Suitable for paper production
Peach palm, Bactris gasipaes
Native to: The tropical forests of South and Central America
Habitat: Along riverbeds and primary forest gaps, up to 800 meters above sealevel.
Ecological value: Pollinated by insects, fast growing, 15 to 20 meters in just 10 years.
Material uses: Good economic oil palm (62% oil from seed). Used in cosmetics and soap. Fiber for thatched roofs, paper and baskets. Spines of plant used for tattooing. Leaves yield green dye for fabric. Strong wood used in construction, flooring, bows and arrows.
Edible: The raw fruit spoils quickly but it can be stored as a dry meal or preserves. It can yield flour and edible oil.
Medicinal value: Oil eases rheumatic pains (used as a rub).
Other: Peach palm fruit is widely used as animal feed. Plants begin flowering around 3-5 years of age and will produce crops twice a year over 50-70 years. Shallow rooted.
Research: Xiliang Chen/Christine Facella
2. Clement, C. R. (1988). Domestication of the pejibaye palm (Bactris gasipaes): past and present. Advances in economic botany, 6, 155-174.
3, 4. Crane, J. H. Pejibaye (Peach Palm) Growing in the Florida Home Landscape. HS1072. Florida Cooperative Extension Service. University of Florida IFAS. 2006.
Image Credit/Source: Chris 73,
Gumbolimbo, Bursera simaruba
Native to: Florida, West Indies, Mexico, Central America and northern South America.
Habitat: Humid, tropical climate. High drought tolerance. Tolerates salty calcareous soils. Under-story tree elevation up to 900 m.
Ecological value: Live fence. Rapid growth 2m per year. Important food source for birds - very good to use to attract birds for bird watching. Shade tolerant. Supports soil microbial life. Controls soil erosion.
Material uses: Resin is taken from trunk to make glue, varnish, water repellent coatings and incense. Moderately strong wood. Light furniture, toys, paper, and pulp. Oil from seed: contains 60-70% oil suitable for edible/ non-edible purpose, including fuel oil, and soap.
People used to make drums. Wood is easily carved.
Edible: Fruits are eaten by birds. Beverages and jam from fruit.
Medicinal value: Reduces inflammation, kills bacteria, relieves pain, stops bleeding, increases urination, cleanses blood, increases perspiration, heals wounds, neutralizes venom, reduces fever, and expectorates. The bark is used to treat skin sores, measles, sunburns, insect bites, and rashes.
Other: Thrives with little to no care. Hurricane resistant: withstands wind gusts of 150-330 km/hr- can serve as wind protection for crops and roads starters tree in reforestation scheme. Fuel wood. Each tree yields 15-30 kg nutlets equivalent to 2.5-5kg oil. Press cake as green manure or fodder.
Research: Jennifer Yaing/Christine Facella
1. Christman, Steve. “Bursera simaruba Plant Profile.” FloriData. May 14, 2004.
2. Taylor, Leslie. “Gumbolimbo.” Tropical Plant Database. December 17, 2012.
Image Credit/Source: Vihelik,
Quipo, Cavanillesia platanifolia
Native to: South and Central America from Colombia to Panama
Habitat: Lowland moist and dry forest. Prefers a humid, well-drained soil and a position in full sun.
Ecological value: Pollinated by insects, has a fast growth rate, and is drought tolerant.
Material uses: Used to make a strong, white, opaque paper. Inner bark contains a fiber similar to a Cuba Bast, also known as a Hibiscus elatus. Substitute for Balsa wood (Ochroma). Local people use the bark to create canoes and floating rafts out of hardwood logs. Branches, inner bark and saplings can be spun to make rope. Source of lacquer.
Edible: Oil from seeds.
Other: Water can be harvested from this tree. Occasionally cultivated as an ornamental. Listed by IUCN as near threatened.
Research: Georgie Osgood/Christine Facella
1.Edible and Medicinal Plants,
Image Credit/Source: Darwin Pucha Cofrep,
Trumpet tree, Cecropia peltata
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.
Research: Amy Feng/ Zac Pepere/Christine Facella
Image Credit/Source: Vojtěch Zavadil,
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.
Native to: naturalized in Central American lowlands, naturalized in the Central American lowlands.
Habitat: Tropical woods at medium and low elevation up to 400m above sealevel.
Ecological value: Caimito grows successfully on almost all types of soil and in a range of climates. Medium growth rate and drought tolerant when established. Fruit consumed by mammals such as the Kinkajau.
Material uses: The reddish-brown wood is suitable for construction purposes, wood veneers and cabinetry. The mature branches are used as a medium to grow orchids.
Also good quality paper made from pulp and tannins from bark. Good fuelwood.
Edible: Fruit eaten raw or as preserves. Seed kernal made into nougat.
Medicinal value: Leaf infusions are used as infusions to treat diabetes and articular rheumatism. The fruit also has antioxidant properties.
Other: The tree is hermaphroditic (self-fertile), and produces a strong odor.
Also cultivated as ornamental.
Research: Maria Camila Misle/Christine Facella
1. ”Chrysophyllum cainito” at AgroForestryTree Database at
Image Credit/Source: Hans B.,
Brazilian rose, Cochlospermum vitifolium
Native to: S. America - C. America
Habitat: Tropical dry forests and savannahs.
Ecological value: Fast growing pioneer good for restoring native wood lands. Attracts pollinators such as bees and other insects. Drought tolerant.
Material uses: Floss from seed as stuffing material, utilized in pillows which are said to induce sleep. Fibre obtained from bark used as cordage. Gum from the inner bark. The light brown wood is straight-grained, soft, spongy and lightweight. It's not suitable for carpentry but can be used for papermaking.
Edible: Beverage similar to beer made from juice of plant.
Other: Used as a living fence. Aggressive pioneer specie that produces flowers by its second year and can take hold quickly in other disturbed habitats.
Research: Maria Camila Misle/Christine Facella
Image Credit/Source: Oldcrookedjaw, http://tropical.theferns.info/image.php?id=Cochlospermum+vitifolium
Tapica, Crataeva tapia
Native to: Central and South America
Habitat: Low elevations in dry or wet forests, common in grassland and dry areas and also found in swampy flooded locations and flooded areas.
Ecological value: Pollen is very attractive to bees and other pollinators.
Material uses: Wood is lightweight but not durable. Susceptible to termites and fungi. Used for musical instruments.
Edible: Fruits are edible but not widely sought after because of pungent scent.
Medicinal value: Used to treat hypertension, tumors, pain, inflammation, common cold, skin conditions, wounds, malaria, and toothaches. Pulp is rubbed on dogs to treat mange.
Other: Listed as near threatened on IUCN redlist.
Research: Peaches Harrison/Christine Facella
1. Trade Winds Fruit. (2013) “Couroupita Nicaraguensis”
3. Mitré, M. (1998). “Couroupita icaraguensis”
Image Credit/Source: Christopher Hu, https://www.flickr.com/photos/33762731@N03/3436367117/
Devil's ear, Enterolobium cyclocarpum
Native to: tropical regions of the Americas, from central Mexico south to
Northern Brazil and Venezuela.
Habitat: trees grow as single specimens in a sunny pasture. Dry forest zones, usually below 300m but up to 1200m.
Ecological value: A popular tree for roadsides and urban planting, although sidewalks, roads, or foundations may be cracked or raised by the roots of the tree. One of the largest fast –growing trees in Central America. Established plants are very drought tolerant. Re-sprouts vigorously after coppacing or lopping - suitable as a live fence.
Material uses: The bark and fruit are used locally as a soap.
Local craftspeople often polish the seedpods and sell them to tourists. Wood, walnut brown, light in weight, durable in water, resistant to termites, warps little. Washboards, canoes as good as cedar for construction. Paper making. Good fuel wood. Fruit contain tannins. Gum - substitute for gum arabic.
Edible: The young seedpods and seeds are cooked and eaten as a vegetable
Medicinal value: A syrup obtained from the bark is used in the treatment of colds
A gum obtained from the trunk is used as a remedy for affections of the chest
Associated plant community: Ideal shade tree for coffee plant.
Other: Fixes atmospheric nitrogen. National tree of Costa Rica.
Research: Hyunjung Kim/Christine Facella
Image Credit/Source: Rolando Pérez, Smithsonian,
Guabino, Enterolobium schomburgkii
Native to: Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Guyana, Surinam; C. America - Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, southern Mexico
Habitat: In dense subcanopy's of trees in the rainforest, in dry lowland forests, hillsides, 300 m and below sealevel.
Ecological value: Has a symbiotic relationship with bacteria in the soil. The roots and the bacteria form atmospheric nitrogen which can be used by nearby plants, fast growing and attracts bees.
Material uses: Light weight and good resistence to rot, termites and fungi It's heartwood can be harvested for furniture, cabinets, floors, doors, frames, bark, gum and fruit can be used in soaps, or paper or fuel wood.
Edible: young seeds can be cooked and roasted.
Medicinal value: syrup from bark can treat colds.
Associated plant community: Ferns.
Other: Ideal shadetree in agroforestry systems, live fence species, tolerates coppicing, seeds ignored by fauna, believed to have been foodsource of Pleistocene megafauna now extinct, such as ground sloths and giant bison.
Research: Ellen Rust/Christine Facella
Image Credit/Source: Caranpaima,
Strawberry tree, Muntingia calabura
Native to: Southern Mexico to western South America.
Habitat: Lowland areas from sea level to 1000 m of elevation. Needs sheltered position - branches break easily in strong winds.
Ecological value: Thrives in poor soil, tolerates acidic and alkaline conditions and drought, but doesn’t grow on saline conditions
Pioneer - Potential as a useful species for restoration of disturbed areas and to stop soil erosion. Shelter and food source for wildlife ( ca. 60 species of birds and mammals). Attracts pollinators. Rapid growth.
Material uses: Wood for lumber. Fiber from bark for making ropes and baskets - not suitable for textiles. Wood valued in paper-making. Soft wood for general carpentry.
Edible: Edible berries, mostly consumed by native birds and bats. Can be grounded to jam and the leaves are used in tea.
Medicinal value: leaves treat headaches, prostate problems, reduce gastric ulcers, bark used as antiseptic, flowers used as/for antiseptic, reducing swelling, antispasmodic and fruits used to treat respiratory problem and diarrhea.
Other: Introduced and naturalized in Southeast Asia.
Sometimes grows as an ornamental or a shade tree. Can become invasive. Withstands air pollution in city. Soft wood is valued as fuel and lights fast.
Research: Amy Feng/Christine Facella
Image Credit/Source: Prenn,
Malabar chestnut (Money tree) , Pachira aquatica
Native to: Central and South America
Habitat: The tree grows well as a tropical ornamental in moist, frost-free areas, and can be started from seed or cutting. Prefers flooded sites, river estuaries.
Ecological value: Cultivated as an ornamental and as a cropper. Fast growing tree. Pollinated by bats, honeybees and sphingid moths.
Material uses: Fiber obtained from inner bark can be used in paper-making. Oil can be extracted from seed. Yellow dye from bark. Red dye. The oil can be potentially used in soap making. Wood low quality. Used in paper manufacturing (36% cellulose paste).
Edible: The nut can be eaten raw or roasted, or ground into a flour for baking bread. The young leaves and flowers may be cooked and used as a vegetable. Seeds yield 58% of a white fat, suitable for cooking.
Medicinal value: Used to treat hepatitis. Seeds can be used as an anesthetic.
Other: Planted as a street tree and ornamental garden tree. Known as the Money Tree.
Research: Hyunjung Kim/Christine Facella
Image Credit/Source: Hans Hillewaert,
Caribbean pine, Pinus caribaea
Family: Pinaceae. Synonym: Pinus elliottii.
Native to: Central America, Caribbean.
Habitat: Hillsides and plains at low elevations from sea level to 600 m. large, dry tropical forests, as well as lowland savannas
Ecological value: Fast growing (15 to 20 years). It's population is controlled by regular forest fires, is highly adapted to colonize new environments and can become invasive. Sometimes grown as an ornamental. Provides shelter, re-establishes woodland and protects the soil. Pioneer. Used as erosion control - only species so far to successfully clothe barren eroded and denuded lands with tree cover.
Material uses: Caribbean Pine is a soft wood and can be logged for construction. Locally used for boat building and charcoal. Can be tapped for oleoresin and gum rosin, the latter used in the production of paper, soap and glue.
Edible: Seeds raw or cooked. Vanillin flavoring from resins.
Medicinal value: Leaf oil used for medicinal baths. Turpentine from resin of all pine trees is an antiseptic, diuretic, rubefacient and vermifuge. Treats a variety of skin ailments.
Other: Many pine species are heavily exploited due to their fast growing nature. they are easily harvested into lumber for cheap building materials. Contains terpene which is released when rain washes over the needles. this may have a negative effect on the germination of some plants.
Research: Liam Pitts/Christine Facella
Image Credit/Source: Christine Facella, La Yeguada Panama
Native to: Mexico and Central America. National tree of Honduras.
Habitat: An average temperature of 15 - 24 °C, annual rainfall of 1,000–1,900mm. Elevation: 900–2,400 m (3,000–7,900 ft) above sea level. Grows on mountain slopes and plains.
Ecological value: Pinus oocarpa has semi-serotinous cones and is adapted to fire, at least at natural frequencies. Pioneer species- Rapidly colonizes left from fire or erosion. Will easily re-sprout at base.
Material uses: It is used for construction, boxes, poles, posts, handles, popsicle sticks, railway sleepers and plywood. It is also suitable for framing, flooring, joinery, piles and particle board. The wood is furthermore used as pulpwood, fuel wood and for the production of charcoal. Oleoresin, obtained from the bark, and firewood are the main products in Central America. Wood is resistant to white-rot fungus. Bark used for kindling.
Edible: Vanilla substitute from pulpwood
Medicinal value: Resin antiseptic, diuretic. Beneficial to respiratory system.
Associated plant community: P. engelmannii/ P. leiophylla/ P. douglasiana/ P. maximinoi
Other: Slow initial growth, poor wind firmness. Susceptible to nutrient deficiencies and needle diseases, allows for a weedy under-story to develop which can cause fires- this not a plantation species. Needles contain terpene which can have a negative affect on the germination of other species. Can be planted as a live fence (via seed sapling).
Research: Jiahuan Cheng/Christine Facella
1. “Pinus oocarpa .” Pinus oocarpa (Egg-cone Pine). Accessed September 05, 2017.
2. “Pinus oocarpa (PROTA).” Pinus oocarpa (PROTA) - PlantUse. Accessed September 05, 2017.
Image Credit/Source: Miguel Angel Sicilia Manzo,
Native to: Belize; El Salvador; Guatemala; Honduras; Mexico (Chiapas, Oaxaca); Nicaragua
Habitat: 1. High elevation- areas with greater than 1500 mm of annual rainfall
2. Low elevation- grow in areas with 1000 to 1800 mm annual precipitation
in association with Pinus oocarpa.
Ecological value: Growth rate is fast- 2.5 meters per year in first 8 years.
Material uses: A number of processing studies in various countries have indicated that the wood is very acceptable for pulp, paper and solid wood products.
Edible: Vanilla flavor from pulp wood.
Medicinal value: Resin antiseptic. Beneficial to respiratory system
Associated plant community: P. oocarpa/ P. maximinoi/ P. pseudostrobus/ P. ayacahuite.
Other: Pinus tecunumanii is an important timber tree in Central America, where it can grow a straight bole with large dimensions. The root of Pinus tecunumanii is so weak that slight wind or even the force of gravity are enough to cause breaks to the steam. Listed as vulnerable: Declined 40% due to exploitation. Needles contain terpene which may effect germination of other plants.
Research: Jiahuan Cheng/Christine Facella
1. Dvorak, W. S., G. R. Hodge, E. A. Gutiérrez, L. F. Osorio, F. S. Malan and T. K. Stanger. 2000. Pinus tecunumanii. In: Conservation and Testing of Tropical and Subtropical Forest Species by the CAMCORE Cooperative. College of Natural Resources, NCSU. Raleigh, NC. USA. pp: 188-209.
2. “Pinus tecunumanii .” Pinus tecunumanii (Schwerdtfeger’s Pine, Tecun Uman Pine). Accessed September 05, 2017.
4. Dvorak, W. S., and Jeffrey K. Donahue. Pinus maximinoi seed collections in Mexico and Central America. Raleigh, NC: Central America and Mexico Coniferous Resources Cooperative, 1988.
Image Credit/Source: Can't find image source. Please get in touch if this image is yours!
Mountain trumpet, Schefflera morototoni
Native to: South America and Central America.
Habitat: Wet tropical forests, open woodlands, savanna. Areas with abundant of sunlight.
Ecological value: A fast-growing tree that is a natural pioneer, tolerant of a wide range of habitats, and is a good source of food for the native fauna. It makes an excellent pioneer species for re-establishing woodland. Reaches 3-4m within two years from seed. Coppices easily. Flowers year round.
Material uses: Where the trees are more abundant and larger in size, uses include general carpentry, interior construction, boxes, matchsticks and matchboxes. Other possible uses are utility grade plywood, toys, and as a substitute for heavier grades of balsa. It is increasingly being used in the pulp and paper industry.
Medicinal value: Treats malaria. Sap treats abscesses.
Research: Adrian Chiu/Christine Facella
Image Credit/Source: Chnelsons,