Herbs & Plants

Enterolobium cyclocarpum

Botanical Name: Enterolobium cyclocarpum
Family: Fabaceae
Subfamily: Caesalpinioideae
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Fabales
Genus: Enterolobium
Species: E. cyclocarpum

*Albizia longipes Britton & Killip
*Enterolobium cyclocarpa (Jacq.) Griseb. (lapsus)
*Feuilleea cyclocarpa (Jacq.) Kuntze
*Inga cyclocarpa (Jacq.) Willd.
*Mimosa cyclocarpa Jacq.
*Mimosa parota Sessé & Moc.
*Pithecellobium cyclocarpum (Jacq.) Mart.
*Prosopis dubia Kunth

Common Names: Guanacaste, Caro caro, Monkey-ear tree or Elephant-ear tree,Devil’s Ear. Earpod tree

Habitat: Enterolobium cyclocarpum is native to tropical America.(S. America – northwest Brazil, Venezuela and Colombia, north through Central America to Mexico.) It grows in dry, lowland forest and savannah. It can tolerate drought. It has some salt tolerance. In Costa Rica it grows from sea level to 1,300 m altitude. It can grow in arid places.

Enterolobium cyclocarpum is a deciduous Tree growing to 30 m (98ft) by 30 m (98ft) at a fast rate, with a trunk up to 3.5 m (11 ft) in diameter. Unusual in a tree of these proportions, buttresses are completely lacking. The bark is light gray, with prominent dark reddish-brown vertical fissures. In young trees these fissures are closer together. and their confluence lends a characteristic reddish hue to the bark of guanacaste saplings. Older specimens often present broken, chipped or scarred bark

The alternate leaves are bipinnate compound, 15–40 cm (5.91–15.75 in) long and 17 cm (6.69 in) broad with a 2–6 cm (0.79–2.36 in) petiole bearing 4–15 pairs of pinnae, each pinna with 40–70 leaflets; the leaflets are slender oblong, 8–15 mm (0.315–0.591 in) long by 2–4 mm (0.079–0.157 in) wide. Near its base, the twiggy petiole bares a small, raised, oval gland. The leaves are confined to the outer shell of the crown, yet they are plentiful enough to make it moderately dense and green. The guanacaste is evergreen, or briefly deciduous for 1–2 months during the dry season. Most foliage is shed in December, at the start of the dry season. In late February, a growth surge is initiated that re-establishes a fresh, thick crown by April.

Concurrent with the leaves’ renewal is the appearance of globular inflorescences (3 cm or 1.18 in) in the axils of the new leaves. Supported by a long pedestal (4 cm or 1.57 in), each spherical white head – composed of about fifty individual flowers – sports thousands of thin, filamentous stamens as its major feature. The blossoms themselves each consist of about twenty stamens and a single pistil, bound together at the base by a short, green, tubular corolla and an even shorter calyx, just 5 mm (0.197 in) long altogether. Guanacaste flowers are very fragrant, and during intense flowering periods their odor permeates the air for many meters in all directions. In Manuel Antonio National Park near Quepos, Costa Rica, flowering lasts from late February to early April.

Guanacaste fruits are large (7–12 cm or 2.8–4.7 in diameter), glossy dark brown indehiscent and spirally-organized pods, shaped like orbicular disks. Their shape suggests the usual Mimosoideae fruit – a long, narrow, flattened pod – taken and wound around an axis perpendicular to its plane. Made of thick, soft tissue with a leathery feel, the pods contain 8-20 radially arranged seeds, 14.5–17.5 mm (0.571–0.689 in) long, 7.8–11.2 mm (0.307–0.441 in) wide, and 6.2–7.2 mm (0.244–0.283 in) thick and weighing about 1 g. Guanacaste seeds are brown and marked with a conspicuous light brown or orange ring. They are very hard, resembling small stones rather than tree seeds in their strength and durability. In order for germination to occur, the hard seed coat must be broken to enable water to reach the embryo. Otherwise, the seeds will lie dormant indefinitely.


A plant of low to medium elevations in the drier to moist tropics, where it is found at elevations up to 1,200 metres. It grows best in areas where annual daytime temperatures are within the range 23 – 28°c, but can tolerate 18 – 36°c. It prefers a mean annual rainfall in the range 750 – 2,500mm, but tolerates 600 – 3,000mm. It is normally found in areas where there is a dry season of 1 – 6 months. Prefers a fertile, well-drained soil and a position in full sun. Seedlings grow best in a moderately sunny position. Medium-textured soils are probably best, but eroded ultasols, deep moist clays, shallow sandy clays and porous limestone all allow good development. Prefers a pH in the range 4.5 – 8, tolerating 4 – 8.5. Established plants are very drought tolerant. Although generally considered to have been introduced throughout the tropics, mainly as a roadside or garden tree, it is apparently little known or used outside its native range and has never been planted on a large scale. It has been tested in plantations in Puerto, Ghana and sporadically elsewhere. Trees resprout vigorously after coppicing or lopping. Adult trees produce about 2,000 pods, each with 10 – 16 seeds. This tree has been adopted as the national tree of Costa Rica. 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 It is a fast growing tree. It takes 5 years before fruiting. Can suffer from fungal disease (reports from Puerto Rico).

Through seeds – the seed coat is extremely thick and hard and seeds will not germinate unless they are treated to allow water to enter. This can be done by carefully cutting off a small part of the seed coat at the end away from the micropyle (scar), being careful not to damage the embryo, then soaking for a few hours in warm water. For larger amounts a suitable method is to soak the seeds for 30 seconds in water that is close to the boiling point followed by soaking for 24 hours in water at room temperature[325 ]. Seed should be sown at a depth of 1 – 2 cm with the micropyle (scar) pointing downwards otherwise the root may grow upwards and out of the soil. Germination is fast, it starts after about four days and is normally complete after 10 days. Germination is good, about 85%. The seedlings require little shade in the nursery. They are ready for planting in the field after six months. Early growth of the seedlings is exceptionally rapid and vigorous and this continues several months after outplanting but then growth rate, although still vigorous, falls to a level similar to other fast-growing species. The species is light-demanding at all stages in its development and it is susceptible to weed competition during early growth. Natural regeneration is not seen in forests, Seeds are most easily collected from pods that have fallen to the ground. Seed storage behaviour is orthodox; seeds tolerate desiccation to 10.7% mc. Seeds remain viable for several years under cool, dry conditions and can be easily stored under normal conditions. Natural regeneration is infrequent for several reasons. The seeds are spread principally by grazing animals, and after germination are always browsed off. They are also susceptible to fire, excessive shade, drought and competition from grasses.

Edible Uses:
Edible Portion: Seeds, Pods, Fruit, Vegetable. The young seedpods and seeds are cooked and eaten as a vegetable. The yellow layer of the young pods is eaten. The seeds are about 20 x 15mm, and are contained in a distinctive, thickened, contorted, indehiscent pod that resembles an ear in form. The seeds are roasted and ground. The seed coat is removed and then the seeds are roasted and used like coffee. The pulp in the pods is sometimes eaten in times of food shortage. Caution: They contain saponins and can be poisonous. I assume that it needs to be cooked first, since it is rich in saponins and these are destroyed by heat.

Medicinal Uses:
Enterolobium cyclocarpum tree is believed to provide medical benefits. In Mexican folk medicine, the sap is thought to aid illnesses such as the flu and bronchitis, while the astringent properties of its green fruit is used for diarrhea. The fruit and bark also contain tannins, which are useful for leather curing and soap manufacturing, while the sap can be used as a natural adhesive or substitute for glue, or chewed as a type of gum.

Other Uses:
Design: Botanical collection; Public open space; Xerophytic. Agroforestry Uses: The wide-spreading but light canopy, and ability to fix atmospheric nitrogen, makes it an ideal shade tree for perennial crops such as coffee. Combined with its ability to sprout vigorously when coppiced, the tree has a possible role as a hedgerow species in alley-cropping systems. Other Uses: The bark and fruit are used locally as a soap. Used especially to cleanse woollen goods. The fruit and bark contain tannins. A gum, called ‘Goma de Caro’, is obtained from the tree. It can be substituted for gum arabic (from Acacia senegal). Local craftspeople often polish the seedpods and sell them to tourists[307 ]. The heartwood is walnut-brown often with various shadings, sometimes with a reddish tinge; it merges gradually into the dull white sapwood. The texture is coarse; grain is straight to somewhat roey; lustre rather high; without distinctive odour or taste. The wood is very light in weight; it varies from soft and spongy to moderately hard and firm; is generally moderately durable, but is very durable in water; resistant to attack by dry-wood termites and Lyctus. It is very easy to work; the harder kinds take a good polish; is readily seasoned without warping or checking. The heavier material resembles walnut (Juglans spp.) in general appearance, and is a fairly satisfactory substitute for it. It has been used to a considerable extent for interior trim in residences and office buildings. The wood is highly esteemed for all sorts of construction purposes. From it are made the mortars used for hulling rice and coffee, the omnipresent washboards or trays, and dugout canoes, often very large ones. For construction purposes it is considered about as good as cedro (Cedrela spp), and it is valued especially because it is little injured by dampness and is not attacked by termites. The pulped wood has been found excellent for producing quality paper. The wood is considered to be a very good fuel.Young fruit and leaves are good animal fodder (some reports from Brazil that this has led to lesions in livestock. Insect nectar.

Known Hazards: The dust of timber of Enterolobium cyclocarpum from sawmilling can cause allergies. The sawdust has been used as a fish poison. It is also said to be able to kill mammals.

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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