Mauritia vinifera Mart.
Mauritia flexuosa, known as the moriche palm, ité palm, ita, buriti, canangucho (Colombia), or aguaje (Peru), is a palm tree. It grows in and near swamps and other wet areas in tropical South America.
It is an elegant tree which can reach up to 35 metres in height. The large leaves form a rounded crown. The flowers are yellowish, and appear from December to April. The fruit, which grows from December to June, is a chestnut colour and is covered with shiny scales. The yellow flesh covers a hard, oval, nut. The seeds float, and this is the means by which the palm tree propagates. In natural populations the tree reaches very high densities.
Moriche palm fruit is edible, has a high vitamin C content, and used to make juice, jam, ice cream, and a fermented "wine". An oil high in vitamin A is extracted from the pulp and is frequently used to treat burns because of its soothing qualities. The inflorescence buds are eaten as a vegetable, and the sap can be drunk fresh or fermented (see palm wine). Threads and cords are locally produced from the tree's fibers.
Buriti oil is an orange-reddish oil extracted from the fruit of the moriche palm. The oil contains high concentrations of oleic acid, tocopherols and carotenoids, especially betacarotene. Recently it has been found to filter and absorb cancer-causing UV rays from the sun.
This tree is important to many animal species, several bird species, such as the Red-bellied Macaw, Sulphury Flycatcher and Moriche Oriole, use it for nesting and food. Many ungulates, fish and monkeys depend on the fruit.
The government of the Federal District - the Brazilian state where the country's capital, Brasília, is located - is called Palácio do Buriti ("Buriti Palace"). Across the street from the building there is a square with fountains and a single moriche palm tree, which was taken from the outskirts of the city and replanted there. The species is a common feature of the cerrado vegetation that predominates in central Brazil.
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