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Hura crepitans - Sandbox tree


Native to:



Central America, northern and central South America, the Caribbean.

Rainforests and moist coastal forests. 0-1550 meters above sea level. 12 meters tall.

Hura crepitans - Sandbox tree

Ecological value:

Established plants are tolerant of drought. Fast growth rate: 4m in two years. Macaws eat the toxic fruit, followed by swallowing a particular type of clay found along riverbanks that neutralizes the toxins. Susceptible to wind damage.

Material uses:

Wood, soft and light in weight, moderately durable but susceptible to wood-boring insects. Slow to season, stable when dry. Stellite-tipped and tungsten carbide tools are recommended. Used in carpentry, interiors, crates, veneers, plywood, furniture. Shells of unripe fruit for containers.

Edible uses:

Fishermen use the sap to poison fish. Grown as shade tree for cacao or vanilla.

Medicinal use:

The seed contains a glucosamine lectin having mitogenic and haemaglutinating properties. A viscous oil obtained from the seed is a very strong (drastic) purgative and emetic.

Other details:

Also known as the Dynamite tree, named for the explosive sound of the ripe fruit as it breaks apart, scattering seeds up to 14 meters away. Tree is recognized by pointy spines. Stands out in the Euphorbiaceae by being pollinated by bats.


Mengmeng Chen/Christine Facella


“Hura Crepitans L. | Plants of the World Online | Kew Science.” n.d. Plants of the World Online. Accessed November 26, 2023.
“Hura Crepitans - Useful Tropical Plants.” n.d. Accessed November 12, 2023.
Uphof. J. C. Th., ‘Dictionary of Economic Plants’, Weinheim, 1959
Barwick. M., ‘Tropical and Subtropical Trees - A Worldwide Encyclopaedic Guide’, Thames & Hudson, London, 2004
Tobias et al, ‘Floral development in Hura crepitans (Euphorbiaceae): a bat-pollinated species with multicarpellate gynoecium’, Brazilian journal of Botany, 2019
Image source: David Stang.

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