Forest 59 - Jelly Palm

Butia capitata

Flowers of the Butia capitata tree. Photo not from the Arboretum Ripe_fruit_of_Butia_capitata Photo not from the Arboretum

Other common names

Pindo palm

Origin of the species name

Butia: a Portuguese corruption of an aboriginal term meaning "spiny"; capitata: is Latin, meaning "with a dense head" referring to the seed heads.



Date planted

April 2011


Trees of this species live around 80 years.

Butia capitata tree in the Royal Botanic Garden in Madrid Spain. Photo not from the Arboretum

General description 

This is a small to medium-sized palm. It features pale blue-green or blue-grey recurving fronds which grow out of a stout, heavily textured trunk. The edible fruits are yellowish or reddish. Height 6m Spread 4m.

Natural distribution and habitat  

The species is native to Brazil and Uruguay where it grows in savannahs and deciduous forest, with alternating wet and dry seasons often with many thousands of palms being present in the one area. This species tolerates frost, wind-exposure and drought, so is well suited to horticulture beyond the usual range for palms.

Conservation status

It is not a rare or threatened species.

Planting pattern

Forest 59 is a steep site planted in lines following the contours.


The fruit can be eaten raw but is also used to make jelly and wine, hence the pindo is commonly called the jelly palm. The seed contains up to 45% of an edible oil, it is used mainly for margarines. The pith of the stem can be made into bread.

Further reading

Jones, D (1995) Palms Throughout the World. Smithsonian Books.