The land in our care is home to many brazil nut trees – trees found predominantly in the Amazon rainforest. The brazil nut tree towers above the other trees and can reach heights of up to 61 meters (200 feet). They can live for 500 years or more. In fact some scientists think they can reach the age of 1000 years! In addition, this tree turns out to have a fascinating story.

They Can Kill You!

The fruit pods of the brazil nut tree are the size of a coconut and can weigh up to 2.3 kg (5 pounds).  On its descent to the ground, it can reach speeds of up to 80 km (50 mph) and comes down with the power of a cannonball. A human being can easily be killed if hit on the head and in fact fatal accidents by brazil nut harvesters are not uncommon. To avoid any accidents, ARC harvesters wait until the majority of the fruits have fallen to the ground, wear hard hats, and only collect the fruit pods on non-windy days!

They Help Curb Deforestation!

​The brazil nut harvest provides communities with an economically valuable alternative to forest destruction. Brazil nuts are harvested almost entirely from wild trees by local people and the collection of the fruit has little impact on the ecology of the forest. Human-designed plantations of brazil nut trees have not been successful as they have very low production. Brazil nut trees only produce good yields in undisturbed, pristine forests.

The fruit pod has a woody exterior containing 10 – 25 edible seeds (which we call the nuts). The number of fruit pods per tree varies but usually ranges between 63 and 216. One tree can produce 113 kg (250 pounds) of nuts. The nuts are a protein rich food and the extracted oils are used in many natural beauty products.  ​​

They Rely On A Mammal, A Bee And A Flower.

The outer casing of the fruit pod is so hard that only one known animal can crack it open. The agouti is a large rodent with sharp, chisel like teeth that gnaws through the capsule, eating some of the nuts and burying others for later. Many of these nuts are forgotten and lay dormant in the soil for years, waiting for the perfect conditions to germinate and grow into new brazil nut trees.

Not only does the survival of brazil nut trees rely on the presence of a healthy agouti population, but there is also, only one type of bee that can pollinate these trees. The flower on the brazil nut tree has a unique shape and a large hood that only one type of bee can enter and have the strength to open to gather the pollen. This is the large- bodied or orchid bee.  In order for these bees to survive, the males must attract mates. The males rely on the fragrance from a particular species of orchid only found in the rainforest to attract the females.


They Have A Secret Weapon – Selenium.

The results of several scientific studies suggest that brazil nuts can help prevent the development of cancer. The brazil nut is unique in that it is the densest food source of the compound selenium. Selenium enhances the effect of antioxidants, inhibiting cell growth and the formation of malignant tumours. A five-year study conducted at the University of Arizona and Cornell University showed that, “patients receiving selenium had a 63% decrease in cancer of the prostate, a 58% decrease in colon or rectal cancer and a 46% decrease in lung cancer.”