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Overview

Brief Summary

The Gumbo-limbo is a dioecious tree of alternate imparipinnate leaves, small flowers, and resinous, peeling bark (Gilman and Watson 2011). Its most distinguishing feature is the frequent shedding of a paper-like, semi transparent red bark. The Gumbo-limbo ranges from the dry and humid primary and secondary forests of California and Florida to Argentina, generally below 1,100 m (Zuchowski 2005; Stevens 1983). It is semi-deciduous and manages to photosynthesize year round by using chloroplasts under the surface of the bark (Stevens 1983). The tree can reach up to 30 m tall in full sun or partial shade. Blooming occurs during spring in temperate zones and April to May in the tropics (Stevens 1983; USDA). The flowers of the Gumbo-limbo are 1-2 mm in diameter and grow in racemes from branch terminals. Female and male flowers are green, miniature, plain and look alike (Gilman and Watson 2011). However, the female has vestigial stamens and male flowers are able to produce nectar earlier during the day and for a longer period of time (Stevens 1983). Flowers attract Trigona, Hypotrigona, flies, ants, and some small cerambycid beetles. Once pollinated, flowers produce small, oval, red drupes that grow to full size within a week. Gumbo-limbo releases about 6,000 fruits which stay on the tree for eight months before ripening and falling in February to April in the tropics and during summer in temperate zones (Stevens 1983). Seed dispersers include Cebus capucinus (White-faced monkey), Ateles geoffryoi (Spider monkey), Sciurus variegatoides (squirrel), and several species of birds (Stevens 1983). The resin, bark, and leaves are used for home medicines to remedy sicknesses ranging from asthma to treating syphilis (Zuchowski 2005).

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Distribution

National Distribution

United States

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

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Localities documented in Tropicos sources

Elaphrium ovalifolium Schltdl.:
Mexico (Mesoamerica)

Note: This information is based on publications available through Tropicos and may not represent the entire distribution. Tropicos does not categorize distributions as native or non-native.
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Localities documented in Tropicos sources

Elaphrium simaruba (L.) Rose:
United States (North America)

Note: This information is based on publications available through Tropicos and may not represent the entire distribution. Tropicos does not categorize distributions as native or non-native.
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Localities documented in Tropicos sources

Bursera simaruba (L.) Sarg.:
Belize (Mesoamerica)
Brazil (South America)
Colombia (South America)
Costa Rica (Mesoamerica)
El Salvador (Mesoamerica)
French Guiana (South America)
Venezuela (South America)
Mexico (Mesoamerica)
Honduras (Mesoamerica)
Panama (Mesoamerica)
United States (North America)
Guatemala (Mesoamerica)
Caribbean (Caribbean)
Guyana (South America)
Nicaragua (Mesoamerica)

Note: This information is based on publications available through Tropicos and may not represent the entire distribution. Tropicos does not categorize distributions as native or non-native.
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Localities documented in Tropicos sources

Bursera gummifera var. pubescens Engl.:
Mexico (Mesoamerica)

Note: This information is based on publications available through Tropicos and may not represent the entire distribution. Tropicos does not categorize distributions as native or non-native.
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Global Range: Southern Florida including Florida Keys and almost throughout West Indies from Bahamas, Cuba and Puerto Rico to Trinidad and Tobago, Curacao and Aruba. Also from Mexico to Colombia, Venezuela, and Guyana (Little and Wadsworth 1964). Occurrence also recorded in Belize (northern plain) and Jamaica (Longwood 1962).

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Localities documented in Tropicos sources

Tapirira macrophylla Lundell:
Belize (Mesoamerica)
Guatemala (Mesoamerica)
Honduras (Mesoamerica)
Mexico (Mesoamerica)

Note: This information is based on publications available through Tropicos and may not represent the entire distribution. Tropicos does not categorize distributions as native or non-native.
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Physical Description

Type Information

Isosyntype for Bursera gummifera var. pubescens Engl. in A. DC.
Catalog Number: US 396799
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Botany
Preparation: Pressed specimen
Collector(s): E. Bourgeau
Year Collected: 1865
Locality: Orizaba., Veracruz, Mexico, North America
  • Isosyntype: Candolle, A. L. P. P. de. 1883. Monogr. Phan. 4: 40.
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Isotype for Tapirira macrophylla Lundell
Catalog Number: US 1689968
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Botany
Verification Degree: Original publication and alleged type specimen examined
Preparation: Pressed specimen
Collector(s): C. L. Lundell
Year Collected: 1936
Locality: San Agustin, Cayo, Belize, Central America
  • Isotype: Lundell, C. L. 1937. Phytologia. 1: 216.
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Ecology

Habitat

Comments: Native to soils derived from limestone in Puerto Rico. Xerophytic to mesophytic forests but reaching its best development in lowland forests (Little and Wadsworth 1964). It grows well in the dry coastal plains and foothills in Jamaica and in rocky, barren limestone soils in other parts of the island (Longwood 1962).

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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage: Bursera simaruba

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 15
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

National NatureServe Conservation Status

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: N2 - Imperiled

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: G4 - Apparently Secure

Reasons: Southern Florida including Florida Keys and almost throughout West Indies from Bahamas and Cuba to Trinidad and Tobago and Curacao and Aruba. Also from Mexico to Colombia, Venezuela, and Guyana. Native to the soils derived from limestone in Puerto Rico but seen as a fence row and roadside tree in the coastal and lower mountain regions (Little and Wadsworth 1964). Growing on a variety of sites from xerophytic to mesophytic forests but reaching its best development in lowland forest. It occurs in some sites as pure or nearly pure forests, and in others as an occasional to very frequent tree. It grows well in the dry coastal plains and foothills in Jamaica and in rocky, barren limestone soils in other parts of the island. In Belize, where it is rather common, up to 23 trees per acre are found along broken ridges on the northern plain. The timber is available for export in Belize and possibly Trinidad, Jamaica, Haiti and Cuba (Longwood 1962).

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Threats

Comments: The timber is available for export in Belize and possibly Trinidad, Jamaica, Haiti and Cuba (Longwood 1962) and serves many purposes (Tree Talk 1994).

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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Economic Uses

Uses: FOOD, Beverage (non-alcoholic), MEDICINE/DRUG, Folk medicine, FIBER, Building materials/timber, FUEL, Fuelwood, Other fuel, INDUSTRIAL/CHEMICAL USE/PRODUCT, Gum/resin/latex, OTHER USES/PRODUCTS

Comments: The timber is used for matchsticks, boxes, crates, house construction, and general carpentry; also suggested for pattern and core stock. Manufactured into a utility plywood in Mexico. The tree is used extensively for live fence posts; also yields an aromatic resin used as an incense and varnish (Chudnoff 1993). The wood is also suited for toothpicks, match boxes, cement forms, firewood and charcoal. The aromatic resin known as Chibou, Cachibou resin, or Gomart resin has been employed in domestic medicines and as glue, varnish, coating for canoes, and incense. A tea substitute has been prepared from the leaves (Little and Wadsworth 1964). The timber is harvested with certainty in Costa Rica (Alvarez 1991).

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Wikipedia

Bursera simaruba

Bursera simaruba, commonly known as gumbo-limbo, copperwood, and chaca, is a tree species in the family Burseraceae, native to tropical regions of the Americas from the southeasternmost United States (southern Florida) south through Mexico and the Caribbean to Brazil and Venezuela.[1] An example habitat of occurrence is in the Petenes mangroves ecoregion of the Yucatán, where it is a subdominant plant species to mangroves.[2]

Description[edit]

Leaves

Bursera simaruba is a small to medium-sized tree growing to 30 m tall, with a diameter of one meter or less at 1.5 meters above ground.[3] The bark is shiny dark red, the leaves are spirally arranged and pinnate with 7-11 leaflets, each leaflet broad ovate, 4–10 cm long and 2–5 cm broad.

The gumbo-limbo is comically referred to as the Tourist Tree because the tree's bark is red and peeling, like the skin of sunburnt tourists, who are a common sight in the plant's range.[4]

The tree yields some ripe fruit year-round, but the main fruiting season is March and April in the northern part of the plant's range. The fruit is a small three-valved capsule encasing a single seed which is covered in a red fatty aril (seedcoat) of 5–6 mm diameter. Both ripe and unripe fruits are borne quite loosely on their stems and can spontaneously detach if the tree is shaken. Ripe capsules dehisce or are cracked open by birds. Birds also seek out the fruit to feed on the aril, which, though small, is rich in lipids (about half its dry weight).[3][5]

"Tourist Tree" bark
Gumbo Limbo Tree DeSoto National Monument, Florida
Gumbo Limbo, known as Copperwood in Jamaica on the grounds of Rose Hall, Montego Bay, Jamaica.

Uses[edit]

Gumbo-limbo is a very useful plant economically and ecologically. It is well adapted to several kinds of habitats, which include salty and calcareous soils (however, it does not tolerate boggy soils). Due to this fact and its rapid growth, B. simaruba is planted for various purposes, notably in coastal areas. In addition, Gumbo-limbo is also considered one of the most wind-tolerant trees, and it is recommended as a rugged, hurricane-resistant species in south Florida. They may planted to serve as wind protection of crops and roads, or as living fence posts, and if simply stuck into good soil, small branches will readily root and grow into sizeable trees in a few years. In addition, gumbo-limbo wood is suitable for light construction[6] and as firewood, and the tree's resin, called chibou, cachibou or gomartis,[4] is used as glue, varnish and incense.[3][5] Gumbo-limbo is the traditional wood used for the manufacture of carousel horses in the United States.

The arils are an important source of food for birds, including many winter migrants from North America. Local residents such as the masked tityra, bright-rumped Attila, black-faced grosbeak and, in Hispaniola, palmchat, seem particularly fond of Gumbo-limbo fruit, as are migrants like the Baltimore oriole or the dusky-capped flycatcher. Especially for vireos such the red-eyed vireo, it appears to be a very important food at least locally and when ripe fruit are abundant. Especially notable is the fact that many migrant species will utilize Gumbo-limbo trees that are in human-modified habitat, even in settlements. This creates the opportunity to attract such species to residential areas for bird watching, and to reduce the competition for Gumbo-limbo seeds in an undisturbed habitat which rarer local resident birds might face. In addition, Gumbo-limbo's rapid growth, ease and low cost of propagation, and ecological versatility makes it highly recommended as a "starter" tree in reforestation, even of degraded habitat, and it performs much better overall in such a role than most exotic species.[3]

The resin is also used as a treatment for gout, while the leaves are brewed into a medicinal tea.[5] Hexane extracts of the leaves have been shown to possess anti-inflammatory properties in animal tests.[7][8] Gumbo-limbo bark is also considered an antidote[citation needed] to Metopium toxiferum, also known as chechen tree, which often grows in the same habitat and can cause extreme rashes just as the related poison ivy. Given the eagerness with which some birds seek out the arils, it may be that they contain lipids or other compounds with interesting properties; in order for these to be exploited by humans, however, they would probably have to be synthetically produced, because although the crop of a single tree can be very large (up to or even exceeding 15,000 fruits, translating into a raw lipid yield of over 200 grams per harvest[3]), individual seeds are small and cumbersome to harvest.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Bursera simaruba (L.) Sarg.". Germplasm Resources Information Network. United States Department of Agriculture. 1994-11-03. Retrieved 2010-04-06. 
  2. ^ World Wildlife Fund. eds. Mark McGinley, C.Michael Hogan & C. Cleveland. 2010. Petenes mangroves. Encyclopedia of Earth. National Council for Science and the Environment. Washington DC
  3. ^ a b c d e Foster (2007)
  4. ^ a b Christman (2004)
  5. ^ a b c University of Florida: Florida Forest Trees: Gumbo-limbo (Bursera simaruba). Retrieved 2007-SEP-16.
  6. ^ . It is rather brittle, though the trunk is used in Haiti to make drums (Christman 2004).
  7. ^ Carretero M, López-Pérez J, Abad M, Bermejo P, Tillet S, Israel A, Noguera-P B. 2008. Preliminary study of the anti-inflammatory activity of hexane extract and fractions from Bursera simaruba(Linneo) Sarg.(Burseraceae) leaves. Journal of ethnopharmacology. 1: 11-15.
  8. ^ Abad M, Bermejo P, Carretero E, Martinez-Acitores C, Noguera B, Villar A. 1996. Antiinflammatory activity of some medicinal plant extracts from Venezuela. Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 1: 63-68.
  • Christman, Steve (2004): Bursera simaruba on Floridata. Version of 2004-MAY-16. Retrieved 2007-SEP-16.
  • Foster, Mercedes S. (2007): The potential of fruiting trees to enhance converted habitats for migrating birds in southern Mexico. Bird Conservation International 17(1): 45-61. doi:10.1017/S0959270906000554 PDF fulltext
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