Hymenaea courbaril L.
Coubaril, Kerosene tree, West Indian locust
Source: James A. Duke. 1983. Handbook of Energy Crops. unpublished.
- Folk Medicine
- Yields and Economics
- Biotic Factors
Important timber tree, used for furniture, (sometimes compared with mahogany),
carpentry, general construction, wheels and cogs, dugouts, shipbuilding,
crossties, posts, looms, cartwheels, etc. The wood should be attractive for
cabinet work, interior trim, plywood, turnery, and veneer. Indians made canoes
from the smooth, hard, thick bark by stripping in one piece the bark of a large
tree, sewing the ends together, waterproofing the seams with gum or resin, and
inserting wooden crosspieces. The roots and trunk yield a pale yellow or
reddish resinlike gum known commercially as South American copal. The gum
exudes and forms hard lumps which become buried in the soil at the base of a
tree. Sometimes as much as a barrel of gum has been found around the roots of
a large tree or at the site of a former tree. The gum is used mainly in
varnish but also for incense and local medicines (Little and Wadsworth, 1964).
The copal is also used for patent leather and in stains for tin ware (Uphof,
Reported to be anodyne, antiseptic, astringent, expectorant, laxative,
pectoral, purgative, sedative, stomachic, stimulant, tonic, and vermifuge,
coubaril is a folk remedy for arthritis, asthma, beriberi, blenorrhagia,
bronchitis, bruises, catarrh, cystitis, diarrhea, dyspepsia, emphysema,
fractures., headache, laryngitis, lungs, malaria, nephritis, rheumatism, sore,
spasms, stomatitis, ulcers, and venereal disease (Duke and Wain, 1981).
According to Ayensu (1981), the bark infusion is used as a depurative stomachic
in exanthema; smoke from rosin used for headaches and rheumatism.
Per 100 g, the dry fruit pulp is reported to contain 309 calories, 14.6 g H2O,
5.9 g protein, 2.2 g fat, 75.3 g total carbohydrate, 13.4 g fiber, 2.0 g ash,
28 mg Ca, 143 mg P, 3.2 mg Fe, trace of b-carotene equivalent, 0.23 mg
thiamine, 0.14 mg riboflavin, 4.1 mg niacin, and 11 mg ascorbic acid.
Langenheim (1981) compares the sesquiterpenes of Hymenaea the
tongue-in-cheek "kerosene tree" and Copaifera, Calvin's "diesel tree".
|Sesquiterpene hydrocarbons ||Hymenaea ||Copaifera |
|Allo-arodendrene ||-- ||wood |
|a-Bergamotene ||-- ||wood |
|b-Bisabolene || wood ||wood |
|D-Cadinene ||leaf-pod-stem cortex ||wood, leaf |
|g-Cadinene ||leaf-stem cortex ||leaf |
|Calamenene ||-- ||wood |
|Calarene ||pod ||-- |
|Caryophyllene ||leaf, pod-stem cortex ||wood, leaf |
|a-Copaene ||leaf-stem cortex ||wood, leaf |
|b-Copaene ||leaf-stem cortex ||wood*, leaf* |
|a-Cubebene ||leaf-stem cortex ||wood, leaf* |
|b-Cubebene ||-- ||wood |
|Curcumene ||-- ||wood |
|Cyclosativene ||pod ||-- |
|Cyperene ||leaf ||wood, leaf |
|b-, D- and g-Elemene ||-- ||wood |
|b-Farnesene ||-- ||wood |
|a-Himachalene ||pod ||-- |
|b-Humulene ||leaf-stem cortex ||leaf* |
|a-Muurolene ||pod ||-- |
|b-Muurolene ||-- ||wood |
|g-Muurolene ||leaf-stem cortex ||wood, leaf* |
|a-Seliene ||leaf-stem cortex ||wood, leaf* |
|b-Seliene ||leaf-stem cortex ||wood, leaf* |
|Selina-4(14), 7(1l)-diene ||pod ||-- |
|Selina-4(14), 7-diene ||pod ||-- |
Wood contains the diterpene copalic acid. The wood and copal may cause
Tree to 20 (30) m tall and 50 (200) cm DBH; outer bark brown, closely
lenticellate, bitter tasting; wood reddish-brown, hard. Leaves bifoliolate;
petioles 12 cm long; leaflets narrowly oblong to elliptic-lanceolate,
asymmetri- cal, short-acuminate, unequally rounded at base, 410 cm long, 25
cm wide, coriaceous, punctate, the midrib conspicuous below. Inflorscences
terminal, sub-corymbose, to ca 8 (12) cm long, the branches puberulent, jointed
and articulate;flowers white or purplish, soon falling, probably opening at
night; bracts caducous; pedicels thick, ca 7 mm long; calyx tube ca 8 mm long,
4-lobed, the lobes ovate to oblong, expanding to ca 15 mm long, coriaceous,
densely tomentose inside, easily caducous; petals 5, white, sometimes tinged
with purple, rounded, 1.52 cm long, ca 9 mm wide, clawed below, the claw ca
1.5 mm long; stamens 10, alternately short and long, the long ones to 2 cm
long; style attached laterally at apex of ovary, directed somewhat to one side
of the flower; stigma held above the lower anthers and at some distance from
the divergent longer set. Legumes oblong, flattened, to 17 cm long and 6.5 cm
wide, turgid, hard, reddish-brown; seeds (2) 46, embedded in sticky pulp
Reported from the South American (Amazonian) Center of Diversity, the
courbaril, or cvs thereof, is reported to tolerate shade and slope (Duke,
1978). (2n = 24)
Throughout West Indies from Cuba and Jamaica to Trinidad and Tobago. Also from
central Mexico to Peru, Bolivia, Brazil, and French Guiana. Rarely planted in
southern Florida (Little and Wadsworth, 1964).
Ranging from Tropical Dry to Wet through Subtropical Dry to Wet Forest Life
Zones (Duke, 1978). Coubaril is estimated to tolerate annual precipitation of
642 dm, annual temperature of 22 to 28°C, and pH of 5.57.5. Rare in the
young forest. Flowers during the dry season and the early rainy season
(December to May) in Panama. The fruits mature chiefly during the rainy
season, especially late in the rainy season (Croat, 1978).
Shade is required at first if the tree is to produce a straight trunk.
No data available.
Trees underplanted in a forest near Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico attained heights
ranging up to 6.5 m in 13 years. Plantings in the open, for shade and
ornamental purposes, pruduce attractive and spreading trees more rapidly.
I presume the wood can be used as firewood (density 7501050 kg/m3)
the pods for alcohol generation, but there is some question as to whether this
is an important nitrogen-fixing tree. Isolated from nodules on a large Hawaian
specimen reacted like a typical cowpea rhizobium. Large rough-surfaced nodules
were observed on 10 of 15 Philippine specimens. In Trinidad, nodulated
specimens were not found (Allen and Allen, 1981). I am surprised this has not
yet been labelled the "kerosene tree." According to Pereira (1929), this
species, closely related to the "diesel tree" Copaifera, contains a
medicinal oil (the resin) which burns like kerosene. I doubt that it would
produce significantly more or less resin than the Copaifera, but would
not write either of them off without an examination of the facts.
Flowers are believed to be bat pollinated. Browne (1968) lists: Isoptera.
Complete list of references for Duke, Handbook of Energy Crops
- Allen, O.N. and Allen, E.K. 1981. The Leguminosae. The University of Wisconsin
Press. 812 p.
- Ayensu, E.S. 1981. Medicinal plants of the West Indies. Reference Publications,
Inc. Algonac, MI. 282 p.
- Browne, F.G. 1968. Pests and diseases of forest plantations trees. Clarendon
- Croat, T.B. 1978. Flora of Barro Colorado Island. Stanford University Press.,
- Duke, J.A. 1978. The quest for tolerant germplasm. p. 161. In: ASA Special
Symposium 32, Crop tolerance to suboptimal land conditions. Am. Soc. Agron.
- Duke, J.A. and Wain, K.K. 1981. Medicinal plants of the world. Computer index
with more than 85,000 entries. 3 vols.
- Langenheim, J.H. 1981. Terpenoids in the Leguminosae. p. 627655. In: R.M.
Polhill and P.H. Raven (eds.), Advances in legume systematics. 2 vols. Royal
Botanic Gardens, Kew.
- Little, E.L., Jr., and Wadsworth, F.H. 1964. Common trees of Puerto Rico and
the Virgin Islands. Ag. Handbook 249, USDA, Washington, DC.
- Pereia, H. 1929. Pequena contribuicao para um diccionario das plantas uteis do
estado de S. Paulo. Typographia Brasil de Rothschild & Co., Sao Paulo.
- Uphof, J.C., Th. 1968. Dictionary of economic plants. Verlag von J. Cramer.
Last update Wednesday, January 7, 1998 by aw