The Guyana chestnut (Pachira insignis (Sw.) Savigny) is an arboreal species belonging to the Malvaceae family.
From a systematic point of view it belongs to:
P. insignis species.
The terms are synonymous:
– Bombax affine (Mart. & Zucc.) Ducke;
– Bombax spectabile Ulbr .;
– Bombax spruceanum Ducke;
– Carolinea affinis Mart. & Zucc .;
– Carolinea insignis Sw .;
– Pachira affinis (Mart. & Zucc.) Decne .;
– Pachira spruceana Decne ..
The term Pachira is the vernacular name used in the language spoken in Guyana.
The specific epithet insignis comes from distinguished, eminent, remarkable, extraordinary.
Geographic Distribution and Habitat –
Pachira insignis is a plant native to the Amazon and present in an area that includes: Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, the Caribbean and islands of the so-called West Indies.
Its habitat is that of humid montane rainforests, mainly in dense primary forests or secondary formations at an advanced stage, as in Brazil, and in tropical forests at altitudes up to 500 meters.
The Pachira insignis is an evergreen or semi-deciduous tree, which forms a dense and rounded crown, which can grow around 10 – 18 meters in height but can reach up to 30 meters.
The trunk, when ripe, can reach 50-100 cm in diameter with smooth gray-green bark.
The leaves are alternate, palmate – compound, grouped towards the ends of the branches, glabrous; lanceolate, caducous stipules; the petiole is (10-) 20-33 cm long, dilated at both ends; the leaflets (5-) 7-9, are sessile to petiolate, from obovate to obovate-oblong, 10-35 × 5-14 cm, from rounded to obtuse and often apiculate at the apex, wedged at the base, with margins whole and sometimes slightly curved, subcoriaceous, glossy above and opaque glaucous below.
The flowers are solitary or grouped in 2-3, towards the extremity of twigs; they are hermaphrodites, very large, 18-35 cm long; with 1-7 cm long, thick, puberulent pedicels; cupuliform calyx, truncated or sometimes slightly 5-wavy, 2-3,5 × 2-3,7 cm, of dark rusty red color, from short pubescent to tomentose outside, hairy silky inside; the petals are 5, linear-oblong, from acute to more or less obtuse, (17-) 27-34 × 1-2,5 (-3) cm, brown-red to scarlet in color, pubescent on both sides; stamens 450-700, monadelfi, unequal in length, purple-red below and whitish above, the stem column 6-10 cm long, anthers 4-9 mm long, yellow; the upper ovary, 5-angular, about 1 cm long, filiform style, 16-33 cm long, reddish, 5-lobulated stigma.
The fruit is a dehiscent woody capsule, 5-valved, from subglobose to ellipsoid, 14-36 × 8-13 cm; the valves are about 1 cm thick, brown-pubescent on the outside, hairy-silky to pubescent on the inside.
The seeds, generally at 4 angles, 2.5-3.5 × 2-2.6 cm, are brownish in color.
Pachira insignis is a plant grown in tropical South America and the Antilles as a hedge and is also grown as an ornamental, where it provides excellent shade.
For its cultivation it should be taken into account that it is a plant of the humid tropics. It is said to be able to tolerate occasional drops in temperature just below freezing.
It grows well in sunny locations and partial shade and prefers clayey, well-watered soil as long as it is well-drained.
Plants can tolerate periodic flooding, but they also need some time as the soil gets drier.
They grow well on the banks of rivers and is a fast growing tree.
Propagation can take place by seed which is good to sow as soon as it is ripe. it is advisable to carry out the sowing in a partially shaded position in single containers. Germination rates are generally extremely good, with seeds sprouting within 10 to 15 days. Seedlings develop quickly.
Propagation by cuttings is also possible.
Customs and Traditions –
Pachira insignis is a plant that, in addition to recent ornamental purposes, has been used and cultivated for some time for both food and medicinal use.
For edible use the seeds are consumed, raw or cooked.
Eaten raw, they are said to taste a little like peanuts, while cooked seeds resemble chestnuts.
The seeds can be roasted and used like cocoa.
The seeds can also be ground into a powder and used as a flour substitute in bread.
In addition, the seeds contain about 50% oil.
Young leaves are also consumed.
As for medicinal uses, on the other hand, there is fragmentary and unverified information.
For other uses of the plant, wood is used which is light, straight-grained, coarse in texture, easy to cut but with low resistance to rot. It is a low-value lumber and is used to make toys, boxes, door and panel trims, etc .; it is also useful for paper production.
Preparation Method –
Pachira insignis, like other tropical plants, boasts an ancient use by local populations for both medicinal and food use.
Medicinal uses are little known and, in any case, should be similar to those of other plants of the genus Pachira spp.
For food use both raw or cooked seeds are consumed which can also be roasted and used as cocoa or ground into powder and used as a substitute for flour in bread.
An oil is extracted from the seeds.
Young leaves can also be eaten as a vegetable.
– Acta Plantarum – Flora of the Italian Regions.
– Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
– Useful Tropical Plants Database.
– Conti F., Abbate G., Alessandrini A., Blasi C. (ed.), 2005. An annotated checklist of the Italian vascular flora, Palombi Editore.
– Pignatti S., 1982. Flora of Italy, Edagricole, Bologna.
– Treben M., 2000. Health from the Lord’s Pharmacy, Advice and experiences with medicinal herbs, Ennsthaler Editore.
Warning: Pharmaceutical applications and alimurgical uses are indicated for informational purposes only, they do not represent in any way a medical prescription; therefore no responsibility is taken for their use for curative, aesthetic or food purposes.