The largest cashew tree in the world is located in Pirangi, 12 km south of Natal. The tree measures more than 8500 square meters and produces about eighty thousand cashew fruits and nuts.
Even at a satellite image, this location is visible: the cajueiro de Pirangi, translated as the cashew tree of Pirangi. Nothing weird about a cashew tree, but this specimen is unique in the world: only one tree, that has the size superior to the area of a soccer field. The tree was planted in 1888, by the fisherman Luís Inácio de Oliveira (he died at the age of 93, under this tree), although other sources reveal that this tree must be a thousand years old already.
This tree suffers to different anomalies: instead of growing upwards, the tree grew sidewards; with time the branches became that heavy that they grew over the soil, thereby forming many curves. The other anomaly allows the branch to produce roots when touching the soil. Now it is not easy to discern the original stem, since there were five originating from that stem, and four of them have been developed as new stems. Only one branch has a normal development. Due to this tumor-like growth, the tree already has the size of 2000 square meters in 1955, when the tree gained its nickname: o Polvo, the Octopus. At present, the tree has the size of more than 8500 square meters and is still expanding. The perimeter of the entire tree is measures more than 500 meter.
The park is located at Pirangi do Norte Beach, in the municipality of Parnamirim. This city, about 12 km south of Natal, is the third largest of the state of Rio Grande do Norte. Because of the proximity of Natal, Pranamirim is considered as a satellite city of Natal. Within its city limits, there is also the rocket launch base ‘Barreira do Inferno’, and the international airport ‘Augusto Severo’. After completion of the construction of the new airport ‘Grande Natal’, this airport will become a military airport again, like it was during the Second World War. Therefore, it gained the nickname ‘Trampoline to Victory’.
The entrance of this small park is flanked by tens of little stands where visitors may buy souvenirs. The entrance fee of this park is 4 reais. One is free to walk around and to collect the cashew fruits, but is not allowed to climb the branches. There is a small tower with an outlook over the entire field. The local guide will tell the visitors about the history of the tree.
The size of the tree equals to about seventy normal cashew trees. Its production reaches about 80 thousand cashew fruits and nuts, equal to about 2.5 tons. Visitors are allowed to collect the fruits and nuts.
The tree is still expanding. The park is surrounded by streets, and on one side by the highway ‘Rota do Sol’, linking Natal with the beaches in the south. The local community has no agreement about the future of the tree. Since the tree is one of the major touristic atrractions in the state of Rio Grande do Norte, all agree that the tree needs to be kept alive. Expansion of the tree implicates that the surrounding streets need to be reconstructed, to allow the tree expand naturally. Others are opposed to the reconstruction of the streets and propose to cut some of its branches. The danger exists that the tree might not survive these cuts.
Brazilian singer Elino Julião (1936-2006) wrote a song about this cashew tree:
O Cajueiro de Pirangi
Composição: (Elino Julião)
Click on this link to listen to this song
Vige que terrinha boa
É a terra de poti
Haja sol não tem garoa
É Natal em pirangi
Eu quero passear de barco
Vou ver o marco
O meu Brasil começa aqui
Do forte eu vou passar na ponte
Na ponde do rio Potengi
Mamãe eu quero ir
Mamãe eu quero ir
Passar o dia inteiro
No cajueiro de Pirangi
Não tem outro cajueiro
No mundo só tem esse aqui
O maior cajueiro
Do mundo é o de piranji
Text by Dr. Adriano Antoine Robbesom
Original text in Dutch, translation with help of Google Translator.