An Eco-sustainable World
ArborealSpecies Plant

Butia odorata

Butia odorata

The South American jelly palm or jelly palm, pindo palm (Butia odorata (Barb.Rodr.) Noblick, 2011) is an arboreal species belonging to the Arecaceae family.

Systematics –
From a systematic point of view it belongs to:
Eukaryota domain,
Kingdom Plantae,
Subkingdom Tracheobionta,
Spermatophyta superdivision,
Magnoliophyta division,
Class Liliopsida,
Arecales Order,
Arecaceae family,
Subfamily Arecoideae,
Tribe Cocoseae,
Subtribe Attaleinae,
Genus Butia,
Species: B. odorata.
The term is basionym:
– Cocos odorata Barb.Rodr..
The terms are synonyms:
– Butia capitata var. elegantissima Becc.;
– Butia capitata var. erythospatha (Chabaud) Becc.;
– Butia capitata var. erythrospatha (Chabaud) Becc.;
– Butia capitata var. lilaceiflora (Chabaud) Becc.;
– Butia capitata var. nehrlingiana (Abbott ex Nehrl.) L.H.Bailey;
– Butia capitata var. odorata (Barb.Rodr.) Becc.;
– Butia capitata var. pulposa (Barb.Rodr.) Becc.;
– Butia capitata var. strictior L.H.Bailey;
– Butia capitata var. subglobosa Becc.;
– Butia capitata var. virescens Becc.;
– Butia nehrlingiana (Abbott ex Nehrl.) Abbott;
– Butia nehrlingiana (Abbott ex Nehrl.) Abbott ex Nehrl.;
– Butia pulposa (Barb.Rodr.) Nehrl.;
– Cocos elegantissima Chabaud;
– Cocos erythrospatha Chabaud;
– Cocos lilaceiflora Chabaud;
– Cocos nehrlingiana Abbott;
– Cocos nehrlingiana Abbott ex Nehrl.;
– Cocos pulposa Barb.Rodr..

Etymology –
The term Butia derives from butiá, the Brazilian vernacular name of a palm which means thorny, toothed in reference to the thorns present on the petioles.
The specific epithet odorata derives from the Latin word odoro, to exhale perfume and was chosen by João Barbosa Rodrigues in 1891 to reflect the highly aromatic nature of the fruit, considered at the time among the best palm fruits for consumption in Brazil

Geographic Distribution and Habitat –
Butia odorata is a palm native to southern Rio Grande do Sul in Brazil, from the municipalities of Palmares do Sul and Porto Alegre in the south to Treinta y Tres and Rocha department in northern Uruguay.
Its habitat is in the fields on top of the hills that hug the coast but it can also grow in the grasslands (pampas), in the seasonally semi-deciduous Atlantic forest and in the rocky outcrops from 0 to 500 m of altitude.
It grows in sandy and rocky, often dry soils, such as established dune formations. However, it is not found in more humid habitats.
This palm commonly grows in small clusters and these palm groves are known locally as butiazais or butiatubas.

Description –
Butia odorata is a monoecious palm growing with a single but robust trunk, upright to slightly inclined, occasionally underground, growing to 2-10 m in height and 0.32-0.6 m in diameter. The trunks taper to a diameter of 20 cm towards the crown.
This palm has 13 to 32 pinnate, glaucous to dark green leaves arching towards the trunk and spiraling around the crown. The petiole is 30–75 cm long, 1–1.2 cm thick, 3.3–3.9 cm broad, and has both stiff fibers and up to 5 cm long spines along the margins (edges): the upper part of the petiole it is flat or slightly convex, the underside is rounded. The leaf rachis is 70–200 cm long and has 35 to 60, exceptionally 66, pairs of pinnae (leaves).
The inflorescences form between the leaves, on a 0,7-0,8 m long peduncle covered by a thin white powdery waxy layer; these are about 0,9 m long, with first order ramifications, initially enclosed in an erect, woody oblong-lanceolate acuminate spathe, about 0,5 m long, externally of pale brown colour, smooth.
The flowers are unisexual and generally yellow in color arranged in a triad (a female flower between two male ones); the inflorescence presents the phenomenon of proterandria (the male flowers ripen before the female ones) which favors the crossed fecundation.
Like all Butia species studied, this species has relatively larger pollen grains than those of other palm genera found in Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil. These grains are bilaterally symmetrical, suboblate, mono-furrowed and with a piriform tip. The surface is covered with tiny 2 μm wide lattice patterns.
The fruit is a globose-depressed drupe and of a predominantly yellow color when ripe, or even, but less frequently, orange and reddish orange, of 2-2,8 cm of diameter and 1,8-2 cm of length. , with globose, hard endocarp, of 1-1,3 cm of diameter, containing 1-3 seeds.

Cultivation –
Butia odorata is an evergreen palm that is harvested from the wild for local use as food. The fruit is very popular in its range and therefore the plant is often grown in gardens and small orchards – it is also widely grown as an ornamental, especially in warm temperate and subtropical zones.
B. odorata is often grown in Mediterranean Europe, the southern United States, Australia and southern Brazil as an ornamental plant.
This palm can be grown in the driest areas with annual rainfall of up to 250mm and in a month or more where rainfall is less than 25mm.
This is the hardiest species in the genus and can tolerate frost, with a tolerance down to -10°C.
It needs fertile, moist but well drained soils in a sunny and sheltered position even if it tolerates light shade.
The plants, however, grow well in full sun, albeit small, and can tolerate at least some maritime exposure with brackish winds and somewhat saline soil conditions. Cultivated plants are drought tolerant.
This palm is highly variable, with many forms and varieties, on which there is not yet full systematic agreement.
Very slow growing plant with deeply penetrating root system which generally establishes best when planted in a juvenile stage. However, older plants are substantially more cold hardy than young plants.
In areas at the limit of cold tolerance, therefore, it is prudent to grow plants in containers for a few years, giving them winter protection, and planting them in open fields only when the size requires it.
Palm trees can also be transplanted when they are very large. Although thick, fleshy roots are easily damaged and/or dried out, new roots are usually produced easily. It is important to give it plenty of water until it recovers from the transplant, even if you remove a lot of leaves.
It reproduces by seed to be placed in a draining substratum kept constantly humid at a temperature of 25-28 °C, with germination times around 8 months, these can be reduced to 1-3 months by breaking the endocarp with a common nutcracker and planting the the seeds it contains.

Customs and Traditions –
Butia odorata is a palm known by various common names: pindo palm, jelly palm, wine palm (English); butiá, butiá-azedo, butiá-branco, butiá-vinagre, butiazeiro (Brazil).
Around 4750 BC, when the climate began to dry out for a prolonged period, an agricultural civilization began to develop in the vast wetlands around the Lagoon of Merín in the department of Rocha, Uruguay, as evidenced today by thousands of mounds, known as cerritos, scattered over the landscape.
These peoples lived in sedentary villages that accumulated household waste such as broken tools, stone chips, shells, pieces of coal or bone, other food remains, and pottery and grave fragments.
These populations survived on a diet based on hunting and fishing, on the cultivation of maize and gourds, then beans, and on the collection of tuberous marsh plants such as Typha, Canna, Marantha and Araceae. Butia odorata nuts and phytoliths abound here, in association with traces of human occupation even before the first evidence of the adoption of agriculture over many millennia by mound-building villages, thus indicating that the fruits and fronds, but it is not clear whether the nearby palm groves were wild, cultivated or encouraged to spread (intentionally or not).
Around 0 AD about a new people moved to the north of this region from the Amazon, the ancestors of the Tupi-Guaraní peoples, who initially settled in the dense forests along the margins of the major rivers, where they practiced slash and burn and an agriculture that used crops such as cassava, peanuts, pumpkins, beans, potatoes and sweet potatoes. These peoples lived in sedentary or semi-permanent villages consisting of numerous family longhouses arranged in circles around the center, and had a culture that included management of wasteland for further agricultural production, use of lip discs, ritual festivals cannibalism with fermented beverages, long-distance trade using roads, the exclusive use of the bark as fuel in pottery kilns and burial hearths, and cremation with the remains buried in urns in the town centre. Some remains of B. odorata have been found in the remains of a village dating from 1460-1800 AD.
From a taxonomic point of view, B. odorata was distinguished in 2011 from the analogous Butia capitata on the basis of geographical criteria and due to the abundant rounded fruits, sometimes a little depressed, which are eaten fresh or used for jams, juices, sorbets and alcoholic beverages.
In summary, it was initially described with the name of Cocos odorata Barb.Rodr. (1891), and concerned the populations of southern Brazil and Uruguay, subsequently, due to the very similar characteristics with the isolated populations of Butia capitata (Mart.) Becc. (1916) located further north of Brazil, it was proposed to consider it one of their varieties and described as Butia capitata var. odorata (Barb.Rodr.) Becc. (1916), but in fact for about a century this was considered (together with other names) only a synonym and the plant was cultivated and spread as Butia capitata.
In 2011, the American botanist Larry Roland Noblick, a profound connoisseur of American palms, brought the populations south of Brazil and Uruguay back to the rank of species with the name Butia odorata.
Currently this plant finds a certain interest for its fruits, produced in abundance, which have a very fragrant and pleasantly acidic pulp, even if rather fibrous, rich in antioxidants, in particular carotenoids, minerals, and vitamin C. In the places of origin the the fruits are eaten fresh or used to prepare jams, juices, sorbets and alcoholic beverages, and the leaves, rich in resistant fibres, used to make artistic and commonly used handicraft objects.
The plant is therefore cultivated as a fruit tree in Brazil and Uruguay but also outside this area as in the United States.
From a phytochemical point of view, the triterpenes cylindrin and lupeol methyl ether are present in this plant and can be isolated from the epicuticular waxes of the leaves.
Regarding its ecological status, in 1996 Noblick noted that the population he visited growing in a once stable cattle pasture was unhealthy as there was no new growth. Population rejuvenation has been hampered by fires and grazing by livestock. Noblick also noticed that much of its former habitat was being converted to rice paddies.
For this reason, since 2017, like all four Butia species native to Uruguay, it has been protected by law. Mature palms cannot be cut down or moved without government permission.
It should be remembered that Butia odorata often acts as a host for the epiphytic species of fig Ficus cestrifolia and also hosts two lichens: Cladonia ahtii and C. palmicola. C. palmicola was first collected in 1989, described in 1995 and since 2012, and has only been found on the trunks of Butia trees growing along the coast from Santa Catarina state to Uruguay.
In addition, butterfly caterpillars recorded feeding in Uruguay in 1974 on this palm (B. odorata identified as Syagrus capitata in this study) are Blepolenis batea and Opsiphanes invirae, the nominate form or possibly the subspecies remoliatus.
The caterpillars of the Indonesian butterfly Cephrenes augiades augiades and the Australian butterfly C. trichopepla can also feed on the leaves of this palm.

Method of Preparation –
Butia odorata is a palm whose fruits are consumed which have a taste similar to a mixture of pineapple, apricot and vanilla. The taste can vary depending on the soil conditions and the taste of apple, pineapple and banana together is also common. It is sour and sweet at the same time, with a pulp similar to that of the medlar, but slightly more fibrous.
The fruits are eaten raw but can also be made into jellies, jams, pies, cakes, etc.
The seed contains up to 45% of an edible oil and is mainly used for margarines.
A loaf can be made from the marrow of the stem; however, since the tree cannot create lateral branches, if this is removed the plant dies.
However, no medicinal uses are known.

Guido Bissanti

– Acta Plantarum – Flora of the Italian Regions.
– Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
– GBIF, the Global Biodiversity Information Facility.
– 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.

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Attention: The pharmaceutical applications and alimurgical uses are indicated for informational purposes only, they do not in any way represent a medical prescription; we therefore decline all responsibility for their use for curative, aesthetic or food purposes.

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