The dwarf yatay palm or Butia palm tree (Butia paraguayensis (Barb.Rodr.) L.H.Bailey, 1936) is an arboreal species belonging to the Arecaceae family.
From a systematic point of view it belongs to:
Species B. paraguayensis.
The term is basionym:
– Cocos paraguayensis Barb.Rodr..
The terms are synonymous:
– Butia amadelpha (Barb.Rodr.) Burret;
– Butia dyerana (Barb.Rodr.) Burret;
– Butia dyeriana (Barb.Rodr.) Burret;
– Butia pungens Becc.;
– Butia wildemaniana (Barb.Rodr.) Burret;
– Butia yatay subsp. paraguayensis (Barb.Rodr.) Xifreda & Sanso;
– Butia yatay var. paraguayensis (Barb.Rodr.) Becc.;
– Cocos amadelpha Barb.Rodr.;
– Cocos dyerana Barb.Rodr.;
– Cocos dyeriana Barb.Rodr.;
– Cocos wildemaniana Barb.Rodr.;
– Syagrus amadelpha (Barb.Rodr.) Frambach;
– Syagrus amadelpha (Barb.Rodr.) Frambach ex Dahlgren;
– Syagrus dyerana (Barb.Rodr.) Becc.;
– Syagrus dyeriana (Barb.Rodr.) Becc.;
– Syagrus paraguayensis (Barb.Rodr.) Glassman;
– Syagrus wildemaniana (Barb.Rodr.) Frambach ex Dahlgren;
– Syagrus wildemaniana (Barb.Rodr.) Frambach, 1936.
The term Butia derives from the Portuguese diction of the indigenous name which means thorny, toothed, in reference to the thorns present on the petioles.
The specific epithet paraguayensis refers to one of the places of origin of the plant.
Geographic Distribution and Habitat –
Butia paraguayensis is a plant native to the cerrado region of South America.
In detail, it is found in the territories ranging from Mato Grosso do Sul and Sao Paulo in southern Brazil, through Paraguay, up to northern Argentina and Uruguay.
This palm is very common in Paraguay where it grows particularly in the departments of Amambay, Caaguazú, Caazapá, Canindeyú, Concepción, Cordillera, Guairá, Misiones, Ñeembucú and San Pedro. In Brazil it is present in the states of Mato Grosso do Sul, Paraná, Rio Grande do Sul and Sao Paulo. Lorenzi et al. reported a population in the south-east of Minas Gerais in 2004, as did Noblick in 2010. In Argentina it is present in the provinces of Corrientes and Misiones (in San Ignacio). In Uruguay it has historically been recorded as native to the departments of Artigas and Rivera but the distribution has been greatly reduced due to agricultural development and currently the species is limited to a single population of 175 individuals located on private properties on the Cerro del Miriñaque, a hill in the Rivera department.
Its typical habitat is that of the cerrado (a type of savannah prairie) and pastures where it grows in well-drained, usually sandy soil. In Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, it grows exclusively on clayey (probably lateritic) soils. Normally its altitudinal range is from 100 to 300 meters.
Butia paraguayensis is a short, monoecious, solitary-trunk palm, usually forming an underground trunk, although great variability is shown with some specimens forming large above-ground trunks up to 2 m in height.
The leaves are pinnate and arched (from 6 to 20) with a color ranging from glaucous to dark green and the edges of the petiole are covered with fibers and a row of thorns up to 4 cm long.
It produces a short, very branched inflorescence, with the female flowers much larger than the male ones.
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, oblate, monogrooved and with a pyriform end. The surface is covered with tiny lattice patterns 2 μm wide.
The fruits are variable and can be conical or ovoid in shape, as well as being colored green, purple, red, orange or yellow when ripe. The fruits are 3-4 x 2-3 cm, juicy, slightly fibrous, with a sweet and sour flavour, with a persistent perianth base.
Inside we find 1-3 large seeds with homogeneous endosperm.
Butia paraguayensis is a palm that mostly grows spontaneously and in its habitats where it grows mainly in savannahs in sandy and poor soils and the climate is characterized by a marked seasonality with rainy summers and dry winters (from May to October ).
This species is sometimes, although rarely, cultivated in Argentina, England, California.
However, it is still a little widespread palm despite its ornamental characteristics. It can be cultivated successfully especially in countries with a Mediterranean climate. It adapts to poor and dry soils, provided they are well drained, and has a fair resistance to low temperatures (up to -6 °C). Grown in full sun it takes on a more compact shape and a more intense color of the foliage.
For this reason, for its cultivation it is recommended to plant palm trees in full sun. According to some reports, the plant resists down to -11 °C, but in some countries such as the Netherlands it should be protected already at -4 °C.
The reproduction of this palm occurs by seed. These germinate in 3-4 months.
Customs and Traditions –
Butia paraguayensis is known by some common names. It was given the name dwarf yatay palm in English in 2000 but is known locally as yata’i in Guaraní and Paraguay, or butiá-do-cerrado in Portuguese in Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil.
This palm is often confused with the Butia yatay which still has a trunk, but taller, with much larger leaves and inflorescences. In the past it was classified as a synonym of that species.
In Paraguay, palm fruits and hearts are consumed by local tribal communities (Ava Chiripá, Aché, others). The leaves are also used to make hats and other craft items.
Green, unripe fruits are believed to be useful in fighting intestinal worms.
In Paraguay the nuts are believed to be of good use as bait for fish.
The fruits are not considered edible in Argentina.
In Uruguay the only remaining population has some ecotourism value.
From an ecological point of view, B. paraguayensis is well adapted to periodic fires in the cerrado.
In the Mbaracayú Forest Nature Reserve, the ferns Pleopeltis decumanum usually, and occasionally P. hirsutissima and Serpocaulon latipes, grow as epiphytes on the trunks of this palm. Orchids of the Catasetum genus also grow here.
The rare bird Caprimulgus candicans appears to prefer open prairie habitats with low-density forests of these palms.
In Paraguay, fruits are the favorite food of the maned wolf, which can be an important seed disperser. Parrots and macaws also use the ripe fruits.
Unfortunately in Uruguay this species is now very rare (175 plants on a single hill) due to habitat loss due to agricultural activities such as livestock farming and forestry (eucalyptus pulp plantations). Sheep and cattle eat the seedlings, preventing repopulation.
Since 2017, like all four Butia species native to Uruguay, it has been protected by law. Mature palm trees cannot be cut down or moved without government permission.
Bauermann et al studied the possibility of using palm pollen, including this species, in palynology, to try to provide more details on ancient habitat changes in the state of Rio Grande do Sul in Brazil, by monitoring changes in distribution and in the abundance of palm trees, but they were not able to provide many details on the subject.
Preparation Method –
Butia paraguayensis is one of the palms that has been affected by the contraction of habitats and therefore the change in use of the plant among local populations.
In Paraguay both the fruits and the hearts of palm are still consumed by local populations (Ava Chiripá, Aché, others). In Argentina, however, the fruits are not considered edible.
Furthermore, the leaves are used as material to make hats and other handicrafts.
In the medicinal field it is believed that green and unripe fruits are suitable for fighting intestinal worms.
In Paraguay, nuts are used as bait for fish.
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– Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
– GBIF, the Global Biodiversity Information Facility.
– Useful Tropical Plants Database.
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– Pignatti S., 1982. Flora d’Italia, Edagricole, Bologna.
– Treben M., 2000. Health from the Lord’s Pharmacy, Advice and experiences with medicinal herbs, Ennsthaler Editore.
Attention: Pharmaceutical applications and food uses are indicated for informational purposes only, they do not represent in any way a medical prescription; we therefore decline any responsibility for their use for healing, aesthetic or food purposes.