About 20 minutes south of Natal, Brazil, is one of the world’s great arboreal attractions. California’s giant sequoias and redwoods are famous, and rightly so. But the world’s largest cashew tree, or cajueiro, is a unique experience within the woody wonders of the world.
Strolling inside the sprawling canopy, you may think you are walking in an entire lush, green forest of cashew trees, but you are actually walking within one single tree. The tree covers about two acres, almost the size of two football fields, equivalent to about 70 normal-size cashew trees.
The age of the giant tree is murky. Some think it was first planted in 1888, but others claim it’s thousands of years old. In any case it still produces a large amount of fruit and nuts. (In Brazil, the cashew tree is prized more for its delicious but, alas, un-transportable fruit even more than its nuts.)
The tree’s record size is believed to be the result of two different genetic mutations. One, the branches grow sideways instead of upwards, eventually being weighted down and touching the ground. Second, instead of just growing along the earth as expected, when a branch touches the soil it sets down roots. Thus the tree spreads like a forest with multiple trunks growing over the two acres.
Making the experience even more wonderful is the beautiful drive along the Brazilian coast down from Natal. The tree is located near the popular Praia de Pirangi (Pirangi Beach) in Brazil’s Rio Grande do Norte state. Just follow the cashew-shaped signs and you will be at the tree in 20 minutes. Admission is cheap. Yes, they charge admission to a tree.
The tree is surrounded by an equal or greater amount of acreage dedicated to souvenir shops selling all sorts of cashew-themed souvenirs. The cashew-flavored cachaca (a Brazilian sugar cane based alcohol) is highly recommended to bottle those memories of your visit to O Maior Cajueiro do Mundo, the World’s Largest Cashew Tree.