Cork substitutes

Pito coral tree, Erythrina berteroana


Family: Fabaceae

Native to: Caribbean, through central America to Northern South America.

Habitat: Grown in humid climates.  Wet to dry thickets, thin forest, abundant in hedges. Elevation generally below 1000 meters, but can grow up to 2000.

Ecological value: Fixes atmosphere Nitrogen. Planted for erosion control, and as windbreak. Attracts pollinators such as hummingbirds. 

Material uses: Used as live fences and shade trees. Seeds used to make necklaces and other jewelry. Bark yields yellow dye. Wood is solid and hard, but light. Used as substitute for cork. Used as fuel wood. 

Edible: Flowers are cooked and eaten as a form of vegetable. Consuming too much can result to fever, vomiting, and diarrhea. 

Medicinal value: Consumed large quantity acts as a sedation or deep sleep. Flowers prep in tea for help with hormonal and menstrual imbalances in women. It also helps with hemorrhages, dysentery, and anxiety. 

Other: Crushed branches can be used for fish poison. Mulch from leaves results in better phosphorus balance, higher microfauna population and increased crop yield. 

Research: Jennifer Yaing/Christine Facella


1.Cleversley , Keith . “Erythrina berteroana - Pito Coral Tree.” Entheology. September 13, 2002.

Image Credit/Source: Forest & Kim Starr,

Purple mombin, Spondias mombin


Family: Anacardiaceae

Native to: It is native to the tropical Americas, including the West Indies, besides Brazilian Northeast, it's rarely cultivated

Habitat: Open forest, secondary growth, common live fence, pastures, up to 1700 m. 

Ecological value: Flowers attract honeybees. Fast growing.

Material uses: Seed has oil content of 31.5%. Bark contains tannin. Low quality wood, prone to attack by termites but used in small utensils (not turning) and for matches. Exudes latex used for glue. Substitute for cork. Woody tubercles on trunk cut off and used for bottle stoppers and to make seals for wax etc. Ashes from burnt fuel wood used in indigo dyeing.  Bark used in dying. Bark thick, used for carving figures. Ashes used in soap making.

Edible:  Fruit processed into jellies, juice or pickle. Young leaves as vegetable.  

Medicinal value: Fruit as febrifuge and diuretic. Leaves and roots treat pain, coughs, kills parasites, treats mouth sores, diarrhea and dysentery, stop bleeding, induce labor and abortion, contraceptive. Vitamin B1 and C. Bark used for carving figures. 

Other: Used as live fence. Fruits to feed livestock. Fuel wood. Showy flowers. Fruit after 5 years. Shallow root system. Occasionally used as shade for coffee.

Research: Christine Facella/Adrian Chiu


1. Eromosele and Paschal, Characterization and viscosity parameters of seed oils from wild plants, Bioreseource Technology, 2003

2. Ayoka  et al, Medicinal and Economic Value of Spondias mombin, African Journal of Biomedical Research, May 2008

Image Credit/Source: 

Dinesh Valke,

Trumpet tree, Cecropia peltata


Family: Urticaceae 

Native to: Mexico through Central America to northern South America, Trinidad and Tobago, and Jamaica.

Habitat: Moist limestone, cleaned land/pastures or secondary growth. Prefers a clay-loam texture soil. 900 m or less.

Ecological value: Mutually beneficial relationship with a species of ant. The ant cleanses the tree and protects it from other insects in return for food and shelter. Succeeds in poor and eroded soils. Seeds dispersed by birds and bats. Can recover devastated primary forests.  Fast growing (20 years for full growth), and grows back when cut.

Material uses: Wood combined with cement to make insulation boards. Paper pulp, matchsticks and toys. Good tinder. Sap used as crude latex rubber. Leaves as sandpaper, hollow stems into life preservers, bottle corks, straws, instruments. Fiber used in rope. Soft wood doesn’t varnish well. 

Edible:  Young buds as cooked vegetable. Fruit eaten raw. Young buds as pot herb.

Medicinal value: Latex used to treat warts, calluses, herpes, ulcers, dysentery and venereal diseases. Tea made from the leaves can treat asthma, liver disorders, Parkinson’s and relieve cardiovascular problems, snake bites, pain of childbirth and menstrual issues.

Other: The species has been listed as one of the hundred worst invasive alien species by the Invasive Species Specialist Group.  Pioneer species- ideal for initial stages of reforestation as they provide shade for new seedlings. 

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