The peach palm or peyibay(e), Bactris gasipaes, is a tropical spiny palm in the palm family Aracacea, one of the few edible palms in its genus of about 50 species. A fast-growing, erect palm, it reaches a mature height of up to 20 m (60 feet) in 8-12 years, becoming difficult to climb because much of the trunk is ringed with sharp spines. A single palm can grow multiple stems producing multiple clusters of 50-300 drupe fruits, each cluster weighing about 25 pounds (11 kg). The individual ovoid-conical shaped fruits have a red or yellow outer layer (exocarp) and orange inner flesh (mesocarp) and are variable in size, growing to about 400 g (0.9 pounds) with a small hard seed (endocarp) inside bearing an oily white kernel.
Bactris gasipaes grows especially along rivers basins below 1800 m (6000 feet) in elevation on the edges of mostly humid forests in its native origin: Amazonian Columbia, Ecuador, Peru and Brazil. The most important palm for Pre-Columbian Amerindians, it was introduced into Costa Rica before 2300 BC, where it naturalized. It is cultivated in Central and South America, and also in Southern Florida, parts of the Caribbean and the Philippines. It's economic importance as a food crop is increasing, especially as a source of palmetto (palm heart, harvested from the tip of the trunk); the less-perishable forms of the fruit, such as flour and oils, are also increasingly exported world-wide.
Indiginous people used every part of this tree: the seeds were roasted and eaten like chestnuts, the fruit boiled for human consumption and fed to livestock; the fruit was also fermented into alcoholic drinks. The palm’s strong, flexible wood worked well for building and making spears, bows and arrows; its spiny outer stem was sometimes draped around chicken houses to deter predators, or despined strips were fashioned into beds. The nutritional palm heart was consumed; sap extracted from the trunk to ferment into a potent drink; young flowers eaten, leaves woven into baskets and used for thatching roofs, and roots ground for medicinal purposes.
Grown in many countries, the peach palm is known by a multitude of names: pejivalle in Costa Rica; peach-nut, pewa or pupunha in Trinidad; piva in Panama; cachipay, chichagai, chichaguai, contaruro, chonta, choritadura, chenga, jijirre, pijiguay, pipire, pirijao, pupunha, or tenga in Colombia; bobi, cachipaes, rnacanilla, melocoton, pichiguao, pihiguao, pijiguao, piriguao, or pixabay in Venezuela; comer, chonta, and tempe in Bolivia; chonta dura, chonta ruru, pijuanyo, pifuayo, sara-pifuayo, pisho-guayo in Peru; amana, in Surinam; parepon in French Guiana; popunha in Brazil.
(Bermejo and Leon 1994; Morton 1987; NTPG 2013)
- Bermejo, J.E.H. and J. Leon. 1994. Neglected crops: 1492 from a different perspective. FAO Plant Production and protection Series 26. Rome, Italy. Chapter 21, peach-palm (Bactris gasipaes). Available online at http://www.fao.org/docrep/t0646e/t0646e0l.htm.
- Morton, J. 1987. Pejibaye. p. 12–14. In: Fruits of warm climates. Julia F. Morton, Miami, FL. ISBN: 0-9610184-1-0. Available online at http://www.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/morton/pejibaye.html#Culture
- National Tropical Botanic Garden (NTBG) 2013. Meet the plants: Bactris gasipaes (Arecaceae). Retrieved December 5 2013 from http://ntbg.org/plants/plant_details.php?rid=2982&plantid=11914.
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Barcode data: Bactris gasipaes
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Bactris gasipaes
Public Records: 3
Specimens with Barcodes: 3
Species With Barcodes: 1
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Bactris gasipaes (introduced)
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 6
Species With Barcodes: 1
Its English language common names include peach-palm. Names from Spanish-speaking countries include pejibaye (Costa Rica), chontaduro (Colombia, Ecuador), pijuayo (Peru), pijiguao (Venezuela), tembé (Bolivia), and pibá (Panama). In Brazilian Portuguese it is called pupunha. In Trinidad and Tobago it is known as peewah.
Bactris gasipaes, like most sea-island palms, grows erect, with a single slender stem or, more often, several stems to 8 in (20 cm) thick, in a cluster; generally armed with stiff, black spines in circular rows from the base to the summit. There are occasional specimens with only a few spines. It can typically grow to 20 metres (66 ft) or taller . The leaves are pinnate, 3 metres (9.8 ft) long on a 1 metre (3.3 ft) long petiole. The fruit is a drupe with edible pulp surrounding the single seed, 4–6 cm long and 3–5 cm broad. The rind (epicarp) of the fruit can be red, yellow, or orange when the fruit is ripe, depending on the variety of the palm.
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Bactris gasipaes has been used for food for centuries. Spanish explorers found a pejibaye plantation of 30,000 trees on the Atlantic coast of Costa Rica, providing fruit that replaced corn in the indigenous diet. The fruit is stewed in salted water and peeled, the seed is removed, and it may be flavored with salt or honey. The texture both raw and cooked has been compared to a firm sweet potato, and the flavor to hominy or dry squash. The fruit halves may be filled with mayonnaise or sour cream. Raw pejibaye contains irritating acid crystals, so it is often preferred cooked. The raw fruit spoils quickly but it can be stored as a dry meal or preserves. It can yield flour and edible oil.
This plant may also be harvested for heart of palm, and has commercial advantages in being fast growing; the first harvest can be from 18 to 24 months after planting. Brazil has a large domestic market for heart of palm and international demand is growing. It is also an economically important crop in Costa Rica. It is a viable substitute for other sources of heart of palm, such as overexploited native species of Euterpe, including Euterpe oleracea (açaí) and Euterpe edulis (juçara). It could also become a replacement crop for the threatened Fiji sago palm (Metroxylon vitiense).
Pests and diseases
The trunk of the tree can be infested with Phytophthora water molds. The foliage is infested with fungi of the genera Pestalotiopsis, Mycosphaerella, and Colletotrichum. The fruit is attacked by fungi of the genera Monilinia and Ceratocystis. Other pests include mites and insects such as the sugar cane weevil (Metamasius hemipterus).
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- Hernández Bermejo, J. E. and J. León, Eds. Peach-palm (Bactris gasipaes). In: Neglected Crops: 1492 From a Different Perspective. Rome: UN FAO. 1994. ISBN 92-5-103217-3
- Morton, J. 1987. Pejibaye. In: Morton, J. F. Fruits of Warm Climates. Miami, Florida. p. 12–14.
- Acosta, L. F. Costa Rica Precolombina. Editorial Costa Rica. 2000.
- Foster, S. Indigenous palm vulnerable. The Fiji Times 20 June 2008. Accessed 26 August 2013.
- Crane, J. H. Pejibaye (Peach Palm) Growing in the Florida Home Landscape. HS1072. Florida Cooperative Extension Service. University of Florida IFAS. 2006.
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Bactris gasipaes (peach palm) is a major staple for many Central American cultures as well as many cultures from the Northern part of South America. Its harvest is celebrated by the Shuar of Amazonian Ecuador with a well noted festival.
- B.C. Bennett. 2007. Chapter 3: Twenty-five Important Plant Families. B.C. Bennett, editor. UNESCO Encyclopedia of Life Support Systems. http://eolss.net.
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