Brazil nut trees are amazing!
I have Fairtrade organic Brazil nuts from Peru in the shop and I was wondering today how long it took for these huge nuts to grow, so I did a bit of internet searching and here is what I discovered. . .
A brazil nut tree can live for over 500 years and it takes 12 years before it can develop flowers that will produce nuts.
From flower to nut takes 15 months and the nuts grow in a very hard shelled husk with a small hole at the top. The time of ripening coincides with the rainy season.
Even though the trees are extremely tall (up to 50 meters), the husk does not break open when it drops to the ground. Instead it relies on the Agouti, a small rodent, which gnaws at the hole in the husk to break it open and reveal the nuts in their shells inside.
The Agouti will eat some of the nuts and store others in the ground, much like a squirrel; the remaining nuts may be picked up by other animals or left, where the may germinate, which takes 12 – 18 months.
It is extraordinary that the nuts develop at all, as Brazil nut trees need special pollinators, large bodies bees, or small bats who can break into the unusual flower structure and heavy coiled hood of the flowers.
Long tongues orchid bees are the particular pollinators of the Brazil nut tree flower. The specific orchid they seek, does not grow on the Brail nut tree. However the orchid is an essential link in the chain, as it produces a particular scent, which attracted the male bees, who then use the scent to attract female bees. It is the female bee which pollinates the Brazil nut tree flowers!
Brazil nut trees are a protected species and because of their longevity, can therefore be found growing in developed areas. The contained nuts in their husk have been known to create a lot of damage to property and occasionally people, because of their weight and size.