm wide. The hazelnut brown Exokarp is fibrous and up to 4 mm thick, the fleshy, dry to about 10 mm thick mesocarp is fibrous to floury, it contains much strength, the dark brown Endokarp is extremely hard, woody and up to 1.5 cm thick, it is about 3.5-7.5 cm in diameter. The fruits weigh about 80-250 grams. Inside are one to eight (to eleven) flattened, ellipsoidal seeds, with a thin, dark brown seed coat, 2-5 cm in length and 1-2 cm in thickness. The individual cores weigh about 3-9 grams. They have an oily, white endospermwhich contains about 60-70% fat and about 7% protein. The fruit stalks bear 100-600 fruits and can weigh up to 90 kg. Outside on the shell (Exokarp) there are brown, powdery scales. The seeds account for about 6-10% of the fruit weight. When the fruits first came to England in 1867, they could not be cracked, so they were thrown into the sea.

The main pollinators are beetles (Mystrops, shiny beetles Nitidulidae), (Phyllotrox, Curculionoidea) and bees (Trigona). In open countryside, the palm is also wind pollinated. The distribution of the seeds occurs zoochor by capuchin monkeys, Südamazonische red squirrels, rodents (Agoutis, Green acouchi, Brown agouti Dasyprocta variegata, u. A.) Boars, Peccaries (Pekaris), alsoSchakuhühner (Pipile) and parrots u. a.

Distribution and Locations
The Babassupalme is native to the southern part of the Amazon Basin from the Atlantic to Bolivia and extends in the north across the eastern and central Amazon to Guyana and Suriname. However, most of the stocks are located south of the Amazon. In Maranhão and Piauí there are Babassu stocks of up to 10,000 palm trees per hectare. These are predominantly young plants, which settle particularly easily in disturbed locations. This so-called Babassu Zone covers about 150,000 km 2 in the southeast of the Amazon, often at the transition from forest to savannah.

Regarding the site conditions, the Babassupalme is relatively undemanding. Mostly it grows on good soil during high rainfall. It also occurs in drier areas, but more along the rivers. However, it does not tolerate flooding. The optimum for growth is 1500 to 2500 mm annual precipitation.

Reproduction and growth
Attalea speciosa is monoecious—male and female flowers are separate, but are borne by the same plant. Pollination has been attributed both to insects and wind.

It has commercial value because its seeds produce an edible oil, known for babassu oil, also used as a cleanser and in the elaboration of skin care products. Recently, the production of biodiesel was experimented, decanting oil.

In addition, the fruit is medicinal and is used as a beauty aid and to produce beverages; The mesocarp is rich in starch. The leaves provide straw for roofing houses and also for building walls. The stems are used as wood. It is considered a weed in pastures in the Cerrado in Brazil.

With the fruit and leaves, artisans from the state of Tocantins (Brazil) make various handicraft products, constituting an important activity in the economy of the state.

About 400 thousand people, almost all women, survive by extracting oil from the fruit and other babassu products for food, construction and handicrafts.

In his 1995 The Palms of the Amazon, Andrew Henderson recognised A. speciosa and A. spectabilis as valid species, but considered the latter to either be an acaulescent form of A. speciosa or a hybrid between it and A. microcarpa. In their 2005 World Checklist of Palms Rafäel Govaerts and John Dransfield accepted A. spectabilis as a valid taxon but Sidney F Glassman considered it a dubious taxon in his 1999 Taxonomic Treatment of Palm Subtribe Attaleinae. Attalea vitrivir was recognised as a distinct species by Michael Balick and coauthors; Glassman and Govaerts and Dransfield concurred, but Henderson considered it part of A. speciosa. Glassman also described a fourth member of this group, A. brejinhoensis, and it is accepted by Govaerts and Dransfield.

Babassupalmen are grown less in plantations, but the natural resources are promoted and used. Young, dense populations are thinned by the harvest of palm hearts, as the palms die off. Older and pure male palms are eliminated as well.

In February 2008, babassu palm oil was used in a blend with coconut oil and jet fuel to power one engine of a Virgin Atlantic Boeing 747 during a flight test. It is considered to be less environmentally friendly than biofuel made from the Jatropha plant that Air New Zealand tested in December 2008. This is because Babassu grows in forested areas that require deforestation, rather than in arid land and land with marginal use, like the Jatropha plant.

Babassu oil can also be used in food cooking, as a lubricant and also in soap and cosmetics. The shell of the nut can be used to make smoke-less charcoal and flesh of the babassu nut to produce flour. Palm hearts are extracted from the tree to make a juice. The leaf and stalk of the babassu palm is used in building materials. Baskets and other handicrafts can be made from the fibre of the leaves.

Babassu oil
Babassu oil or cusi oil is a clear light yellow vegetable oil extracted from the seeds of the babassu palm (Attalea speciosa), which grows in the Amazon region of South America. It is a non-drying oil used in food, cleaners and skin products. This oil has properties similar to coconut oil and is used in much the same context. It is increasingly being used as a substitute for coconut oil. Babassu oil is about 70% lipids, in the following proportions:

Fatty acid
Lauric, 50.0%
Myristic, 20.0%
Palmitic, 11.0%
Oleic, 10.0%
Stearic, 3.5%

Lauric and myristic acids have melting points relatively close to human body temperature, so babassu oil can be applied to the skin as a solid that melts on contact. This heat transfer can produce a cooling sensation. It is an effective emollient.

During February 2008, a mixture of babassu oil and coconut oil was used to partially power one engine of a Boeing 747, in a biofuel trial sponsored by Virgin Atlantic Airways.

Source from Wikipedia