Ecotrend Blog



Brazil Nut Trees & the Web of Life

OCTOBER 19, 2020

A story from Jana Bell, Founder and President, Amazon Rainforest Conservancy.

During this topsy-turvy time of COVID 19, I wanted to reach out and share with you a story about the interconnectedness of life in the Amazon rainforest. This is the story of a tree, a flower, a bee, a mammal and a frog!

Our story begins with the Brazil nut tree which only grows in the Amazon rainforest. These trees produce nuts that are inside an extremely hard coconut-like pod. Only one known animal is able to crack open this hard casing with its sharp chisel-like teeth. This rodent, named the agouti, will eat some of the nuts and bury others for later. Many of these hidden nuts are forgotten and go on to become new trees. Without seed dispersal by the agouti, new trees would not be planted!

Wonderful orange blue sunset on the river Amazon with the silhouettes of the trees. Amazonas State, Brazil

Next up in our interconnected story is the large-bodied bee. This is the only bee which is strong enough to pry open the heavy hood of the Brazil nut flower, and has a tongue long enough to negotiate the unique coil-shaped flower. Without pollination by this special bee, the Brazil nut tree would not exist!

Our story does not stop there. The male large bodied bee needs the perfume from an orchid flower in order to attract a mate. The male bee gathers up essential oils from the orchid which he then stores in his hind legs. While buzzing about he will release some of the harvested scent to attract a female. Thus, the orchid flower plays an essential role in the life cycle of large bodied bee!

Last but not least in this interesting family is the Brazil nut poison frog — a tiny critter measuring about 2 cm that lays its eggs on the ground. When they hatch, the male carries the tadpoles to their nurseries, which are water-filled empty Brazil nut shells! Here the tadpoles grow rapidly as they eat the mosquito larvae sharing their home. Who knew that the Brazil nut tree plays an essential role in the raising of a baby frog!