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)
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
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
Part unspecified: Used by Surinam Bush Negroes as an ingredient in a curative herbal bath.
Bactris gasipaes is a species of palm native to the tropical forests of South and Central America. It is well spread in these regions were it is often cultivated by smallholders in Agroforestry systems or, more rarely, in monoculture. Its English language common names include peach-palm. It is a long lived perennial plant which is productive during 50 to 75 years on average. Its population has an important genetic diversity leading to numerous fruits colors and qualities. The fruits are edible and very nutritious but need to be cooked for 3–5 hours. They also benefit many animals in the wild. Peach-palms are also cultivated for the heart of palm and the trunk can make valuable timber.
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.
The peach palm grows wild in well-drained soils with various physical and chemical conditions, including acid and poor soils, since it is assisted by its association with mycorrhizas. It is grown in climates with precipitations between 2 000 mm and 5 000 mm and annual mean temperatures exceeding 24 °C. The recommended altitude for commercial cultivation ranges from 0 to 900 m asl. Peach palm is occasionally found at higher altitudes of up to 1800m asl, as the case in Colombia`s Cauca region El Tambo.
Peach palm can be considered the most important domesticated palm species of the Neotropics. Its wild and domesticated populations can be found in Central America, in the pacific lowlands of Colombia and Ecuador, in Venezuela and in the area of the Amazon rainforest, especially at the eastern foothills of the Andes. The exact origin of the cultivated peach palm remains open to debate The widespread cultivation of peach palm in the Americas reflects its capacity to adapt to a wide range of ecological conditions in the Tropics and Subtropics.
Wild and cultivated peach palm populations are genetically very diverse and could offer useful traits for breeding. Genetically the peach palm can be divided into (a) two western populations including Central America, the Andean valleys of Colombia and Venezuela and the pacific lowlands of Colombia and Ecuador; and (b) two western populations including the upper and the eastern Amazon. In general the western populations have harder stems, more abundant and stronger spines, larger leaves and more solid rooting in their juvenile phase.
Peach palm is a predominantly outcrossing species, though self-fertilization has also been observed. Pollination is carried out mainly by insects, especially by small curculionid beetles over distances between 100 and 500 m. Wind and gravity can also function as pollen vectors. Since peach palm is a long-lived perennial and predominantly outcrossing species the genetic diversity of the populations is high. Though no definite studies have been conducted on seed dispersal of peach palms, it is probably restricted locally to dispersal by birds and seed-gathering mammals. Seeds may only be occasionally dispersed by water of greater distances. The gene flow of outcrossing tree species with such scattered distribution may be restricted and could result into genetically distinct, isolated subpopulations with small effective population sizes. In contrast to the cultivated peach palm, wild populations are threatened by deforestation, driven mainly by agricultural expansion and the transition of forest to savannah. Many populations are now isolated by increasing forest fragmentation, which will lead to decreased reproduction via inbreeding depression and eventual extinction even without complete deforestation. Their natural distribution is not yet well defined. Wild peach palm trees can be found in disturbed ecosystems, on river banks and in primary forest gaps. They often occur in isolation or at low densities.
Bactris gasipaes was domesticated early in the occupation of the lowland humid neotropics by the indigenous people of the Americas during the pre-Colombian era. There are three hypotheses for the exact origin of cultivated peach palm: There was either (a) a single domestication event in the south western Amazon, (b) a single domestication event in the Colombian inter-Andean valleys and adjacent Pacific lowlands or (c) multiple independent centres of domestication. Besides the fruits and seeds for human consumption, the pre-Colombian uses of the tree included the roots as medicine, the stem as timber and building material for tools, the spines for needles, the leaves for thatch and basketry, the heart of palm as vegetable and the flowers as ingredient for flavourings.
Peach palm has a rapid juvenile growth (1.5 – 2 m per year) and a moderate light interception if the plant is spaced appropriately. Therefore, it is suitable for agroforestry. In commercial plantations, peach palm is found in agroforestry systems with Coffee and Banana in Costa Rica. In several countries in Central and South America, it is found in combination with pineapple, papaya, passion fruit, maize, cassava and cacao. Fruit production starts between three and five years after planting and production lasts then for 50 to 75 years. The plant reaches its full productivity after about seven years.
Fertilizer requirements of Bactris gasipaes are dependent on the nutrient status of the soil and are usually adapted from heart of palm or from other palm fruit production. Phosphorus is considered the most limiting nutrient and yield is driven by Phosphorus and Magnesium rather than by Nitrogen.
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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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, dry squash or roasted chestnut. In some regions, the fruit halves are filled with mayonnaise or sour cream. Raw peach palm contains irritating calcium oxalate crystals that disappear under intense heat. Sellers of the fruit (often, street vendors) cook the fruit for 5 hours the night previous to the sale; however, recent studies have revealed that the same effect can be achieved in 30 minutes inside a pressure cooker, or even less in dry ovens or microwaves, without significantly altering the flavour of the final product. The raw fruit spoils quickly but it can be stored as a dry meal or preserves. It can yield flour and edible oil. Further, peach palm chips, currently produced in southern Colombia, are believed to have a large potential to enter mainstream markets.
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).
Peach palm fruit is widely used as animal feed. With its low fiber and high starch content it can substitute maize in the fodder mixture. By ensiling the fruits, drying and heat treatment to deactivate the trypsin inhibitor can be avoided. However, a protein-rich additive is needed to enrich the silage of peach palm so it can be used to feed cattle. Peach palm fruit can further be used to feed fish, poultry and pigs and to produce multi-nutritional blocks for cows, goats and sheep.
Taxonomy & Names
The first scientific description of this species was made by the German botanist Karl Sigismund Kunth in 1816 in the fourth edition of Nova Genera et Species Plantarum, co-written with Alexander von Humboldt and Aimé Bonpland.
- Bactris ciliata (Ruiz & Pav.) Mart.
- Bactris insignis (Mart.) Baill.
- Bactris speciosa (Mart.) H.Karst.
- Bactris utilis (Oerst.) Benth. & Hook.f. ex Hemsl.
- Guilelma chontaduro Triana
- Guilelma ciliata (Ruiz & Pav.) H.Wendl.
- Guilelma gasipaes (Kunth) L.H.Bailey
- Guilelma insignis Mart.
- Guilelma speciosa Mart.
- Guilelma utilis Oerst.
- Martinezia ciliata Ruiz & Pav.
- chonta or chontaduro (Ecuador)
- chontaduro (Colombia)
- pejibaye (Costa Rica and Dominican Republic)
- manaco (Guatemala)
- pijuayo (Peru)
- pijiguao (Venezuela)
- tembé (Bolivia)
- pibá (Panama)
- peewah (Trinidad and Tobago)
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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
- Graefe, Sophie (2013). "Peach palm (Bactris gasipaes) in tropical Latin America: implications for biodiversity conservation, natural resource management and human nutrition". Biodiversity and Conservation: 269–300. doi:10.1007/s10531-012-0402-3.
- Morton, J. 1987. Pejibaye. In: Morton, J. F. Fruits of Warm Climates. Miami, Florida. p. 12–14.
- Mora-Urpi, J. (1997). "Peach palm. Bactris gasipaes Kunth. Promoting the conservation and use of underutilized and neglected crops. 20. Institute of plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research.". Gatersleben/IPGRI, Rome.
- Araujo, CM (2010). "Genetic variability in the peach palm gene bank with rapid RAPD markers.". Crop breed and Applied Biotechnology 10: 211–217.
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- Winogrond W (2004) Colombia alternative development project. Survey of Department of Cauca. Chemonics International Inc., Washington
- 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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- Fog, L. . "According to Dominique Dufour", French researcher. El Espectador 06 February 2013.
- Fog, L. . Citing a study by Centro Internacional de Agricultura Tropical, CIAT (International Centre of Tropical Agriculture) El Espectador 06 February 2013.
- Foster, S. Indigenous palm vulnerable. The Fiji Times 20 June 2008. Accessed 26 August 2013.
- Clement CR (1990) Pejibaye. In: Nagy S, Shaw PE, Wardowski WF (eds) Fruits of tropical and subtropical origin: composition, properties and uses. Florida Science Source Inc., Lake Alfred, pp 302–32
- Clay JW, Clement CR (1993) Selected species and strategies to enhance income generation from Amazonian forests. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Rome
- Argüello H (1999) Cultivos y tecnologı´as para la reconversio´n econo´mica en la Amazonia Colombiana. Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Instituto Amazo´nico de Investigaciones, Bogota
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Surinam: amana, paripoe. Surinam Carib: paripe.
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.
Names and Taxonomy
Guilielma gasipaes (H.B.K.) Bailey
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