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Hymenaea courbaril – West Indian locust


Native to:



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

Dry and wet tropical forests. 30-2000 meters above sea level. 30 meter tall tree.

Hymenaea courbaril – West Indian locust

Ecological value:

Slow growing, attracts pollinators - including bats. Can grow in a range of soil types but prefers fertile, deep and moist soils. Drought tolerant - up to 4 months of drought.
Capuchin monkeys consume seeds.

Material uses:

The roots and trunk yield a resin-like gum known as ‘South American copal’. Timber used for furniture, cabinetry, construction, heavy duty flooring, ship building, light weight canoes, carving, turnery, tool handles. Tannins for leather.

Edible uses:

Fruit eaten raw or used in deserts. High protein content, good source of calories due to high starch content. Popular tea from bark, consumed by Brazilian lumberjacks as an energy tonic

Medicinal use:

Used for centuries as a tonic for urinary and respiratory system. Leaves used to treat diabetes, fruit as laxative.

Other details:

Begins fruiting at 8-12 years. Produces around 100 fruit per year. 11 meters tall after 13 years.Planting near buildings are not recommended due to root growth. Might fix nitrogen, reports are conflicting. Source of fuelwood.


Hyejung Moon/Christine Facella


“Hymenaea Courbaril L. | Plants of the World Online | Kew Science.” n.d. Plants of the World Online. Accessed November 12, 2023.
“Hymenaea Courbaril - Useful Tropical Plants.” n.d. Accessed November 12, 2023.
‌Facciola. S., ‘Cornucopia II’, Kampong Publications, California, 1998
“Winrock International - Hymenaea Courbaril: The Flour Tree.” n.d. Accessed November 25, 2023.
Image source: Bernard DUPONT

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