Those Wacky Brazil Nuts

Working on the Penn State Xylarium recently, I stumbled across a specimen of Bertholletia excelsa, which is more commonly known as the Brazil nut tree. This is another one of those examples where you see the product all the time, without really thinking about where it comes from. To me, it's just a large white nut that I knock out of the way while I'm searching out the pecans and almonds.

But now that I know all this, I'll have a little more respect for the Brazil nut.

Interesting factoid from the video...that the Brazil nut is the only commercial nut in the world that is harvested from the wild. Those are also some nice tall, straight stems. I can see why the locals are trying to optimize the combination of harvesting timber and nuts. It is also listed on the IUCN Red List as a Vulnerable species, which is why there is research going on to help conserve the habitat. From what we learn in the video, the research looks well-thought out and practical, with the research team looking for a solution that will benefit the ecosystem as well as the folks harvesting the fruits and timber.

Those are some crazy fruits...look like cannonballs! I wonder what the mortality rate from falling Brazil nut fruits is.

And here is a nice picture of the inside of the cannonball. Yes, you still have to crack those individual nuts...and it isn't as easy as crushing a peanut in your fingers. If you can crush a Brazil nut, I'm not messin' with you.

By Lior Golgher - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,
So, next time you're digging through a jar of mixed nuts, give those big Brazil nuts some respect.

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