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Guaiacum officinale - Roughbark


Native to:



Southern Central America, Florida, the Caribbean and northern South America.

Lowland dry forests, coastland areas. 30-1050 meters above sea level. Tree up to 10 meters.

Guaiacum officinale - Roughbark

Ecological value:

This small tree is very slow growing, reaching about 10 m in height with a trunk diameter of 60 cm. Drought tolerant (up to 6 months of dry periods). Attracts bees. Tolerant of salty winds, and moderate levels of salt in soil.

Material uses:

Guaiac, a natural resin extracted from the wood, is a colorless compound that turns blue when placed in contact with substances that have peroxidase activity and then are exposed to hydrogen peroxide. Very hard wood, used in under-water applications such as ship propellers.

Edible uses:

Resin used to flavor cakes.

Medicinal use:

Resin and wood have diaphoretic, stimulant and alternative properties. Used to treat rheumatism, skin diseases, gout. Resin applied to tooth to relieve toothache.

Other details:

It is the official national flower of Jamaica. Ornamental. Endangered from over-exploitation. Timber and medicine have been traded for centuries. The tree is generally crooked with a dense crown.


Marian Farrell/Christine Facella


“Guaiacum Officinale L. | Plants of the World Online | Kew Science.” n.d. Plants of the World Online. Accessed November 26, 2023.
“Guaiacum Officinale - Useful Tropical Plants.” n.d.
‌Barwick. M., ‘Tropical and Subtropical Trees - A Worldwide Encyclopaedic Guide’, Thames & Hudson, London, 2004
Fawcett. W., ‘Economic Plants. An index to Economic Products of the Vegetable Kingdom in Jamaica’, Government of Jamaica, Kingston., 1891
Image source: Jayesh Patil.

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