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The Acai is a species of palm tree in the genus Euterpe cultivated for their fruit and superior hearts of palm. Its name comes from the Portuguese adaptation of the Tupian word wasai, fruit that cries or expels water. Global demand for the fruit has expanded rapidly in recent years, and a a is now cultivated for that purpose primarily. The closely-related species Euterpe edulis (ju ara) is now predominantly used for hearts of palm. Eight species are native to Central and South America, from Belize southward to Brazil and Peru, growing mainly in swamps and floodplains. A a palms are tall, slender palms growing to 15 30 meters, with pinnate leaves up to 3 meters long. The fruit, a small, round, black-purple drupe about 1 inch (25 mm) in circumference, similar in appearance but smaller than a grape and with less pulp, is produced in branched panicles of 500 to 900 fruits. The exocarp of the ripe fruits is a deep purple color, or green, depending on the kind of a a and its maturity. The mesocarp is pulpy and thin, with a consistent thickness of 1 mm or less. It surrounds the voluminous and hard endocarp, which contains a single large seed about 0.25 0.40 inches (7 10 mm) in diameter. The seed makes up about 80 of the fruit (Schauss, 2006c). Two crops of fruit are produced each year. The ripe fruits are harvested as food. In a study of three traditional Caboclo populations in the Brazilian Amazon, a a palm was described as the most important plant species because the fruit makes up a major component of their diet, up to 42 of the total food intake by weight.