Herbs & Plants

Handroanthus serratifolius

Botanical Name: : Handroanthus serratifolius
Family: Bignoniaceae
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Lamiales
Genus: Handroanthus
Species: H. serratifolius

*Bignonia serratifolia Vahl
*Tecoma serratifolia (Vahl) G. Don
*Tabebuia serratifolia (Vahl) G. Nicholson

Common Names: Yellow Trumpet Tree, Yellow Lapacho, Pau Darco, Yellow Poui, Yellow Ipe, Pau Darco amarelo, or Ipe-Amarelo

Habitat: Handroanthus serratifolius is native to South America – Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, the Guyanas, north to Trinidad and Tobago. It grows in
climax evergreen forest, forming pure stands in some areas but preferring the sides and tops of ridges to swampy ground.

Handroanthus serratifolius is a large, deciduous tree growing up to 37 metres tall. The cylindrical bole, which is usually straight and frequently buttressed, can be 90cm in diameter with exceptional specimens to 180cm. It can be unbranched for the first 18 metres. It is one of the largest and strongest of tropical forest trees.
This tree has relatively smooth bark, leaves compound with (3-)5 leaflets palmately arranged, the lower pairs smaller than the other 3, blade of central leaflet about from 15-24 cm long x 7-8 cm wide; margins serrated particularly towards the apex, some stellate hairs and scales as well as simple hairs present on veins on lower surface. Flowers yellow, stellate hairs present on the calyx, some hairs on inside of corolla-tube. Capsule to 45 cm long. This species is the national tree of Brazil.


The tree is a major source of Ipe wood, one of the most durable woods in the world. It is commonly harvested from the wild for this timber, which is widely exported. The tree also has local use as a medicine. The tree is deciduous during the dry season, at which time it is covered with masses of bright yellow flowers, making it a magnificent sight. It can be used for landscaping.

A plant of the moist, lowland tropics where it is found at elevations up to 800 metres. It grows best in areas where annual daytime temperatures are within the range 24 – 32°c, but can tolerate 20 – 36°c. It can be killed by temperatures of 5°c or lower. It prefers a mean annual rainfall in the range 700 – 1,700mm, but tolerates 500 – 2,000mm.
Young plants can tolerate some shade, but they need increasing levels of light as they grow. Prefers a well-drained soil, often found growing wild on slopes. Prefers a pH in the range 5 – 7, tolerating 4.5 – 7.5.
Seedling plants establish moderately well when planted out and can reach a height of 3 metres within 2 years.

Seed – it has a short period of viability and so should be sown as soon as it is ripe. The seeds can be sown in a semi-shaded position in a nursery seedbed or individual containers. High germination rate is usually obtained within 8 – 10 days. Seedlings develop quickly and are usually ready for planting out within 5 months.

Medicinal Uses:
A decoction of the whole plant, combined with honey, is used to relieve coughing. The bark is antidote. It is used as a treatment against fever, snake poison and manchineel poison. The dried bark of the trunk is grated and applied as a plaster as a remedy for leishmaniasis. The plaster is changed daily until the ulcer is cicatrized. The wood is used in a decoction as a sudorific to treat fevers. The flowers are pectoral. The corolla of the flowers is used in a decoction, mixed with sugar, as a syrup to remedy rheumatism, coughing and grippe. The plant contains lapachol, a naphthoquinone which has been shown to have antitumor activity.

Other Uses:
The heartwood of freshly cut wood is yellowish-green; becoming light to dark olive-brown, often with lighter or darker streaks as it dries; it is clearly demarcated from the 12 – 88mm wide, cream-coloured sapwood that dries to white or greyish-white. The grain is straight to very irregular; texture is fine; lustre low to medium. The wood is very hard, extremely heavy, strong and very durable when in contact with the ground, though it is susceptible to marine-borer attack. It is moderately difficult to work, especially with hand tools where it has a blunting effect on cutting edges. Flat-sawed material planes to a good finish but reduction of the cutting angle to at least 15 degrees is recommended to eliminate chipping of quartersawn stock. The wood finishes satisfactorily in other operations except for some difficulty encountered when interlocked grain is present. The timber stains and polishes well and requires little grain-filler. Pre-boring is required before nailing to prevent splitting and the bending of nails. The wood is particularly well adapted for uses which take advantage of its strength, toughness, resilience, and very high resistance to insects and decay. It is suitable for use as railway sleepers, bridge construction, turnery, vehicles, cabinetwork, and carpentry, while some of its highest specially uses are for tool handles, walking sticks, fishing rods, and archery bows. Figured logs have been cut into veneer. Locally, the wood is also used extensively for fence posts, house poles, and building framing. It is also a good timber for naval construction and dock work above water and for general sporting goods items. In Brazil it finds wide use as factory flooring, machinery parts, mill rollers in sugar mills, and parts for vehicles and carts.

Known Hazards: The fine yellow dust arising when sawing or planing the wood has an irritating effect if inhaled and at times is reported to cause mild dermatitis.

Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.


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