The açaí (pronounced "ah-sah-EE") palm can be found throughout much of Central America and northern South America. This slender palm naturally grows in shaded areas of the rainforest, reaching heights of 50 – 100 feet (15 – 30 m). It is a multi-stemmed palm, with the average adult tree having 4 – 8 stems converging into a single root system. The tree displays a beautiful crown of green feather-like palm leaves and produces bunches of nutritious berries, which the tree has become famous for. The açaí berries are approximately ½ inches (1.5 cm) in diameter and contain a single seed in the center. The berries emerge green, and ripen to their dark purple color, ready for harvest during the dry season between July and December. Each tree stem will produce 4-8 bunches of fruit each year, each bunch weighing close to 13 lbs (6 kg)!
Native to South and Central America, the açaí palm is most commonly found in regularly flooded regions of rainforest and often forms large groves along lowland river edges. This slow-growing, shade loving palm takes 4 – 5 years before it begins to produce fruit. It depends on the many birds and animals that eat its fruit for the majority of its seed dispersal throughout the forest.
In recent years, açaí has become a popular ‘super fruit’ in United States and European markets.