Herbs & Plants

Caesalpinia echinata

Botanical Name: Caesalpinia echinata
Family: Fabaceae
Subfamily: Caesalpinioideae
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Fabales
Tribe: Caesalpinieae
Genus: Paubrasilia
Species: P. echinata

*Caesalpinia echinata Lam. 1785
*Guilandina echinata Spreng.

Common Names: Pau Brasil, Brazil Wood, Indian Savin Pernambuco wood or Brazilwood (Portuguese: pau-de-pernambuco, pau-brasil; Tupi Ibirapitanga) and is the national tree of Brazil.

Habitat: Caesalpinia echinata is native to S. America – eastern and northeastern Brazil. It grows on arid limestone thickets. Littoral forest and woodland, generally on sandy or sand-clay soils that are well drained, preferring open less dense forest, frequently in dry high, escarpments.

. Caesalpinia echinata is an evergreen tree growing to 12 m (39ft) by 12 m (39ft) at a medium rate.with the dark brown bark flakes in large patches, revealing the lustrous blood-red heartwood underneath. The leaves are pinnate and each consists of between 9 and 19 small, leathery leaflets, which are broadly oblong in shape. The flower stalk, or inflorescence, is also branched and contains between 15 and 40 yellow, strongly perfumed flowers, which may be pollinated by bees. The petals are usually yellow with a blood-red blotch. The fruits are oval-shaped woody seedpods, measuring up to 7.3 centimetres (2.9 in) long and 2.6 centimetres (1.0 in) across; they hang off the branches and after the seeds are expelled, the pods become twisted. The branches, leaves and fruit are covered with small thorns.


There are some important differences between geographically distinct populations and it is thought that separate subspecies of the pau brasil may exist. This tree may have some medicinal properties and has been used as an astringent and antidiuretic by local people; extracts have been tested as possible cancer treatments.

Prefers a well-drained, alkaline soil and a position in full sun. Established plants are very drought tolerant. Plants are fairly tolerant of salt-laden winds. A moderately fast-growing tree, reaching a height of up to 2 metres within 2 years from seed. Plants begin to flower when around 3 – 4 years of age. The development of heartwood in plantation trees is considerably faster than in the wild; the DBH of a 17 year old plantation tree compares with a 70 year old tree in the wild. The quality of wood from plantations is, apparently, not suitable for making violin bows and consequently there is a lack of interest in growing the species in plantation. The flowers are very attractive to bees. Trees in the wild are frequently covered with orchids and other epiphytes. Plants in this genus are notably resistant to honey fungus. This species has a symbiotic relationship with certain soil bacteria, these bacteria form nodules on the roots and fix atmospheric nitrogen. Some of this nitrogen is utilized by the growing plant but some can also be used by other plants growing nearby.

Seed – pre-soak for 12 – 24 hours in warm water prior to sowing. Sow the seed in a partially shaded position in individual containers. A germination rate in excess of 60% can be expected, with the seed sprouting within 8 – 15 days. When the seedlings are 4 – 6cm tall, pot them up into individual containers and they should be ready to plant out 4 – 5 months later. Seeds must be sown fresh, they fail to germinate after storage for 30 days. Softwood cuttings in sand in a frame.

Medicinal Uses: A charcoal made from the powdered bark is infused and used to treat diarrhoea in children. The wood is odontalgic and tonic.

Other Uses
Agroforestry Uses: Plants can be trimmed to keep them small and dense. This gives them potential for use as barrier plants. Other Uses An infusion of the pods, mixed with iron sulphate, yields a permanent black dye. A red dye is obtained from the wood. It becomes purplish when mixed with alkalis and yellow if mixed with acids. A fiery red colour, the dye was a very important item of trade until virtually replaced with synthetic dyes. The heartwood is red-brown to dark brown; it is clearly differentiated from the thin layer of sapwood. The wood is fine-grained, very tough, hard, heavy and very durable. Very dense, it sinks in water, is easy to split and to polish. Of high value, the wood is used for turnery, ship building and making musical instruments. It is particularly valued for making bows for violins

Known Hazards: Plant has spines or sharp edges; use extreme caution when handling.

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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