Caribbean Trees
Names and Uses

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Caribbean Trees
Names and Uses


Lignum Vitae (Guaiacum officinale): Meaning wood of life, this is the heaviest of all woods and sinks in water. A popular source of resin, it has blue flowers in the spring. A slow growing tree, it can grow up to 30 feet.

Mahoe (Sterculia caribaea): the bark is used as a rope substitute.

Mahogany (Swietenia mahogani): Also called Dominican mahogany, this evergreen grows to 75 feet. It is a favorite for furniture, ships and cabinets.

Monkey Ear (Enterolobium cyclocarpum): Also called elephant's ear, it is known for its 3-inch, ear-shaped brown seedpods. The seedpods are used for necklaces or food. The wood is used for building, the bark for soap, medicine and tannin.

Obi (Trichilia trinitensis): the wood was made into cutlass handles.

Penny Piece (Lucuma multiflora): the fruit is edible.

Pois Doux (Inga spp.); the fruit is edible.

Quassia or Bitter Ash (Quassia amara): the wood is made into medicine, leaves are an insecticide.

Red Mangrove (Rhizophora spp.): the bark is used for tanning material.

Rokoo Jab (Ryania speciosa): the stem and branch have insecticidal properties.

Sandbox (Hura crepitans): This large tree has a poisonous milky sap that may cause blindness. The seed capsules, looking like 3-inch pumpkins, explode when ripe. They were once used to hold sand for blotting ink, hence its name.

Seagrape (Coccoloba uvifera): the fruit is edible and also used as an astringent.

Silk Cotton (Ceiba pentandra): Also called the kapok tree, its seed floss is sued for stuffing pillows; used in baths to relieve fatigue and to counteract poisoning.

Tamarind (Tamarindus indica): The brown, sour fruit pulp is used for candy, preserves and drinks.

Tan-Tan (Leucaena glauca): Also called wild tamarind, this is a common roadside tree whose leaves and long brown pods are used to feed goats and cattle. However, horses and donkeys will lose their hair temporarily if they eat them.

Tirite (Ischnosiphon arouma): the leaves and stem are used for handicrafts.

Tree Fern (Cyathea spp.): used today mostly as an ornamental, the Caribs used the trees to preserve and carry fire.

White Cedar (Tabebuia heteropyhlla): for making posts and poles but also in shipbuilding.

Yellow Poui (Cybistax donnell-smithii): Also called the sunshine or gold tree. Know for its strong, durable wood and beautiful flowers. The rains often come after the tree flowers.

Caribbean Vines and Trees

Bamboo (Bambusa Vulgaris/Grmaineae): made into vases, baskets, waiters, tables, blinds and trinket boxes.

Bow-String Hemp (Sansevieria thyrsiflora/Liliaceae): the fiber is woven or plaited for ropes, hats, bags and slippers.

Cachibou (Calathea discolor/Marantaceae): made into waterproof baskets.

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