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Castilla elastica - Panama rubber tree


Native to:



Mexico, Central America, and northern South America.

Gallery forest, rain forest regrowth and on old farmland. Up to 500 meters above sea level. 25 meters tall.

Castilla elastica - Panama rubber tree

Ecological value:

Ruderal species, fast growing. Rich source of nectar for honey bees, wool-carder bees and butterflies and moths. Birds such as goldfinches, linnets and greenfinches feed on seeds. Rich, well-drained and nitrogen-rich soil preferred, in full sun. Erosion Control - 2’ taproot.

Material uses:

Mature tree of 8-10 years old can produce up to 25 kg of latex per year. Latex can be used as/in bouncing balls, waterproofing fabrics etc. Can be tinted with natural dyes. Bark is fibrous, used to make cord, mats, blankets and clothing. Wood, light in weight, mainly used for fuel.

Edible uses:

Sweet fruit.

Medicinal use:

Treats rheumatic joints and sore jaws.

Other details:

Was the main source of latex for Mesoamerican cultures in pre-Columbian times and is still used for this purpose today. Lateral roots make it difficult to grow other crops under tree. Hevea brasiliensis is now more commonly exploited for its rubber.


Liam Pitts/Christine Facella


“Castilla Elastica Subsp. Elastica | Plants of the World Online | Kew Science.” n.d. Plants of the World Online. Accessed November 28, 2023.
‌“Castilla Elastica - Useful Tropical Plants.” n.d.
Little E.L. Wadsworth F.H., ‘Common Trees of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands’, USDA, Forest Service; Washington, 1964
Uphof. J. C. Th., ‘Dictionary of Economic Plants’, Weinheim, 1959
Barwick. M., ‘Tropical and Subtropical Trees - A Worldwide Encyclopaedic Guide’, Thames & Hudson, London, 2004
Image source: Steven Paton and Vinayaraj.

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