An Eco-sustainable World
ArborealSpecies Plant

Syagrus oleracea

Syagrus oleracea

The Guariroba or bitter palm (Syagrus oleracea (Mart.) Becc. 1916) is an arboreal species belonging to the Arecaceae family.

Systematic –
From a systematic point of view it belongs to:
Eukaryota domain,
Kingdom Plantae,
Subkingdom Tracheobionta,
Spermatophyta Superdivision,
Division Magnoliophyta,
Class Liliopsida,
Order Arecales,
Arecaceae family,
Subfamily Arecoideae,
Cocoseae Tribe,
Subtribe Butiinae,
Genus Syagrus,
Species S. oleracea.
The term is basionym:
– Cocos oleracea Mart..
The terms are synonymous:
– Calappa oleracea (Mart.) Kuntze;
– Cocos oleracea var. platyphylla Drude;
– Cocos picrophylla Barb.Rodr. ex Becc.;
– Syagrus gomesii Glassman;
– Syagrus oleracea var. platyphylla (Drude) Becc..

Etymology –
The term Syagrus is not known, however the most accredited hypothesis is that it derives from the name “syagrus” given by Pliny the Elder (23/24 AD – 79) to a variety of date palm.
The specific epithet oleracea comes from the Latin “oleraceus, a, um”, i.e. similar to vegetables, with reference to the edible vegetative tips (“hearts of palm”).
The common name “guariroba” comes from the Tupi word gwarai-rob, meaning “the bitter”.

Geographic Distribution and Habitat –
Syagrus oleracea is a palm native to an area that includes Bolivia, Brazil (Bahia, Ceará, Espirito Santo, Goiás, Mato Grosso do Sul, Minas Gerais, Paraiba, Paraná, Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo) and north-eastern Paraguay.
Its natural habitat is that of the semi-deciduous forest and savannah (cerrado); both in dense primary formations as well as in areas of secondary growth between 400 and 1000 m altitude.

Description –
Syagrus oleracea is a monoecious palm with a solitary, erect, columnar stem, slightly enlarged at the base, which grows up to 15-20 m in height and 20-30 cm in diameter. The stem is greyish white in colour, slightly marked by scars rings of the attachment of the fallen leaves and vertically cracked, covered for a short distance under the crown by the residues of the leaf bases.
The leaves are 2-3.5 m long; they are pinnate, slightly arched, with 90-160 pairs of linear leaflets with sharp apex, rigid, arranged on the rachis in groups of 2-5 at various angles, 30-60 cm long and 2.5-4 cm wide, green in color dark above, glaucous green below; leaf bases and petiole, 0.5-1.5 m long, with fibrous margins.
The inflorescences are found at the terminal of a 20-50 cm long peduncle and arise between the leaves; they are 40-90 cm long, yellow in colour, initially enclosed in a brown woody spathe, with first order ramifications and unisexual flowers arranged in triads (one female flower between two male ones), except in the terminal part of the rachillae where they are present only solitary male flowers or in pairs.
The fruits are ovoid in shape, 4-6 cm in length and 3-4 cm in diameter, yellowish green in colour.
Inside there is a single ovoid seed 3-5 cm long and 2-2.5 cm in diameter.

Cultivation –
Syagrus oleracea is an evergreen palm whose seeds and edible fruits are sometimes collected in the wild for local use.
It is also grown as a vegetable for the vegetative tips. The fruits are edible and provide an edible oil.
This palm is one of the most ornamental of the genus and is widely used in the areas of origin as an ornamental in parks, gardens and street trees, it is also locally cultivated for the vegetative tips.
Outside its places of origin, it is rarely present in gardens, with Syagrus romanoffiana being much preferred, with a similar appearance, but with thicker foliage, due to its ease of cultivation and greater rusticity and speed of growth.
This plant can be grown in full sun in tropical, subtropical and marginally warm temperate climate regions, where it can resist temperatures down to around -3 °C for a short period.
The plant adapts to different types of soil, from sandy to stony, as long as it is deep and draining, preferably from acidic to neutral, and can withstand short periods of dryness, but benefits from regular watering, particularly in the juvenile phase.
The established plants are drought resistant and have a moderate growth rate.
Reproduction occurs by seed, previously kept in water for 3 days, in draining soil kept humid at a temperature of 26-28 °C, which germinates after 2-3 months.

Customs and Traditions –
Syagrus oleracea is a plant known by various common names; among these are: catolé, coco-babão, coco-amargoso, coqueiro-amargoso, guairoba, gariroba, gairoba, gueroba, gueiroba, palmito-amargoso, paty-amargoso (Portuguese-Brazil).
This palm, in addition to being found in nature where its fruits are consumed and the vegetative tips are removed (which however lead to the death of the plant), is cultivated precisely for the vegetative tips; these have a bitter taste and are taken from 2-4 year old plants and consumed after boiling; they are highly appreciated in some regional cuisines, in this way natural populations are safeguarded, given that this use involves the death of the plant.
The guairoba palm heart is a delicacy of wide culinary use in some states, including some regions of Goiás and Minas Gerais.
In good recipes for empadão goiano, for example, it is essential to include good pieces of guairoba bitter heart of palm. A hearty food and very strong seasoning, the filling of this pie, along with the guairoba, must contain pieces of chicken, preferably thighs, sausages, potatoes and eggs hard-boiled or simply broken in half and ripe tomatoes. It can also be used as a salad: with cherry tomatoes and plenty of dressing.
The fruits are also marketed, both for the pulp, which is not very fibrous and sweet, and for the oily, white endosperm, with a pleasant flavour. The oil obtained from it, of excellent quality for food uses, can be used in industry. of soaps. The fruits are also an important food resource for local fauna.
Its slightly elliptical fruit, yellowish-green in colour, whose mesocarp and oily seeds are edible, appears in bunches between October and February.
Edible oil is extracted from the seed.
The plant is also widely used in the embellishment of squares and especially in the central flowerbeds of streets and avenues in the cities in the hinterland of Goiás, such as in the city of Jataí which over the years has planted thousands of seedlings throughout the city.
Among other uses, the leaves are reported to be used to make brooms.
The wood is moderately heavy, soft, strong even when exposed to the elements and is used for posts, battens and troughs.

Preparation Method –
Syagrus oleracea is a palm whose fruits and seed oil are sold in local markets and used for both food and medicinal purposes.
It is also a very ornamental palm widely cultivated for street trees in central Brazil.
The fruits are eaten raw, they have a fibrous and mucilaginous pulp with a sweet flavour.
An edible oil is obtained from the seed.
The cooked leaves which have a bitter taste are also consumed.
The apical shoot, often known as “heart of palm”, is consumed as a vegetable; however, as mentioned, eating this shoot leads to the death of the tree because it is unable to produce lateral shoots.
In the medicinal field the apical bud is bitter, carminative, gastric and tonic; it is also used to help control the symptoms of hysteria.
The fermented pulp of the fruit is used to prepare a diuretic drink.
An oil extracted from the seeds is used to prepare a dressing that is said to invigorate the hair.

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 d’Italia, Edagricole, Bologna.
– Treben M., 2000. Health from the Lord’s Pharmacy, Advice and experiences with medicinal herbs, Ennsthaler Editore.

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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.

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