"Banana" is the common name for several species of tropical herbaceous fruit plants found around the world. The banana is native to Southeast Asia but has been introduced to tropical regions all over the world including Central America. The banana is a large treelike plant with a perennial root from which the plant is perpetuated by sprouts or suckers. In the tropics, the stems are annual. In other words, they die after producing fruit and new stems grow from buds in the rootstock. The buds are also the means for propagating and planting new plantations. Growth is rapid and the fruit is ripe about ten months after planting. The stem reaches a height of 10 to 40 feet when full grown. The leaves grow from a crown at the top of the stem and are oval and very large - up to 10 feet long. The bananas grow in a bunch which hangs down from the crown. Bunches weigh from 25 to 40 pounds or more. Each stem develops fruit but once and then dies.

Two main types of bananas are grown in Central America, eating bananas (bananos) and cooking bananas (platanos). Cooking bananas are larger, more mealy and less sweet than eating bananas. The edible part of the banana contains, on the average, 75 percent water, 21 percent carbohydrate, and about 1 percent each of fat, protein, fiber, and ash.

Africa produces half the bananas grown in the world but most are consumed locally. Bananas are exported to the world market mainly from Central America and northern South America.

Bananas make up the genus Musa of the family Musaceae. The plantain, or cooking banana, is classified as Musa paradisiaca.


The breadfruit tree (Artocarpus altilis of the family Moraceae) is related to the mulberry, and is commonly found in the Rio Dulce area. It is native to the islands of the South Pacific Ocean and is the principal staple crop of that region. In the 18th century, the British introduced the breadfruit to other parts of the world. This was the mission of the ill-fated ship "Bounty" about which the novel "Mutiny on the Bounty" was written. The fruit of the breadfruit tree is about the size of a large cantaloupe and contains a pulp that can be used in many ways. The pulp can be sliced up and fried and tastes something like french bread. The pulp can also be dried and ground to make flour for biscuits or breads and puddings.

The breadfruit tree grows to a height of about 40 feet and has glossy leathery leaves. The inner bark provides a fiber that can be used to make cloth; the lightweight wood can be used to make canoes and furniture; and the sap can be used as a sealant.


See Pineapple


Calabash is the common name for a tree (Crescentia cujete of the family Bignoniaceae) found in tropical America, especially in the West Indies. This tree grows to an average height of 9 meters (30 ft). The wood of the calabash is tough and flexible but the most useful part is the fruit it produces. The fruit of the calabash is a gourd whose hard shell is used to make numerous articles including domestic utensils and pipes for smoking tobacco. Many articles made from the calabash gourd are also called "calabash".


The cashew (Anacardium occidentale of the family Anacardiaceae) is a tropical evergreen tree well known for its delicious nuts. The family to which it belongs includes poison ivy, poison oak, poison sumac, the mango, the pistachio, and the smoke tree. The cashew tree is native to the Americas and is now widely cultivated in Asia (especially India) and Africa.

The cashew tree has oval, leathery leaves and grows to 12 m (40 ft). Clusters of fragrant, red flowers turn into pear-shaped "cashew apples". The "apples" are reddish or yellowish. At the end of each fruit is a kidney-shaped structure, the nut, with a hard double shell. Between the shells is a caustic, black oil that has to be removed by a difficult roasting process. The oil is used to make plastics and varnish. A second roasting process removes the shell, freeing the nut. The trunk of the tree yields a milky gum also used to make varnish. The sour fruits can also be eaten after processing and are used in making condiments.


Cassava is the name applied to several related plants native to tropical parts of the Americas. Cassava is the West Indian name and is used in the United States. Manioc or mandioc, is the Brazilian name for the same plant. In Spanish speaking countries its name is yuca, yucca or juca. The plant grows as a bush up to 2.4 m (8 ft) high, with greenish-yellow flowers. The roots are up to 8 cm (3 in) thick and 91 cm (36 in) long.

Cassava belongs to the family Euphorbiaceae and there are two varieties: bitter or poisonous cassava (Manihot esculenta) and sweet cassava (Manihot duleis). Food is prepared from the thick root of the plant. The poison contained in bitter cassava can be destroyed by heat in the preparation process so, in the end, the two varieties yield the same wholesome food. Cassava is the primary source of tapioca and, in South America, a sauce and an intoxicating beverage are prepared from the juice. The root in powder form is used to prepare farinha, a meal used to make thin cakes sometimes called cassava bread. The starch of cassava yields a product called Brazilian arrowroot. In Florida, where sweet cassava is grown, the roots are eaten as food, fed to stock, or used in the manufacture of starch and glucose.

The eating of cassava is closely associated to the Garifuna people who populate the town of Livingston at the mouth of the Rio Dulce. see Garifuna.


The magnificent ceiba tree was much revered by the ancient Mayans who believed that a ceiba tree grew at the center of the universe. The ceiba, also known as the kapok tree or the silk-cotton tree belongs to the family Bombacaceae and is now classified as Ceiba pentandra or previously as Bombax pentandrum. Ceibas are large trees that grow to a height of 40m (130 ft) or more. They have palmate leaves and large bell-shaped flowers. The seed capsules are thick and woody and contain a kind of fiber that resembles cotton.

The ceiba is widely cultivated in tropical regions for its fiber: kapok. Because the fibers are short, elastic and brittle, they cannot be spun like cotton but are used in many ways for stuffing upholstery and making floss. Kapok is lightweight and water repellent and is used in large quantities in the making of life preservers, life jackets and as insulation in waterproof winter jackets.

Most of the world's kapok comes from the island of Java. The seeds of the ceiba yield kapok oil, used in making soap. The soft, spongy wood of the African variety, which is called bentang, is used for making canoes. The round seeds, the size of peas, are eaten on the Indonesian island of Celebes.


Coconut (in Guatemala, "coco") is the name for the fruit of a palm tree (Cocos nucifera of the family Arecaceae) found in most tropical regions of the world. The tree is called the coconut palm and has a round trunk about 45 cm (18 in) in diameter and can grow up to 30 m (100 ft) high. Leaves grow only from the very top of the tree and form a crown. As the tree grows, new leaves grow out of the top of the crown and leaves at the bottom die and fall to the ground leaving behind the relatively smooth trunk. The trunk exhibits many rings marking the places where former leaves grew. The crown consists of about 20 pinnate leaves that generally curve downward. Each leaf is about 3 to 4.5 m (10 to 15 ft) long. The fruit grow in clusters of 10 to 20 or more nuts. At any one time, 10 or 12 of these clusters, each in different stages of development, may be seen on the tree.

A mature coconut is about 30 cm (12 in) long, is oval-shaped and has a thick, fibrous outer husk and a hard inner shell. The "kernel" is the lining of the hard inner shell and consists of an oily, white meat that can be eaten or dried to produce the commercially valuable copra. Copra yields an oil used in the manufacture of soaps and candles. Within the kernel is a sweet-tasting milky fluid. The meat of coconuts is an important food in many tropical regions. At the very top of the crown is the terminal bud, known as palm cabbage, and is considered a delicacy. Trees are often cut down just for the sake of the bud. The central part of the young stem is also succulent and edible and is called "heart of palm". The sap, or toddy, like that of some other palms, is a favorite beverage in tropical countries, either in the natural state or after fermentation, which takes place in a few hours. Palm wine, or arrack, also a spirituous liquor, is obtained by distillation of the fermented sap. The tree root possesses narcotic properties and is sometimes chewed.

In some regions, the dried leaves of the coconut palm are used for thatch and, by plaiting the leaflets, mats, screens and baskets can be made. Coir, the fiber of the nut's husk, is used to make rope. See Palm.


Epiphyte is the name applied to the class of plants which typically do not root in the soil but, rather, attach themselves to trees or other tall objects where they can obtain light and moisture. Epiphytes are also called "air plants" because they derive all their sustenance from moisture and dust obtained from the air. They are not parasitic and obtain nothing from the host but physical support. For this reason, epiphytes are often seen growing on telephone wires and power lines.

Epiphytes live on airborne moisture, dust and bird droppings and absorb nutrients through specially evolved leaves. Some species also absorb nutrients through the roots used to anchor the plant in place. Many epiphytes, particularly orchids, have thick and fleshy leaves which are used to store food and water others have evolved tanks for this purpose. Certain bromeliads have leaves designed to catch and hold rainwater; others contain scales which open during moist periods and close when it is dry. Even in temperate regions many mosses, lichens, algae, and liverworts are epiphytes, as are many ferns and cacti in tropical and subtropical areas. Spanish moss (Tillandsia usneoides) and the popular houseplant the staghorn fern, are air plants.


Guava is a term applied to several members of a genus of shrubs or small trees of the myrtle family (see Myrtle) and their fruits. Guavas belong to the family Myrtaceae. The most common cultivated guava is classified as Psidium guajava and strawberry guava as Psidium littorale. The guava is native to the tropics of the Americas but it is now cultivated throughout the world.

The fruit of the common guava is white or yellow and about the size of an orange and the tree grows to a height of about 6 m (20 ft). This guava is commonly cultivated in Florida. The strawberry guava is cultivated in Brazil and produces a large, round, pinkish colored fruit whose taste is reminiscent of a strawberry. The strawberry guava has been cultivated by the Indians of the Americas in Florida and southern California since long before Columbus. In addition to eating, jellies, preserves, and pastes are made from guavas.


Members of the bignonia family, jacaranda is the common and scientific name for about 50 species of shrubs and trees found throughout the tropics of the Americas. The leaves of the jacaranda are composed of hundreds of tiny leaflets and look somewhat like ferns. Clusters of bluish purple flowers turn into hard, round, flat seedpods. The wood of jacaranda trees is very beautiful and has a pleasant odor and is sometimes used in interior construction.

Lignum Vitae

The latin term "Lignum Vitae" means "wood of life" and is the common name for a small genus (Guaiacum of the family Zygophyllaceae) of trees and shrubs, native to tropical America. The wood of lignum vitae trees is heavy and durable. Various species of lignum vitae occurs in Florida, Texas, the West Indies, parts of Mexico and Central America. Its main range is in northeastern Mexico. The species widespread in the West Indies and also found in southern Florida is classified as Guaiacum sanctum. The scrubby tree or bush extending from northeastern Mexico into southwestern Texas is classified as Guaiacum augustifolium.

The name lignum vitae is also applied to a few other unrelated species of trees throughout the world.


Logwood is the common name applied to the hard brown or reddish-brown heartwood of a particular tropical tree and to the tree itself. The logwood tree is classified as Haematoxylum campechianum of the family Leguminosae. Logwood is native only to Mexico and Central America but it has been introduced in the West Indies. It grows to about 15 m (50 ft) in height. The heartwood is called by several names including logwood, campeachy or campeche wood, Nicaragua wood, or hypernic. Logwood produces a dark red substance, hematoxylin, which is used in the manufacture of a purple dye. Most commercial logwood is grown in Honduras and on the islands of Jamaica and Santo Domingo. Many ex-pirates who settled in the area from Belize to Honduras switched from piracy to the logwood business and were successful.


Locally known as "caoba", mahogany is the common name for a medium-size family (about 550 species in about 50 genera) of tropical trees and shrubs important for their high-quality woods. True mahoganies are members of an American genus and an African genus. Members of the family usually have pinnately compound (branching) leaves and three to five sepals and petals. The five to ten stamens are fused along their filaments (stalks) to form a tube.

Mahogany is an all-time favorite among carpenters and aficionados of high-quality wooden objects. Mahogany wood is heavy, strong, easily worked, has an attractive grain and finishes beautifully. It also resists rot and termites. Today it is used in cabinetry and veneers which are glued over woods of lesser quality. In the past, before all the large trees were cut, mahogany was also used in construction. Other genera in the family besides the true mahoganies also yield useful woods, oils, insecticides, and edible fruits. The chinaberry tree, native to the Himalayas, is widely planted in the southern United States as an ornamental.

Mahoganies belong to the family Meliaceae. True mahoganies are classified in the American genus Swietenia and the African genus Khaya. The chinaberry tree is classified as Melia azedarach.

Maidenhair Ferns

Maidenhair ferns make up the genus Adiantum of the family Polypodiaceae. They are small, delicate ferns, having bipinnate fronds and alternate wedge-shaped pinnules on the thin stalks of the fronds. Southern maidenhair fern (Adiantum capillus-veneris) grows on moist rocks and old walls, especially near the sea, and occurs in Central America as well as parts of North America and Europe. Another species, American maidenhair fern (Adiantum pedatum), is also native to North America.


The mango belongs to the family Anacardiaceae, the cashew family. The term mango is applied to both the tree and its fruit. The tree, which is native to India, grows up to 15 m (50 ft) high, with a spreading top and numerous branches. It is widely grown in the tropics for its succulent fruit. The fruit, which is a fleshy drupe, is somewhat kidney-shaped or oval, typically from 5 to 15 cm (2 to 6 in) in length. The variety in the Rio Dulce area (Mangifera indica) produces fruit up to 20 cm (8 in) long and 13 cm (5 in) in diameter. The fruit is greenish, yellowish, or reddish in color and contains a large flattened stone.


Mangrove is the common name applied to several kinds of tropical flowering plants that are actually members of three different families. Mangroves are trees or shrubs that have the ability to thrive in shallow, muddy, brackish or salt water and are found in the tropics and semi-tropics worldwide. During the dry season, the waters of the Rio Dulce become brackish and in some spots, only mangroves and a few other plants can survive right at the shore. Mangroves prefer quiet shorelines and estuaries but can also be found around the cays of El Golfete where significant waves can develop during storms. In spots such as these, the mangroves survive because they are protected by thick stands of reeds that break the force of the waves. During low water, mangroves are easily recognized by their tangled masses of arching roots standing above the water. Some mangrove roots extend above the water at all times. These specialized vertical branches are called pneumatophores and act as aerating organs.

The most common and most important species, the red mangrove, is named for its reddish wood. It is useful as a source of charcoal and of tannins, which are used in preparing leather. The seeds of the red mangrove are very odd in that they germinate while still on the tree. The seedlings grow up to 30 cm (12 in) long and are cigar-shaped. The seedlings are heavier at the root end than at the leafy end and, when the time comes, they fall from the parent tree. If all goes as planned, they plant themselves in the mud at the foot of the parent.

The red mangrove belongs to the family Rhizophoraceae and is classified as Rhizophora mangle. The white mangrove and button mangrove belong to the family Combretaceae. The black mangrove belongs to the family Verbenaceae and is classified as Avicennia germinans.

Some of the cays in El Golfete have no solid ground but are islands of solid mangrove that are rooted in mud that is perpetually underwater. The protection afforded by the tangled roots creates a micro-ecology all its own and is an excellent nesting and feeding area for a variety of fish, amphibians and invertebrates. The tops of these trees are usually heavily populated with birds, particularly herons. Unlike the rain forest ashore, these islands can be extremely noisy, especially at night. It is possible to explore these densely forested "islands" by climbing over the tree roots but it is not recommended as it is very easy to slip and fall, you will be covered with bird droppings and these islands are home to high concentrations of poisonous and non-poisonous snakes. You can get a close enough look by plowing your dinghy or canoe through the reeds up to the edge of the mangrove roots and peering in and listening from there. Even so, beware of bird droppings as the birds above express their displeasure at your presence by defecating vigorously.


Mimosa is the common name for a group of herbs, shrubs, and trees that constitute a subfamily of the legume family (Leguminosae). The subfamily (Mimosoideae) includes the sensitive brier (Schrankia microphylla) found in the southern United States and the silk tree (Albizia julibrissin), native to Africa and Asia, noted for flowers with long, silky stamens.

Mimosa are native to tropical and subtropical regions. The typical genus of the subfamily, which contains about 400 species, is native to tropical America and has been introduced in the hot regions of Asia and Africa. Many species are sensitive, in that the leaves, which are bipinnate, bend together and droop upon slight stimulation by mechanical, chemical, or electrical means. Tiny yellow, orange, or purplish flowers are usually borne in globular heads. Bisexual and unisexual flowers usually occur on the same plant. The flowers have a four-toothed or five-toothed calyx, a four-lobed or five-lobed corolla, numerous stamens on the male and the bisexual flowers, and a solitary pistil on the female and bisexual flowers. The fruit is a pod. The common sensitive plant around the Rio Dulce the touch-me-not (Mimosa pudica).


Mulberry is the common name for a family (Moraceae) of mostly woody flowering plants, widespread in the tropics, with some occurrences in temperate zones. The family contains about 48 genera and 1200 species and has small, clustered, unisexual flowers, typical of the nettle order (Urticales), to which it belongs. Members of the mulberry family are distinguished from the other members of the order by the presence of milky sap containing latex. The female flowers are often borne on the inside of a fleshy structure called a receptacle, which expands greatly as the fruit matures. Two well-known examples are the fig and the breadfruit. The fruits of these plants actually are derived from many flowers borne on a common receptacle and are termed compound fruits.

The mulberry genus (Morus) contains about seven species of trees native to the temperate and subtropical northern hemisphere. Two species are native to North America: red mulberry (Morus rubra), widespread in the eastern United States; and Texas mulberry (Morus microphylla), a small tree or shrub that occurs scattered across the southwestern United States and northern Mexico. White mulberry (Morus alba) has been cultivated for centuries in China, and its leaves are the main food of the silkworm. Both the tree and the worm were introduced into the United States; the attempt to form a silk industry failed, but the white mulberry has become naturalized in the eastern and southern United States. Another important member of the family is osage orange.


Myrtle is the common name for a family (Myrtaceae of the order Myrtales) of trees and shrubs, concentrated mostly in tropical America and tropical Asia. It is also the name for its representative genus (Myrtus). The typical species of the genus, Myrtus communis, is native to western Asia and the Mediterranean region. Other members of the family include pimento (Pimenta dioica), bottlebrushes (genera Callistemon, Metrosideros, and Melaleuca), clove (Syzygium aromaticum), and guava (Psidium guajava). The genus Eucalyptus, a valuable source of timber, pulp, and oils, is also a member of the family. The 450 species of the genus Eucalyptus are almost exclusively confined to Australia, although many are now planted in other parts of the world for timber and ornament.

The myrtle family belongs to an order that contains about 9000 species placed in 12 families. The myrtle family contains about 3000 species. The melastoma family with about 4000 species is almost exclusively tropical and is one of the largest families in the flora of South America. Some mangroves are members of the order, as is the evening primrose family which contains several well-known plants such as the Fuchsia and the pomegranate.

The order (Myrtales) comprises mostly woody flowering plants distributed throughout the world. A characteristic feature of the order is the presence of internal phloem. In most groups of flowering plants, the phloem (food-conducting cells) is located outside the xylem (water-conducting cells) but in the Myrtales, it is the other way around with the phloem on the inside near the pith in the stems. The leaves of this order usually have unbroken margins and are opposite on the stems. The flowers are radially symmetrical with their parts in fours and fives, and a floral tube (fusion of sepals, petals, and often filaments of stamens) that may surround or be fused to the ovary.


The palm is, perhaps, the plant most often associated with the tropics. It is the common name for a family (Palmae) of woody flowering plants widespread throughout the tropical regions of the world. They are of great economic importance because of the food, fiber, and oil they provide, and for ornamental purposes. The family is the only member of its order and contains about 2600 species, making it the fourth largest among the monocots, after the grasses, lilies, and orchids.

Palms have a very distinctive appearance consisting of a single, unbranched trunk topped with a tuft of fanlike or featherlike leaves. The flowers are borne in axillary clusters (inflorescences). A large, interwoven mass of roots occurs at the trunk base. The trunks of palms, like those of other monocots, have no secondary growth so the diameter of the trunk does not increase with the age of the tree, as in dicot plants. Growth takes place only at the top of the trunk. The width of the trunk is established during the seedling stage and maintains that width for the life of the tree. Bundles of vascular tissue are scattered throughout the trunks. The leaves of palms, often large, are formed a few at a time at the stem tips. They have large, sheathing bases that may leave semicircular scars on the stems when they fall off. The leaf blades are folded in a distinctive fashion called "plicate".

Flowers of palms are usually individually inconspicuous but are often borne in great masses. Some of these masses contain as many as 250,000 flowers. Flower parts are in threes, with three sepals and petals and six stamens. The pistil, which usually consists of three separate or fused carpels (egg-bearing structures), matures into a single-seeded fruit that may be either a berry (a seed surrounded by a fleshy covering) or a drupe (a seed with a stony layer surrounded by a fleshy covering).

Palms are overwhelmingly tropical in distribution. In the tropics, they occur in habitats that range from lowland rain forests to high mountains, and from deserts to mangrove swamps. Worldwide, however, species distribution is very uneven. About 1400 species occur in tropical Asia. Only about 120 occur in Africa. Another 130 species occur on Madagascar and other nearby islands in the western Indian Ocean near Africa. The American tropics are home to about 950 species.

Palms are important sources of foods such as dates, coconuts and sago. Copra and coir, which are useful fibers, raffia, and rattan fiber also come from palms. The oil palm (Elaeis guineensis) is native to West Africa but is widely cultivated and has become a source of the vegetable oil used in making margarine, soap and cooking oil. Palms are grown as ornamentals in tropical and subtropical regions and many smaller species are used as houseplants.


Papaya is the common name for a small family (Caricaceae) of soft-wooded, sparsely branched trees of tropical America and western tropical Africa. Papaya is also the name for its representative genus (Carica). Four genera and about 30 species are placed in this family of dicots. They characteristically have palmately lobed or compound leaves. They have small, unisexual flowers and separate male and female plants (dioecious). All papayas produce a milky latex which is found throughout the plant. The latex is produced by special latex-producing cells.

The common papaya (Carica papaya), also called papaw and pawpaw, is native to the New World but its exact origin is unknown. It may be a chance hybridization between two other species of the representative genus. It is now widely cultivated in the tropics and many varieties have been developed. In the wild, the tree grows to about 1.8 m (6 ft) in height, but cultivated trees may reach about 7.6 m (25 ft). The fruits vary in shape from spherical to elongate and may weigh as much as 9 kg (20 lb). They are eaten fresh as breakfast fruit or in salads or desserts. Papaya is also exploited for its latex which contains papain, a proteolytic (protein-digesting) enzyme used in meat tenderizers. A few other species of the representative genus are eaten locally in the tropics.


Pineapple is the common name for a representative member (Ananas comosus) of the flowering plant family Bromeliaceae of the order Bromeliales. These plants are characterized by unique water-absorbing leaf scales and regular three-parted flowers. The leaves are spirally arranged sheaths or blades, usually occurring in layers. The plant embryos have one seed leaf. The family, which contains more than 2000 species placed in 46 genera, is almost exclusively confined to the tropics and subtropics of the Americas, with one species occurring in western Africa. The most economically important species is the familiar pineapple. A few species are sources of fiber while others are cultivated for their showy flowers or foliage. The family constitutes an order (Bromeliales), and the term "bromeliad" is used for its members.

Bromeliads exhibit a wide-ranging spectrum from relatively primitive to highly evolved forms with tremendous variations in size and adaptations to their environments. Primitive members include a genus that reaches a height of 10 m (30 ft) and grows high in the Andes. Plants of this genus are terrestrial and have elongated stems, fully developed roots, leaves with narrow petioles (leafstalks), and hairs that retard water loss by providing a dense covering. A second stage in bromeliad advancement is the familiar pineapple which is native to South America but is now widely cultivated in tropical areas, primarily for its sweet, juicy fruit. Unlike many bromeliads that perch high up on host plants or other objects, pineapples grow on the ground. Pineapples grow to about 1 m (3 ft), but the stems are short and the petioles are expanded, fitting together to form a water-holding tank at the base of the plant. The leaves act as catchment basins and the tanks as reservoirs. Water is absorbed from the tank as needed by roots or leaf hairs. An extreme form of bromeliad adaptation is exemplified by Spanish moss (Tillandsia usneoides). It has roots only when young and, as the plant matures, water absorption is taken over by specialized leaf scales. Spanish moss occurs throughout the range of the order as an epiphyte, growing on other plants for support.

Bromeliads are especially interesting denizens of the rain forest in that the water-holding mechanism they have developed often contain their own micro-ecologies and the bromeliad often has complex relationships with these other organisms. Within their reservoirs live ecological communities ranging from unicellular algae and protozoans to aquatic flowering plants and insects, crabs, and frogs. Bromeliads receive dissolved nutrients from their wastes and decomposing remains and are thereby less dependent on roots in the soil. Scientists studying these micro-ecologies have barely scratched the surface of what is to be learned.

The pineapple was probably first domesticated from the primitive pineapple (genus: Puya) in the high plateaus of central South America. The Indians widely planted it for its fiber long before Europeans first saw it in the Caribbean. Thereafter, cultivation spread to warm regions around the globe. Hawaiian plantations produce almost a third of the world's crop and supply 60 percent of canned pineapple products. Other leading producers are China, Brazil, and Mexico.


Satinwood is the common name for several tropical trees of the rue family (Rutaceae). They are so named for their satinlike wood which is used in fine cabinetwork. The common satinwood (Chloroxylon swietenia) is a moderate-size deciduous tree growing in central and south India and Sri Lanka. West Indian satinwood (Zanthoxylum flavum) is evergreen and comes mainly from the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and the Florida Keys. African satinwood (Zanthoxylum macrophyllum) also produces fine timber. Satinwood is hard, very close-grained and takes a fine polish.


Tamarind is the common name for a tropical evergreen tree of the legume family (Leguminosae). It is native to fertile areas throughout tropical Africa and southern Asia. The tamarind (Tamarindus indica) is a large tree, attaining a height of 24 m (80 ft). The wood is extremely hard and is used in cabinetwork. The tamarind is cultivated widely in tropical areas of the eastern and western hemispheres as an ornamental tree and for its acidic fruits which are often made into candy. The pale-yellow flowers, arranged in loose, terminal racemes, have a four-parted calyx, five petals, three fertile stamens, and a solitary pistil. The fruit is a tapering, indehiscent (remaining closed at maturity), many-seeded pod. When it is mixed with sugar and water, tamarind juice is a popular drink in Latin America.

December 16, 2012
© 1997-2013 Phillip Landmeier