The Brazilian Academy of Sciences (ABC) and the Brazilian Society for the Progress of Science (SBPC) sent a letter to the Ministries of Environment, Agriculture and Science and Technology in 2017, which was published in full by the newspaper O Estado de São Paulo . In the document, it is highlighted that the Cerrado is the savanna with the greatest diversity of species in the world, but it is also the most threatened by human activities. The letter underscores the urgent importance of conserving this biome.
Scientists have warned that almost half of the Cerrado's vegetation has been eliminated and the survival of this biome is threatened in the short term. It is crucial to share information so that more people understand the importance of this biome, understand what can be found in its plant characteristics and the environmental benefits that the Cerrado provides. As a famous phrase about conservation highlights, “you only protect what you love and you only love what you know”.
The Cerrado has a flora rich in species. A total of 533 tree species were found in 98 locations in the Cerrado throughout Brazil. Of these species, only 25 have a wide distribution and occur in at least 50% of the 98 locations, which makes them potential indicators of the Brazilian Cerrado and should be easily identified for an adequate typification of the biome.
In this article, we will present some widely distributed plant species that are unique to the Cerrado, in addition to sharing some curiosities about where they can be found, how to recognize them and their possible applications.
Aspidosperma tomentosum (cerrado peroba)
The species “Peroba-do-Cerrado” receives its name (Aspidosperma) due to its distinctive seed, which is protected by something similar to a shield. This tree is highly used as almost all of its parts are used. The seeds and fruits are used in the production of handicrafts, the wood is used in the manufacture of furniture and decoration pieces, the bark is used in the production of cork, and the tree as a whole presents great potential for landscape and in the recovery of areas. degraded. Peroba-do-Cerrado adapts well to different types of soil.
To identify it, it is necessary to observe some characteristics, such as the trunk, which can be up to 26 cm in diameter, has a yellowish color and cracks. The leaves are simple, alternate and form groups at the end of the branches.
The tree known as Cajuzinho do Cerrado, or also as murici-mirim (from the Tupi-Guarani, meaning "small tree"), can be found from the Campo-Cerrado even in backyards, for use in ornamentation and consumption. This tree is highly adapted to climate change, being the first to resprout when the habitat is burned. It is a fast-growing plant that produces fruits from January to June, which can be consumed in natura or processed for the production of sweets or ice cream.
As its name suggests, this species has a height that varies from 1 to 2.5 meters. Its leaves are simple and opposite. An important diagnostic feature to recognize it is to observe the intrapetiolar stipules during the vegetative recognition of the genus.
Pequi, as it is popularly known, is widely used in country cuisine, and can be consumed in the form of olive oil, cooked or mixed with rice. In addition, its wood is used in civil and naval construction. In honor of this tree, there is a city named Pequizeiro, in the state of Tocantins.
The pequi tree is characterized by a crooked and thick trunk, cracked bark and heavy wood, yet soft and durable, and can reach up to 10 meters in height. Its leaves are composed of three leaflets and positioned opposite each other (Photo 13). On the underside of the leaves there are prominent, densely hairy veins. This species is found both in degraded Cerrados and in well-preserved Cerrados, occurring from Campos-Cerrados to Cerrado stricto-senso.