Attalea speciosa (babassu, babassu palm, babaçu, cusi) is a palm native to the Amazon Rainforest region in South America. The babassu palm is the predominant species in the Maranhão Babaçu forests of Maranhão and Piauí states.
This plant has commercial value because its seeds produce an edible oil called babassu oil, which is also used in cleaners and skin care products. The fruit is used to produce products such as medicines, beauty aids, and beverages. Traditional communities of the Maranhão region also produce a flour from the fruit and this is commercialized as a nutritional supplement. The leaves are also used to provide thatch for houses and can be woven into mats for constructing house walls. The stems are used for timbers. The Babassu palm is considered a weed in pasture areas of Cerrado vegetation in Brazil.
In his 1995 The Palms of the Amazon, Andrew Henderson recognised A. speciosa and A. spectabilis as valid species, but considered the latter to either be an acaulescent form of A. speciosa or a hybrid between it and A. microcarpa. In their 2005 World Checklist of Palms Rafäel Govaerts and John Dransfield accepted A. spectabilisas a valid taxon but Sidney F Glassman considered it a dubious taxon in his 1999 Taxonomic Treatment of Palm Subtribe Attaleinae. Attalea vitrivir was recognised as a distinct species by Michael Balick and coauthors; Glassman and Govaerts and Dransfield concurred, but Henderson considered it part of A. speciosa. Glassman also described a fourth member of this group, A. brejinhoensis, and it is accepted by Govaerts and Dransfield.
Reproduction and growth
In February 2008, babassu palm oil was used in a blend with coconut oil and jet fuel to power one engine of a Virgin Atlantic Boeing 747 during a flight test. It is considered to be less environmentally friendly than biofuel made from the Jatropha plant that Air New Zealand tested in December 2008. This is because Babassu grows in forested areas that require deforestation, rather than in arid land and land with marginal use, like the Jatropha plant.
- Dransfield, John; Natalie W. Uhl; Conny B. Asmussen; William J. Baker; Madeline M. Harley; Carl E. Lewis (2005). "A New Phylogenetic Classification of the Palm Family, Arecaceae". Kew Bulletin 60 (4): 559–69. JSTOR 25070242.
- Balick et al. 1987, Anderson and Balick 1988
- Pintaud, Jean-Christophe (2008). "An overview of the taxonomy of Attalea (Arecaceae)" (PDF). Revista Peruana de Biología 15 (supl. 1): 055–063.
- Henderson, Andrew; Gloria Galeano; Rodrigo Bernal (1995). Field Guide to the Palms of the Americas. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press. pp. 153–164. ISBN 0-691-08537-4.
- Anderson, Anthony B.; William L. Overal; Andrew Henderson (1988). "Pollination Ecology of a Forest-Dominant Palm (Orbignya phalerata Mart.) in Northern Brazil". Biotropica 20 (3): 192–205. doi:10.2307/2388234. JSTOR 2388234.
- First biofuel flight, BBC News, 24/2/08