THE PLANT 

Golden Grass (Syngonanthus Nitens) - Capim Dourado - is a delicate flowering plant whose stem has an intrinsic metallic shine and a natural golden hue that resembles a gold wire. It is native to Jalapão, a savannah-like expanse within the northern state of Tocantins in Brazil, where the local population long ago learned to weave the unique fiber to produce utilitarian objects and it is currently one of the most important economic sources in this predominantly rural area.

SUSTAINABILITY

Demand for the golden grass crafts increased the extraction of the plant. Worries about the golden grass’s sustainability have led the local government, non-governmental institutions and the communities of Jalapão to develop sustainable practices to help control the harvest while assuring the vital economic activity around golden grass. To empower the artisans, for instance, the sale of raw material is prohibited outside of Jalapão and golden grass can only be sold in the form of crafts and finished components for jewelry, personal and home accessories. In addition, to conserve the species the stems can only be harvested by licensed artisans from late September to November after seed maturation and dispersion have occurred.

SCIENTIFIC FACTS

This special plant, the Golden Grass , gets its color from a large number of different flavonoids compounds. Flavonoids are a class of yellow pigments with a chemical structure based on 15 carbon atoms and aromatic carbon rings and are commonly found in yellow plants, flowers and fruits like lemons or grapefruits. It also has high antioxidant properties with molecules able to prevent DNA damage from UV or diseases. Chemical studies using chromatography of extracts of the plants also revealed the presence of xanthone derivatives. These are also molecules rich in cyclic aromatic carbons. Xanthones are used in most insecticides and have pharmacological effects such as anti-bacterial and anti-fungal activities.

Historic FACTS

The making of handicrafts from S. nitens began in Jalapão, in the Afro-Brazilian community of Mumbuca in the municipality of Mateiros. Indigenous people, from the Xerente ethnic group, taught the art to local inhabitants when passing through the region around the 1930s.

CRAFTSMANSHIP

Meet Mrs. Miúda  — The art of working with the golden grass was taught to many local women by Mrs. Miuda an artisan, ancient of the village. Many years ago, around the 1930s, this technique was taught by the Indians to Mrs Miuda's grandmother then passed on to her mother. Today these crafts are going around by generations, and currently produced in many other places in the region of Jalapão.

THE REGION

Jalapão is a semi-arid microregion in the state of Tocantins, Brazil — a place which contains a variety of dramatic landscapes including cerrado vegetation, sand dunes and flat-topped plateaus and is home for this unique plant - Golden Grass . 

The landscape of the area transitions between the typical cerrado and the beautiful caatinga, there are also waterfalls, crystal clear rivers; rapids, large plateaus; and rock formations of various colors and shapes.

Within the area, one can find dunes of golden sands, with up to 30 meters high, which influenced its name of Jalapão desert. It would be a desert if Jalapão was not a paradise of water and a place where the presence of flowers and exotic animals are abundant.

In the midst of 34,000 square kilometers of arid landscape, the region is crossed by a vast network of rivers, creeks, and streams, all containing transparent and clean water. Jalapão is one of the few national landscapes that remains almost immune to the advancement of civilization, so much that you can run for miles and not find a single person.

The area of Jalapão has once been a sea. With the climate and atmospheric changes of the planet, the sea was drifting away and left a trail of biological richness that forced marine, wind sedimentation (winds), lacustrine (lake), and fluvial (river) to take shape over the millennia. As a result, the stone mountains took the form of old ruins - and gigantic - buildings.

The Golden Grass Company

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