THE CERRADO

The term Cerrado in Brazil is given to the vegetation type universally known as “bushy” Savannah, which is found in all the tropical regions of the planet, in various modalities. The term is of a physiognomic nature and not a floristic or ecological classification. What characterizes the Cerrado is its structure which is always composed of two characteristic strata: the tree layer with small, twisted or gnarled trees, thinly spaced, with thick, corky bark which is commonly soft; the second, herbaceous layer is formed by grasses, sub shrubs and shrubs.

This impression of aridity is false. The woody plants lose water freely through transpiration even during the dry period thus demonstrating that they have no need to save water. There is always underground water available for the vast root systems of the Brazilian Savannah plants.

From July to September, that is from the middle to the end of the dry season in the Cerrado, the vegetation appears extremely parched: the grasses turn brown and burn easily, the soil is very dry and hard on the surface and the trees are partially defoliated, since they are semideciduous during the dry season; the sunlight is intense and the air has little relative humidity; the leaves are generally thick and rigid and sometimes hairy, the bark is corky and so on.

This impression of aridity is false. The woody plants lose water freely through transpiration even during the dry period thus demonstrating that they have no need to save water. There is always underground water available for the vast root systems of the Brazilian Savannah plants. The drought, therefore, is merely atmospheric, limited to the mid-year months. Furthermore, the rainfall is regular from October to March.

The above-ground part of the Cerrado seems to the observer to be somewhat lacking in trees. He tends to think the trees are too distant one from another. Some data should correct this impression. A dense, tall, well developed Cerrado formation can have from 181 to 235 trees per hectare, demonstrating that a Savannah does not have fewer trees than a forest. What happens is that the size of the trees in the forest is greater, and the species are more diverse, with greater number of life forms: epiphytes, saprophytes, lianas, macrophyllous herbs, etc.

Useful woods of the Brazilian Cerrado are many, for example the sucupira (Bowdichia virgilioides), pequizeiro (Caryocar brasiliense), faveiro (Pterodon pubescens), vinhático (Platymenia reticulata), aroeira-do-sertão (Astronium urundeuva). Tannin comes form the barbatimão (Stryphnodendron adstringens), oil for soap from the pequizeiro (Caryocar brasiliense). Many fruits could be utilized by man as a food source. Mention should be made of some of these fruits: mangaba (Hancornia speciosa), caju (cashew, Anacardium spp.) (the fruit not the nut), pequi (Caryocar brasiliense), jatobá (Hymenaea stignocarpa), fruta-do-lobo (Solanum lycocarpum).

FIND TOURS IN CERRADO

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