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Rogerio Gribel

Brazil Nuts: From the Flower to Your Party Mix

Posted in Interesting Plant Stories on January 10, 2014 by Scott Mori

Rogério Gribel, Ph.D., is the Director of Scientific Research at the Rio de Janeiro Botanical Garden in Brazil, and Scott A. Mori, Ph.D., is the Nathaniel Lord Britton Curator of Botany at The New York Botanical Garden. They have studied all aspects of Brazil nut classification, ecology, evolution, and conservation for most of their careers.

Left: Rogério Gribel standing next to a gigantic Brazil nut tree. Right: a carpenter bee entering a Brazil nut tree flower in search of its nectar reward.

Here’s a video that shows how essential big, strong bees are for the production of the largest “nut” found in a can of mixed party nuts. It shows a carpenter bee (Xylocopa frontalis) pollinating the flowers of a Brazil nut tree (Bertholletia excelsa).

We say “nut” because Brazil nuts are seeds, not nuts, a kind of fruit structurally similar to an acorn. The Brazil nuts we eat at parties are produced in a woody fruit that looks like a cannonball, so, to be botanically correct, Brazil nuts should be called Brazil seeds. But we don’t expect that to happen anytime soon!

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