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Genus of the Week

Week of December 14-20

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This page has been created for people who want to learn more about plants, especially in the context of their taxonomy (Latin names, etc.). This is by no means an exhaustive list of all available Web resources for a particular genus.
If you like this page, you should also visit the Land of the Glandular Trichomes , a microscopic look at plants in the Lamiaceae family.

This week's genus:


Subclass: Dicotyledoneae
Superorder: Dilleniidae
Order: Lecythidales
Family: Lecythidaceae
Number of Species: probably just one

The genus Bertholletia is economically important in South America: its one species, B. excelsa, is the source of the Brazil Nut. This genus' large, tropical rainforest trees produce fruits which each contain more than a dozen nuts. This past weekend, Dr. Enrique Ortiz, from the Smithsonian Institution, spoke at a Conservation Biology conference at UMass Boston about the harvesting of Brazil Nuts in Bolivia and Peru as a way to protect the rainforest as well as ensure the livelihood of its peoples. According to Dr. Ortiz, the nuts can be successfully harvested from trees growing in the wild, making plantations unnecessary. The nuts of these large, tough-shelled fruits provide sustenance for animals such as macaws and agoutis. Fallen fruits can also become homes on the forest floor for the initial stages of life of insect and frog species (when fallen fruit with a hole in the shell fills with water).

Here are a few links to images and descriptions of different Bertholletia species:


  1. Heywood, V.H., ed. Flowering Plants of the World. New York, Oxford University Press: 1993.
  2. Ortiz, Enrique. NGOs and the Conservation of Biodiversity: Issues and Challenges. Conference at University of Massachusetts, Boston: Dec. 12-13, 1997.

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