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Butia odorata - Formerly B. capitata, The Jelly or Pindo Palm.
Key Information
Origin: South America
Ultimate height: 8m (26ft)
Ultimate spread: 6m (20ft)
Leaf type: Pinnate (feather)
Trunk: Solitary Dia 0.5m (1.5ft)
Growing Temp: 18C-40C (64F-103F)
Hardy in UK: *Away from cold areas
Hardy to: *-12C (10F)
Prolonged freeze: No
Wind tolerant: Moderate
Coastal: Yes
Full Sun: Yes
Light Shade: Yes
Deep shade: No
Drought: No(needs ground water)
Drainage: Well drained to normal
Humidity: Medium to high
* : Healthy, established

Butia odorata with recurved leaves

A beautiful, quite variable, South American palm from Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay. with long recurving, pinnate leaves that arch downwards from the top of a thick, stout trunk up to 12-15ft (3.7-4.6m) in height, with a diameter of 1-1.5ft (0.5-0.9m). The leaves can range from a light green to blue grey, and grow up to 10ft (3m)in length. The petioles range from 2 to 4 feet, (0.6-1.2m) in length and have hooked thorns along both edges. Naturally leaf bases stay on the trunk but look far better when trimmed away, but care has to be taken as the thorns can draw blood.

Butia odorata grows best in a rich damp soil at temperatures of between 18 and 40C, (64-103F), but although capable of taking -12C (10F) as it's lowest limit, it cannot tolerate prolonged freezing temperatures well. Grown under a light tree canopy, can offer some protection. If in poor, dry soils it tends to be generally smaller, and in drought conditions growth can stop altogether. In shade growth is more lax and graceful looking. Leaves are brittle and both leaflets and whole leaves can be damaged by strong winds, or rough handling

Butia odorata may owe its variability to it's close proximity to several other species which it may hybridise with,  B. yatay which is similar to B. odorata but growing taller and with a thicker trunk. Other species include B. eriospatha and B. paraguayensis  All of these hybridize readily and it is suspected that many of the plants offered for sale as B. odorata may be hybrids. Butia can also be crossed with Syagrus romanzoffiana (the queen palm) to give a Butyagrus or 'Mule palm'. It gets this name as this hybrid is sterile. As a result every Butyagrus is a hand pollenated cross and that is why they command high prices. Butia also crosses with Jubea chilensis, giving a Jubutia hybrid

It produces bright orange fruit, called pindo dates in the US, and as Jelly is made from these it accounts for the common European name,'Jelly Palm'. Although the fruit is supposed to be delicious, there seems little evidence of it being grown commercially as a fruiting palm. The flowers are numerous, very small, creamy yellow and are borne on 'once branched', 3-4 ft (1-1.3m) long inflorescences bearing separate male and female flowers. Pollination is by wind and insects. Fruit: The 1" (2.5cm) yellow to orange fruits are round or oval shaped, and hang in large bunches. Each fruit contains a single large seed which looks like a tiny Coconut, with the characteristic 3 pores at one end. The sweet, but tart, flavour is a mixture of apricot, pineapple and banana. Fruits are harvested as they ripen, or if the whole bunch is harvested they tend to ripen all at once. They can be eaten fresh or puree'd, and make excellent jelly as well as wine. They can be stored for about a week refrigerated.

There are a few other palms available in the Butia family with yatay perhaps being less hardy than odorata, and the recently introduced eriospatha (Mountain Butia) which thrives in cool conditions, however, this one has yet to prove it's cold hardiness. The main thing to watch with Butia is the roots getting frozen in winter. This is a killer of even large palms, so ensure palms in pots have adequate protection around the pot.