Phenology, biometric parameters and productivity of fruits of the palm Butia capitata (Mart.) Beccari in the Brazilian cerrado in the north of the state of Minas Gerais.
The fruits of the palm Butia capitata are harvested from wild populations. A lack of knowledge of their ecology has hindered the establishment of sustainable management practices. We investigated fruit biometric parameters, yield and phenology in two populations of B. capitata in the cerrado (savanna) in the north of the state of Minas Gerais, Brazil, at two study sites: in the communities of Mirabela (Fazenda Baixa site, studied from December 2006 through December 2007) and Campos (studied throughout 2007). Overall, adult palms produced an annual average of 7.6 leaves. At the Fazenda Baixa site, the mean annual number of infructescences was 4.9, compared with only 1.6 at the Campos site, and the annual yield was 197-373 and 145-468 fruits per tree (in 2006 and 2007, respectively), compared with 67-247 at the Campos site. Reproductive events were seasonal and influenced by rainfall distribution. Typically, inflorescences and immature infructescences appeared in the dry season, mature infructescences appearing in the rainy season. Inflorescence production and fruit biometric parameters differed between the two populations. Fruit yield correlated with height and leaf biomass. We found that B. capitata fruits, which are highly perishable, should be harvested when nearly-ripe and remain attached to the infructescence during transport. Our findings have important implications for the development of strategies for sustainable management and in situ conservation of populations of this species.