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(English) : bread nut
(Spanish) : capomo, ramon
Brosimum alicastrum trees grow to heights of 20-40 m; trunk may attain a diameter of 1-1.5 m; bark is thin and contains a white, sticky latex. Leaves are simple, alternate, with pointed stipules, 4-15 cm long and 2-8 cm wide, ovate-lanceolate to ovate-elliptic, with a pointed apex, lustrous green above and glaucous beneath; petioles 2-10 mm long. Flowers in heads with many male flowers; male flowers have a rudimentary perianth and 1 stamen; female flowers surrounded by male flowers. Fruit a berry, 2-2.5 cm in diameter, with a thick, greenish-orange pericarp and an agreeable sweet flavour; seeds 1.5-2 cm in diameter, surrounded by a shiny seed coat.
Ecology and distributionNatural Habitat
Found in tropical rainforest, deciduous tropical forest, thorn scrub and hillside forests. Although indigenous to moist forest, it is extremely tolerant of drought.
Native : Belize, Cuba, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Puerto Rico
Biophysical limitsAltitude: 0-1000 m, Mean annual temperature: 18-25 deg. C, Mean annual rainfall: 600-4000 mm Soil type: Grows best on Lithosols.
It is monoecious. Its pollination mechanism is not precisely known but it is probably wind pollinated. Seed-eating birds disperse the seed.
Propagation and managementPropagation methodsB. alicastrum can be grown from seed, cuttings or air-layers. A germination rate of 68% is expected after 28-30 days.
When the tree is grown for forage, the strata of branches should be formed when the saplings reach 3 m in height. Pruning is important to obtain forage, because large numbers of branchlets sprout and increase the quantity of fresh forage. If the tree is grown for wood there is little need for pruning to shape the stem, as it grows straight.
Seed storage behaviour is recalcitrant. The seeds can be stored in open air for 3 months. Seed weight is 300-350 seeds/kg.
Functional usesProductsFood: Humans eat the fruitís sweet pericarp and its chestnutlike seeds. The seeds taste somewhat like potato and are eaten raw, boiled or roasted. They are also reduced to a meal that is mixed with maize meal to make tortillas, or are baked with green plantain. The seeds are gathered by the Mayans of Central America for making bread when stocks of maize run low. The trees can be tapped and the free-flowing, milky latex mixed with chicle or drunk like cowís milk. Fodder: B. alicastrum provides tender, agreeable forage for cattle; they consume it readily, appearing to enjoy the leaves and branch tips. It is eaten especially when grass is scarce during the dry season. Groves of large B. alicastrum trees are considered a source of livestock feed equal to that of the best pastures. The abundant fruit serves as pig feed. Timber: B. alicastrum wood is white, dense, hard and fine grained. It is used in general construction, for staves, parquet flooring, crafts, tool handles and railway sleepers.
Shade or shelter: B. alicastrum provides good shade and reduces the impact of strong winds.
Pests and diseasesIn B. alicastrumís native range mammals such as deer browse the seedlings.
BibliographyBurns RM, Mosquera MS and Whitmone JL (eds.). 1998. Useful trees of the tropical region of North America. North American Forestry Commission Publication Number 3. North American Forestry Commission.
National Academy of Sciences. 1975. Underexploited tropical plants with promising economic value. National Academy of Sciences, Washington, D.C.; USA
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