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Useful Tropical Plants

Guaiacum officinale

L.

Zygophyllaceae

+ Synonyms

Common Name: Lignum Vitae

Guaiacum officinale
Small tree
Photograph by: David Stang
Creative Commons License
Guaiacum officinale Guaiacum officinale Guaiacum officinale Guaiacum officinale Guaiacum officinale Guaiacum officinale Guaiacum officinale

General Information

Lignum vitae is a small, slow-growing, densely-crowned, evergreen tree growing to a height of 3 - 12 metres. The bole is generally crooked[
303
Title
World Agroforesty Centre
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.worldagroforestry.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent online database of a huge range of trees giving very good information on each plant - its uses, ecology, identity, propagation, pests etc.
,
418
Title
Ecocrop
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://ecocrop.fao.org/ecocrop/srv/en/home
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Basic information on a wide range of useful plants, plus details of environmental needs where available.
].
An extremely valuable timber is obtained from the tree. The wood has also been an article of trade for medicinal purposes since 1508, when it was introduced, via Spain, to the medical profession of Europe as a specific for many of the most serious diseases of mankind[
303
Title
World Agroforesty Centre
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.worldagroforestry.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent online database of a huge range of trees giving very good information on each plant - its uses, ecology, identity, propagation, pests etc.
]. The name lignum-vitae (wood of life) originated from the supposition that the material was possessed of extraordinary remedial powers. So great was the demand that for a time the wood was sold for as much as 7 gold crowns a pound[
303
Title
World Agroforesty Centre
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.worldagroforestry.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent online database of a huge range of trees giving very good information on each plant - its uses, ecology, identity, propagation, pests etc.
]. Numerous learned treatises were published and served to establish the reputation of the wood so firmly that it was nearly 200 years before it was seriously questioned[
303
Title
World Agroforesty Centre
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.worldagroforestry.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent online database of a huge range of trees giving very good information on each plant - its uses, ecology, identity, propagation, pests etc.
]. Both wood and resin are now medicinally obsolete except in certain proprietary decoctions[
303
Title
World Agroforesty Centre
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.worldagroforestry.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent online database of a huge range of trees giving very good information on each plant - its uses, ecology, identity, propagation, pests etc.
]. The tree also has great ornamental value - beautiful blue flowers grow in great profusion and almost cover the tree and remain for a long time. As the older blooms fade from deep blue to paler shades, some becoming almost white, a striking variegation of colour is produced[
418
Title
Ecocrop
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://ecocrop.fao.org/ecocrop/srv/en/home
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Basic information on a wide range of useful plants, plus details of environmental needs where available.
].
The timber and medicinal resin have been traded for several centuries as lignum-vitae, and overexploitation has taken place throughout the species' range. Where it still occurs, populations are now severely reduced. Regeneration is good but growth is very slow. The plant is classified as 'Endangered' in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species(2011)[
338
Title
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.iucnredlist.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
A list of plants under threat and facing possible extinction, usually with brief details of the threats and information on habitat.
].

Known Hazards

None known

Botanical References


Range

Northern S. America - Colombia, Venezuela, the Guyanas to the Caribbean.

Habitat

Alluvial deposits near the coast[
346
Title
Economic Plants in Jamaica
Publication
 
Author
Fawcett. W.
Publisher
Government of Jamaica, Kingston.
Year
1891
ISBN
 
Description
A nice little guide giving a terse description and details of useful plants grown economically in Jamaica. Rather dated, so many of the names have been changed since then. Also available for download from the Internet.
]. Dry and humid coastal woodland[
307
Title
Tropical and Subtropical Trees - A Worldwide Encyclopaedic Guide.
Publication
 
Author
Barwick. M.
Publisher
Thames & Hudson, London
Year
2004
ISBN
0-500-51181-0
Description
A superb book, very concise and well written, giving a wealth of information on 400 or more species including descriptions, habitat, cultivation details and plant uses. A wealth of colour photographs bring each plant vividly to life.
].

Properties

Conservation StatusEndangered
Edibility Rating *  *
Medicinal Rating *  *  *
Other Uses Rating *  *  *  *  *
HabitTree
Height10.00 m
Growth RateSlow
Cultivation StatusOrnamental, Wild

Cultivation Details

A plant of the moist, lowland tropics, where it is found at elevations up to 100 metres. It grows best in areas where annual daytime temperatures are within the range 22 - 28°c, but can tolerate 20 - 34°c[
418
Title
Ecocrop
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://ecocrop.fao.org/ecocrop/srv/en/home
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Basic information on a wide range of useful plants, plus details of environmental needs where available.
]. It can be killed by temperatures of 1°c or lower[
418
Title
Ecocrop
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://ecocrop.fao.org/ecocrop/srv/en/home
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Basic information on a wide range of useful plants, plus details of environmental needs where available.
]. It prefers a mean annual rainfall in the range 1,000 - 2,000mm, but tolerates 500 - 3,000mm[
418
Title
Ecocrop
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://ecocrop.fao.org/ecocrop/srv/en/home
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Basic information on a wide range of useful plants, plus details of environmental needs where available.
].
Prefers a sunny position[
307
Title
Tropical and Subtropical Trees - A Worldwide Encyclopaedic Guide.
Publication
 
Author
Barwick. M.
Publisher
Thames & Hudson, London
Year
2004
ISBN
0-500-51181-0
Description
A superb book, very concise and well written, giving a wealth of information on 400 or more species including descriptions, habitat, cultivation details and plant uses. A wealth of colour photographs bring each plant vividly to life.
]. Succeeds in a range of fertile, moisture-retentive soils[
307
Title
Tropical and Subtropical Trees - A Worldwide Encyclopaedic Guide.
Publication
 
Author
Barwick. M.
Publisher
Thames & Hudson, London
Year
2004
ISBN
0-500-51181-0
Description
A superb book, very concise and well written, giving a wealth of information on 400 or more species including descriptions, habitat, cultivation details and plant uses. A wealth of colour photographs bring each plant vividly to life.
]. Tolerant of moderate levels of salt in the soil[
418
Title
Ecocrop
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://ecocrop.fao.org/ecocrop/srv/en/home
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Basic information on a wide range of useful plants, plus details of environmental needs where available.
]. Prefers a pH in the range 5 - 7.5, tolerating 4.5 - 8[
418
Title
Ecocrop
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://ecocrop.fao.org/ecocrop/srv/en/home
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Basic information on a wide range of useful plants, plus details of environmental needs where available.
]. Plants are very tolerant of salt-laden winds[
307
Title
Tropical and Subtropical Trees - A Worldwide Encyclopaedic Guide.
Publication
 
Author
Barwick. M.
Publisher
Thames & Hudson, London
Year
2004
ISBN
0-500-51181-0
Description
A superb book, very concise and well written, giving a wealth of information on 400 or more species including descriptions, habitat, cultivation details and plant uses. A wealth of colour photographs bring each plant vividly to life.
]. Established plants are very drought tolerant[
307
Title
Tropical and Subtropical Trees - A Worldwide Encyclopaedic Guide.
Publication
 
Author
Barwick. M.
Publisher
Thames & Hudson, London
Year
2004
ISBN
0-500-51181-0
Description
A superb book, very concise and well written, giving a wealth of information on 400 or more species including descriptions, habitat, cultivation details and plant uses. A wealth of colour photographs bring each plant vividly to life.
].
This species is the national tree of Jamaica, where it is widely planted as a street tree[
307
Title
Tropical and Subtropical Trees - A Worldwide Encyclopaedic Guide.
Publication
 
Author
Barwick. M.
Publisher
Thames & Hudson, London
Year
2004
ISBN
0-500-51181-0
Description
A superb book, very concise and well written, giving a wealth of information on 400 or more species including descriptions, habitat, cultivation details and plant uses. A wealth of colour photographs bring each plant vividly to life.
].

Edible Uses

The resin obtained from the tree is used for flavouring cakes and chewing gum[
301
Title
Cornucopia II
Publication
 
Author
Facciola. S.
Publisher
Kampong Publications, California.
Year
1998
ISBN
0-9628087-2-5
Description
The second edition of an excellent guide to the edible uses of plants, though it does not give any details of cultivation etc.
]. It is also added to edible oils to prevent acidification[
301
Title
Cornucopia II
Publication
 
Author
Facciola. S.
Publisher
Kampong Publications, California.
Year
1998
ISBN
0-9628087-2-5
Description
The second edition of an excellent guide to the edible uses of plants, though it does not give any details of cultivation etc.
].

Medicinal

The wood is officinal in many Pharmacopoeias, and owes its medicinal properties to the presence of the resin, which is also official[
346
Title
Economic Plants in Jamaica
Publication
 
Author
Fawcett. W.
Publisher
Government of Jamaica, Kingston.
Year
1891
ISBN
 
Description
A nice little guide giving a terse description and details of useful plants grown economically in Jamaica. Rather dated, so many of the names have been changed since then. Also available for download from the Internet.
].

Both resin and the wood possess stimulant, diaphoretic, and alterative properties, though the resin has a much stronger action[
346
Title
Economic Plants in Jamaica
Publication
 
Author
Fawcett. W.
Publisher
Government of Jamaica, Kingston.
Year
1891
ISBN
 
Description
A nice little guide giving a terse description and details of useful plants grown economically in Jamaica. Rather dated, so many of the names have been changed since then. Also available for download from the Internet.
]. The resin is also regarded as an emmenagogue[
346
Title
Economic Plants in Jamaica
Publication
 
Author
Fawcett. W.
Publisher
Government of Jamaica, Kingston.
Year
1891
ISBN
 
Description
A nice little guide giving a terse description and details of useful plants grown economically in Jamaica. Rather dated, so many of the names have been changed since then. Also available for download from the Internet.
].
It is a useful remedy in the treatment of chronic forms of rheumatism ; also in syphilitic and gouty affections, scrofula, skin diseases, dysmenorrhoea, and other uterine affections[
346
Title
Economic Plants in Jamaica
Publication
 
Author
Fawcett. W.
Publisher
Government of Jamaica, Kingston.
Year
1891
ISBN
 
Description
A nice little guide giving a terse description and details of useful plants grown economically in Jamaica. Rather dated, so many of the names have been changed since then. Also available for download from the Internet.
].
The resin is applied to the tooth for treating a toothache, and also applied externally to bring relief in cases of rheumatism[
303
Title
World Agroforesty Centre
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.worldagroforestry.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent online database of a huge range of trees giving very good information on each plant - its uses, ecology, identity, propagation, pests etc.
].

Other Uses

The resin sometimes flows spontaneously from the stem of the tree; at other times, it is obtained artificially by jagging or notching the stem and allowing the exuding juice to harden, or by boring holes in logs of the wood and then placing them on a fire so that the resin is melted and runs through the hole, or by boiling chips in salt and water, when the resin floats on the surface of the water[
303
Title
World Agroforesty Centre
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.worldagroforestry.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent online database of a huge range of trees giving very good information on each plant - its uses, ecology, identity, propagation, pests etc.
]. The deep reddish brown colour of the resin changes upon oxidation to a blue or blue-green, a property made use of for differential staining[
303
Title
World Agroforesty Centre
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.worldagroforestry.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent online database of a huge range of trees giving very good information on each plant - its uses, ecology, identity, propagation, pests etc.
].

The wood is hard, close-grained, tough, dense, and durable. The heart wood is of a dark greenish-brown colour, owing to the deposition of guiacum resin ; the sap wood is pale-yellow[
346
Title
Economic Plants in Jamaica
Publication
 
Author
Fawcett. W.
Publisher
Government of Jamaica, Kingston.
Year
1891
ISBN
 
Description
A nice little guide giving a terse description and details of useful plants grown economically in Jamaica. Rather dated, so many of the names have been changed since then. Also available for download from the Internet.
]. The wood is remarkable for the direction of its fibres, each layer of which crosses the previous diagonally[
303
Title
World Agroforesty Centre
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.worldagroforestry.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent online database of a huge range of trees giving very good information on each plant - its uses, ecology, identity, propagation, pests etc.
]. Its great strength and tenacity, combined with the self-lubricating properties due to the resin content, make this wood especially adapted for bearing underwater[
303
Title
World Agroforesty Centre
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.worldagroforestry.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent online database of a huge range of trees giving very good information on each plant - its uses, ecology, identity, propagation, pests etc.
]. The wood is used for pulleys, blocks, pestles, rulers, skittle ball etc[
346
Title
Economic Plants in Jamaica
Publication
 
Author
Fawcett. W.
Publisher
Government of Jamaica, Kingston.
Year
1891
ISBN
 
Description
A nice little guide giving a terse description and details of useful plants grown economically in Jamaica. Rather dated, so many of the names have been changed since then. Also available for download from the Internet.
]. The most important as well as the most exacting use for it is for bearing or bushing blocks lining the stern tubes of propeller shafts of steamships[
303
Title
World Agroforesty Centre
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.worldagroforestry.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent online database of a huge range of trees giving very good information on each plant - its uses, ecology, identity, propagation, pests etc.
]. Steel and tube mills are made using lignum-vitae in increasing amounts to replace brass and babbit metal for bearings in roller mills and pumps, as the initial cost is less than metal, the life is several times longer, and lubrication is unnecessary[
303
Title
World Agroforesty Centre
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.worldagroforestry.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent online database of a huge range of trees giving very good information on each plant - its uses, ecology, identity, propagation, pests etc.
].

Propagation

Seed -

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