Butia Capitata: Fruit Recipes & Plant Care Tips

Butia capitata, or jelly palm, is native to Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, and can be found in California and southern states like Florida and Texas. This form of pindo palm often adorns southern yards and Florida cemeteries. The jelly palm produces edible fruits that almost taste like pineapples. 

Butia Capitata: Plant Profile and Common Names

Some of the more common names people may know Butia capitata by are:

  • Pindo palm
  • Jelly palm
  • Wine palm
  • South American jelly palm
  • Cocos capitata

No wonder this form of pindo palm adorns southern yards and Florida cemeteries. It’s a truly handsome, if small, evergreen palm tree.

This palm species can grow up to 10 feet across and an impressive 20 to 30 feet tall. Even more impressively, each leaf stands out with 25-60 pairs of slender leaflets, common to the palm tree. They ascend from a spiny leaf stalk to form a V shape.

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The Butia capitata earns its showy palm tree reputation with its dominating, dense crown of gray-green to broad blue-green leaves.

These leaves are pinnately compound in nature, arching downward in a graceful, weeping, arching style.

Foragers, look out for this slow-growing palm tree in summer, when its bloom time comes around.

You’ll find the jelly palm blooming with showy and impressive yellow, white or red flowers, all small. Their pleasantly fruity smell invades the nostrils.

Where does Jelly Palm Grow?

You’ll find this palm in Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, and southeastern parts of America, like North Carolina, Florida, and Texas too.

As one of the cool hardy palms, the jelly palm can be robustly resilient against cold weather. A fact that makes jelly palm easy to grow.

These palm trees not only tolerate all kinds of light but thrive in anything from full sun to partial shade.

Jelly palm tree
Jelly palm tree

Can you Eat Jelly Palm Fruit?

Yes, one of the best things about jelly palm is that it has edible fruits. Ripe fruit comes along when the flowers are pollinated.

Bees and other pollinators help the Butia capitata produce edible fruits around the size of dates.

Is jelly palm poisonous to pets?

The good news is, no, this feather palm tree poses no significant threat to pets. Although jelly palm doesn’t come with any particular disease or toxin warning, be careful of the sticky droppings if you have a curious pet.

If your pet eats too much of the Butia Capitata fruit, it may vomit or have a general stomach ache.

What does Jelly Palm Fruit Taste Like?

Surprisingly, this palm tree’s fruit is reminiscent of pineapple, being sweet and tart simultaneously.

Although, different people report the taste differently. Some even describe the pindo palm’s taste as a mix of banana and nectarine.

How do you Know When a Jelly Palm Fruit is Ripe?

It can be hard to tell when the jelly palm fruit is ripe because it’s always yellow. The color will be very yellow when they’re very ripe, but not orange.

When you touch the fruit, it should feel soft to the touch. Luckily, the leaves don’t grow so tall that you can’t reach the fruit from the ground.

If you’re trying to tell by taste, the fruit should leave your mouth with a slightly nutty, tropical, and sweet yet tart flavor. The taste will be reminiscent of pineapple, with background hints of banana, apricot, and coconut.

Butia capitata fruit - not ripe
Butia capitata fruit – not ripe

What can you do with jelly palm fruit?

If you have a Butia capitata or wander upon this palm tree on your foraging adventures, you must use the fruit to make delicious, tropical jelly. Now the name jelly palm makes sense, right?

Other people like to make jam and wine with the jelly palm fruit or eat it straight from the tree. But, many choose to spit out the fiber with the seed when eating raw.

Growing it in your Garden and Plant Care Tips

There’s a reason that Butia Capitata is a given part of the landscape in southern climates like Florida and North Carolina. Next time you pass a Florida cemetery, public park, or even residential street, take a look.

You’ll find the jelly fruit tree often prevalent over the landscape, with the owners glad to give you the fruit that is not only edible and tasty but in abundance. Why not be one of those jelly palm fruit owners and plant it in your garden.

However, the sticky, icky, gooey fruit and its consequent sap on whichever surroundings the jelly palm tree presides over make it a messy tree.

If you want to avoid making a sticky mess of cars, driveways, decks, and patios plant this palm somewhere that you’ll enjoy seeing the jelly palm without resenting the sappy mess it makes. 

Just keep in mind these plant care tips before you get started;

  1. Ensure your soil is well-draining for the jelly palm tree to grow correctly.
  2. Try to plant your pindo palm in neutral pH level soil. But, this isn’t a true deal-breaker. The jelly palm tree will still fill out even in soil that sits on either side of a neutral PH level.
  3. Only plant in temperatures above 5 degrees. Your Butia capitata won’t grow well in any temperatures lower than this.
  4. Don’t worry about light levels; this species of palm tree does well in any light, from full sun to shaded areas.
  5. Don’t forget to prune the feather palm fronds (leaf) when they die. But, never prune healthy fronds unless you want this palm tree to go into stress. Doing so could lead to the loss or even death of your jelly palm.
  6. Always dip your clippers in a sterilizing solution to avoid disease cross-contamination between plants. Carrying around a bucket that contains a 5% bleach solution and swishing your blades for 30 seconds between plant varieties is the safest option.
  7. Water well when you first plant this slow-growing palm, even up to once a day in the first week. On average, you can extend this to 2-3 times per week, but make sure to water thoroughly at the base. Once you establish your palm tree, weekly watering should be plenty.
  8. Always plant high, as you would with any woody plant. Make sure to leave exposed the taper at the base of the trunk as much as possible. Never let soil accumulate around the base of your jelly palm.

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