Characteristics of Brazil Nut Tree (Bertholletia excelsa) in the Wild

Bertholletia excelsa
Brazil nut or Amazonian almond (Bertholletia excelsa) belongs to the Lecythidaceae family. The range is in the tropical rainforests of South America. In the west extends to the foothills of the Andes Mountains (Bolivia, Colombia, and Peru), including the lowlands of the Amazon, Brazil. To the north are Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname, and French Guiana. Some may grow elsewhere, where the seeds were caused by humans in the past.

Brazil nuts often grow on dry land (terra firma), with a dry season lasting about three to five months.

This species was first described scientifically in 1808 by Aimé Bonpland.


According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), in 2019 only three countries produced significant amounts of Brazil nuts, Brazil 32,905 tons, Bolivia 31,146 tons, and Peru 6,205 tons.

A state-owned company was established in Bolivia in 2009 (Empresa Boliviana de Almendras y Derivados) to increase marketing and processing opportunities for Brazil nuts. In the first year, about 700 tonnes of Brazil nuts worth 26 million bolivianos (about 3 million euros) were exported this way. As a result, the first processing plant in the Beni Department was built. Through the constant expansion of activities, including the branch in Hamburg, domestic consumption and exports have increased significantly.

Children are often involved in harvesting in Bolivia, increasing the family’s income.


The fruit does not come from plantations, but almost exclusively from the wild. They are taken from the ground and brought to the collection, harvest time lasts more than half a year during the rainy season.

The fruit is high in protein and fat, up to 70%. Brazil nuts also have a very high proportion of minerals (calcium, iron, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, selenium, and zinc) than other nuts.

Brazil nuts are the largest known source of plant selenium. The selenium content of Brazil nuts is so high that an overdose can occur quickly, which usually manifests in hair loss and brittle nails. A 200-gram pack of Brazil nuts has about 20 mg of selenium. Barium is also contained can have toxic effects such as weakness, vomiting, and diarrhea after ingestion.

Brazil nuts contain relatively high amounts of naturally occurring radioactive substances such as radium -226 and radium -228, According to the Federal Office for Radiation Protection, they can have a radium content 1000 times higher than the average German food. Consumption of two Brazil nuts a day results in an effective radiation dose of about 160 microsieverts (µSv) per year.


The European Commission (EC) issued regulations in 2003 for imports of Brazil nuts. It was found that in the shells aflatoxin, which is produced by molds, occurs many times more than allowed in the EU. (“Such contamination poses a serious threat to public health in the Community and therefore protective measures must be taken at the Community level.”) According to the European Commission, all imported nuts must now be tested and accompanied by a certificate of origin. This exceeds the possibilities of most South American manufacturers. As a result, the traditional trade in Brazil nuts as a whole declined sharply.


Characteristics of Brazil Nut Leaf

Bertholletia excelsa Leaf

The leaves alternate, clustered at the ends of the branches. The leaves are rough and glabrous, oblong in shape, about 20-40 cm long and 7-15 cm wide. The leaves are pointed or rounded to pointed, the edges of the leaves are wholly or slightly notched and partly wavy. The underside of the leaf looks whitish because it is tightly covered by papillae. The petiole is 2-5.5 cm long.


Characteristics of Brazil Nut Flower

Bertholletia excelsa Flower

Inflorescences are usually terminal on branches or arise from leaf axils. The zygomorphic flowers are light yellow to white, about 3 cm in diameter. The petals cover the entire flower bud and open along the gap into two non-overlapping parts, lobes. The six petals form a bowl-shaped flower with the bottom, the top spreading to roll.

The stamens stand together in many rings. Starting from this ring, the hat curls in a hemispherical manner over the lush stamens. Inside, this crest is smooth at first, eventually containing sterile, nectar-producing appendages, such as stamens. Nectar is produced at the attachment point of these appendages. The inferior ovary has many chambers with many ovules.


Characteristics of Brazil Nuts

Bertholletia excelsa Fruit

The fruit is woody, round, about 16 cm in diameter. Each fruit, weighing 500-1500 grams, contains 10-25 seeds in a hard and thick shell.

Seeds are numerous, or functionally non-opening (pyxidium). Seeds are triangular in size about 2×5 cm and have a woody seed coat. Unlike most related species, it does not have a seed coat.


Characteristics of Brazil Nut Tree

Bertholletia excelsa Tree

Brazil nut is a semi-evergreen tree, fast-growing and very large, over 50 meters tall. The trunk is cylindrical with cracked bark, up to 3 meters in diameter, some old trees up to 5 meters in diameter. The wood is pinkish-brown in color and turns light brown when exposed to light. The color of the sapwood is lighter and yellowish.

The Brazil Bean Tree is an example of extractive. Because trees are long-lived and productive during their lifetime.


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