Trachylobium hornemannianum Hayne
Trachylobium verrucosum (Gaertn.) Oliv.
Common Name: East African Copal
Tree, 7 metres tall, growing in native habitat
Photograph by: Henry T. Wright
Hymenaea verrucosa is a flat-crowned, evergreen tree, usually growing from 6 - 24 metres tall but with occasional specimens reaching heights of up to 40 metres. Older trees can have a clear bole up to 15 metres long[
The tree is the source of 'East African Copal', a high quality copal resin that has a long history of being traded. It is harvested from the wild and is also the source of a useful timber. It is also cultivated as a street tree[
Tropical East Africa - Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, to Madagascar, Mauritius and the Seychelles.
On or near the coast in dry evergreen forest, woodland and evergreen bushland, usually at elevations below 100 metres, but sometimes up to 240 metres[
|Other Uses Rating
The flowers are very attractive to bees[
This plant is the closest living species to the extinct species Hymenaea mexicana, which was found in amber from the mines of Chiapas, Mexico[
]. This fact indicates a former physical connection between the land mass of Africa and that of S. America[
This species has a symbiotic relationship with certain soil bacteria; these bacteria form nodules on the roots and fix atmospheric nitrogen. Some of this nitrogen is utilized by the growing plant but some can also be used by other plants growing nearby[
The roots, trunk and fruits yield a high quality copal resin[
]. The resin can be obtained from the living tree; in a semi-fossilized state from the soil underneath the tree, having dropped there with the tree still living; or in a fossilized form from the ground, having dropped there many years previously from trees no longer in existence. This fossilized form produces the best quality resin[
]. Copal is a hard resin that is obtained from various tropical trees and is used to make varnish.
The wood is heavy and hard. It is used for general construction, flooring, joinery, bridges, sleepers, firewood, charcoal, poles and tool handles[
Seed - it has a hard seedcoat and benefits from scarification before sowing to speed up and improve germination. This can usually be done by pouring a small amount of nearly boiling water on the seeds (being careful not to cook them!) and then soaking them for 12 - 24 hours in warm water. By this time they should have imbibed moisture and swollen - if they have not, then carefully make a nick in the seedcoat (being careful not to damage the embryo) and soak for a further 12 hours before sowing. Sow the treated seed in a partially shaded position in individual containers.
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