Caesalpinia praecox Ruiz & Pav. ex Hook.
Cercidium goldmanii Rose
Cercidium plurifoliolatum Micheli
Cercidium praecox (Ruiz & Pav. ex Hook.) Harms
Cercidium spinosum Tul.
Cercidium unijugum Rose
Cercidium viride (H.Karst.) H.Karst.
Common Name: Palo Brea
Flowering plant in native habitat
Photograph by: Arianza1
Parkinsonia praecox is an evergreen shrub or small tree usually growing 2 - 4 metres tall but occasionally reaching 9 metres in forested areas of northeastern Sonora. The crown is usually rounded or flat-topped and spreading in exposed habitats, erect and less branched in sheltered habitats[
The plant is harvested from the wild for local use of the gum contained in its stems.
S. America - Argentina, Paraguay, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Venezuela. N. America - southern and northern Mexico
Deciduous forests at low elevations[
]. Found at elevations from sea level to 1,500 metres in Ecuador.
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Plants are fairly frost hardy, tolerating occasional short-lived frosts down to about -5°c[
Prefers a sunny position in a slightly alkaline soil[
The leaves of this plant are ephemeral, being mainly present in the rainy season. Much of the photosynthesis is carried out by the plant's green stems, which remain bright green even near ground level[
Although many species within the family Fabaceae have a symbiotic relationship with soil bacteria, this species is said to be devoid of such a relationship and therefore does not fix atmospheric nitrogen[
The stem is the source of a greenish, semi-transparent gum, known as Brea, that contains 80% arabin. It is completely soluble in water and is an acceptable substitute for gum arabic[
]. It is used locally to make soap by dissolving it in an alkali[
The common name, 'Palo Brea', is derived from the fact that the waxy substance coating the bark, after being scraped from the branches and melted by heat, is used as a 'gum' for gluing together leather objects and furniture[
The wood is hard, moderately heavy but brittle. It is free from any noticeable odour or taste, easy to work and finishes smoothly but is considered to be of no commercial value[
The wood burns quickly and gives off an unpleasant odour[
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