Canopy Family Panama

Trees of Panama



A guide to the trees of Semaphore Hill Rd.

 translated to English by Dr. Robert M. Barry
Palm Beach Community College, Lake Worth, Florida
edited by J. Harrison, Sept., 2010

Below is a guide to the trees of Panama that you might see around the Canopy Tower.

Key to use: For each of the trees numbered 1-46 and found adjacent to the Tower or along Semaphore Hill Road, the scientific name is stated (bold italics), followed by the generally accepted common name (in quotations), followed by the taxonomic Family.
A paragraph of text usually states the maximum height attained, some description of its growth characteristics, information of flowering and fruiting, and some uses of the tree.

1.Cecropia sp. (Sci. name) "Guarumo". (Common name) Moraceae. (Family) "Cecropia" in English. Flowers and fruits year round. Is main food of iguana and sloth. Rapid grower (up to 20 feet per year). Has mutualistic association with ants. Some medicinal uses.

2. Ficus insipida "Higueron" ("Fig"). Moraceae.
Flowers and fruits are small. Has white, milky sap - some medicinal uses. Fruits are consumed by many animals, especially bats.

3. Pochota quinata "Cedro espino". Bombacaceae.
May be more than 90 feet tall, has spines on trunk and branches. Flowers January to March, and fruits until middle of April. Characteristic of a dry forest. Wood is used for furniture and construction.

4. Xylopia frutescens "Malagueto hembra". Annonaceae.
Approx. 45 feet tall. Flowers from April until June, and fruits mature in middle of dry season. Found in young forests. Aromatic, and used in preparing foods (especially corn) and drinks. Wood is used as firewood.

5. Bursera simarouba "Karate". (known as Gumbo Limbo in the U.S.) Burseraceae.
Approx. 60 feet tall. Flowers March to June and easy to recognize in the forest. Grows vegetatively. Birds feed on its fruit. Has a sticky sap when wounded. Some medicinal uses.

6. Pseudobombax septenatum "Barrigon". ( Kapok in the U.S.) Bombacaceae.
May be more than 60 feet tall. Trunk is very bulged at base with green vertical lines. Flowers December to March. Fruits mature mid February to end of April. Drops leaves in dry season, to avoid the loss of water (through the leaves). Flowers are eaten by monkeys, sloths and other arboreal mammals. When the leaves fall to the forest floor, deer eat them. The fruit produce a material similar to cotton - used to stuff pillows, etc.

7. Luehea seemannii "Guacimo colorado". Tiliaceae.
Approx. 90 feet tall. Trunk has a very irregular appearance, frequently with expanded buttresses. Flowers November to January and fruits mature from March to July. Gradually losses leaves during dry season and are replaced April to June. This tree is attractive and is planted in many parks and gardens. Ecologically important as a food source for many insects, which serve as food for many birds.

8. Jacaranda copaia "Nazareno" ("Elephant's Foot). Bignoniaceae.
It is easily recognized by having the base of the trunk corrugated - similar to the foot of an elephant. The foliage resembles an arboreal fern. Blooms February to April, and the flowers are a deep violet color. Fruits mature between July and August. Because of its violet flowers, it is cultivated as an ornamental.

9. Vochysia ferruginea "Flor de mayo" ("Flower of May"). Vochysiaceae. Approx. 75 feet tall, straight trunk, ascending branches and upper parts form widest part of tree and are more or less plain. Flowers March to June; fruits mature from August to October. Flowers attract many wasps butterflies and hummingbirds. Many birds consume the fruit.

10. Enterolobium schomburgkii "Jarina". Leguminosae.
Approx. 75 feet tall. Young branches give off an iron color. They are long and whiplike. Leaves have many leaflets. Flowers from February to April. The fruit is a pod that is long, flattened, curled and resembles a human ear. It takes a year to mature. Wood is used to construct pylons, skiffs and "cayucos" (canoes). The seeds are consumed by parrots and parakeets.

11. Schefflera morototoni "Mangabe". Araliaceae.
Approx. 90 feet tall. Grows very rapidly. Characterized by a straight trunk, frequent branching near the top, and the top more or less rounded. Flowers and fruits most of the year.

12. Oenocarpus mapora "Palma maquenque". Palmae.
Approx. 60 feet tall. Frequently with many stems (i.e. grows in a clump). Flowers and fruits during most of the year. Prefers shaded situations in median elevations. The fronds are used in construction of ranchos. The fruits are eaten by many animals of the forest.

13. Annona spraguei "Negrito". Annonaceae.
Approx. 45 feet tall. Flowers March to May and fruits mature June to October. Some are deciduous during dry season. A close relative to the guanabana. The fruit is used for drinks by humans and is eaten by many forest animals.

14. Hyeronima alchorneoides "Zapatero". Euphorbiaceae.
Approx. 120 feet tall. Often with lateral roots exposed on top of the ground. The leaves turn a yellowish-orange color when they are ready to drop. This characteristic makes it easy to identify in the forest. Greenish-white flowers occur from March to June, with fruits maturing March to July. Wood is used for construction. There are some commercial forests. At certain times of the year, peccaries feed on the roots.

15. Phoebe mexicana "Sigua blanca". Lauraceae.
Approx. 75 feet tall. Straight trunk, usually with many white spots. Flowers May to June. Fruits mature from June to August and are dark purple. Has aromatic leaves. This tree is an indicator of a rather young forest. Fruit feed on by birds. Wood highly utilized for firewood.

16. Terminalia amazonica "Amarillo". Combretaceae.
One of the largest trees in the forest - 120 feet or more, The fully formed trees have large buttresses. Flowers and fruits February to May. The fruits are winged - which facilitates dispersal by wind. Wood is used similarly to Caoba (Mahogany)

17. Miconia borealis "Copa de nieve" ("Snowy Top"). Melastomataceae.
The treetop is not very dense. Flowers from February to May and fruits mature from June to August. When in flower, it is very noticeable because of its white and fragrant flowers. The leaves have several parallel principal veins and the secondary veins are perpendicular to the first and are ladder-like. This pattern is characteristic of the Melastomataceae. The wood is commonly utilized by campesinos as firewood, and many birds feed on the purple fruit.

18. Hymenaea courbaril "Algarrobo". Leguminosae.
Approx. 90 feet tall. It is common to find groups of young trees in the area around the old tree. Compound leaves with 2 leaflets joined that give the appearance of a cow's hoof. Flowers March to July and fruits mature at the end of the dry season. These (fruits) have a hard woodlike covering. This species is mainly found in old forests. Many uses: wood is used in temporary construction and as firewood; bark has medicinal properties; a drink is made to cleanse the kidneys; the trunk produces a resin known commercially as "copal suramericano"; the fruit produces a yellow pulp that is edible and has high nutritional value - possibly the most nutritious food known in the tropics; however, the scent is not very attractive.

19. Miconia affinis Common name not stated. Melastomataceae.
Shrublike, approx. 9 - 21 feet tall. A common species in young, humid, forests in lowlands and middle altitudes. They occur alongside the entire Tower Road. Most flowering occurs in the dry season (January to June) and the flowers are reddish. The fruits mature from June to October and are purple in color. This species is very similar to others in this Family and which are also in the area. Mature fruits attract many species of birds, especially of the Order Passeriformes.

20. Astrocaryum standleyanum "Palma negra"; "Palma chunga". (known as Black Palm in the U.S.) Palmae.
Up to 45 feet tall. Single trunk with many spines up to 6 inches in length. Flowers are produced in dense groups from May to September and the fruits mature from January to June. In some seasons, they produce flowers and fruits at the same time. Fruits are food for many animals - ocelot, agouti, peccaries, coatimundis. The trunks (dried) are utilized in walls and floors of ranchos.

21. Bactris major "Palma brava". Palmae.
Small palm with several fronds, straight trunk with straight, sharp spines arranged in bands on the trunk. Flowers during dry season and fruits from August to September. Many animals eat the fruit. Also, the acidic pulp is used to make drinks. The trunk is used in the construction of ranchos.

22. Spondias sp "Jobo". Anacardiaceae.
Approx. 90 feet tall. Bark is grayish and rough. The flowers are small and occur from December to June. The fruits are produced from July until October. There are 2 species in this area and both are very similar. The fruit gives off a scent that attracts various animals such as monkeys, ocelots, agoutis and peccaries. The fruit is also consumed by humans - directly, or in refreshing drinks. The bark is used for construction of crafts. Has medicinal properties - the roots and leaves are used to reduce fevers, cure colds and heal wounds. It is also used as a shade tree near houses.

23. Scheelea zonensis "Palma real" (NOT the palm known as "Royal Palm" in the U.S.). Palmae.
Able to attain heights of 90 feet. Trunk is stout and smooth - making a very distinct palm. Is the only palm that grows to this height in the tropical forest. Flowers from April to September, and fruits mature in the middle or after the dry season. Monkeys and parrots eat the pulp which is rich in oil and throw the seeds and fruits to the floor of the forest where the peccaries and rodents eat them. The seeds are utilized in some regions in the manufacture of smoking pipes. The fronds are used for making roofs of ranchos. Wine may be obtained from this Palm, and for this reason it may be felled.

24. Tabebuia guayacan "Guayacan". (known as Tabebuia in U.S.) Bignoniaceae.
More than 105 feet tall. Flowers from February to mid-March. Usually a month before the first rains of the rainy season. It serves as an indicator of the coming of the rains. Fruits around mid-March. The seeds are winged, which facilitates dispersal by the wind. During the dry season, the leaves are dropped. It is possible that this helps to conserve water which would have evaporated from them. The wood is considered one of the most precious in Panama. Part of the Cathedral of Panama Viejo was constructed with wood of the Guayacan. The bright yellow flowers make it one of the most beautiful trees in the forest and capable of being recognized at a great distance. It is cultivated in parks and gardens.

25. Brysonima crassifolia "Nance". Malpighiaceae.
Shrub or tree, up to 45 feet tall. Has frequent branching from near the base of the trunk. Flowers from March to June. Fruits mature from May to October. The fruit is round, yellow, and at maturity the pulp is edible. Nance is well known for its fruits which are sold in bottles throughout Panama, and stays fresh for several months (in this manner). The fruit can be consumed directly, en refreshing drinks or other manners. The crushed bark is used as a fish poison and also has medicinal uses.

26. Xylopia aromatica "Malagueto". Annonaceae.
This species grows commonly in secondary vegetation. Characteristic of this tree are large branches, pendulum-like and a straight trunk. Flowers from March to May and its fruits mature in the middle of the rainy season. Generally used in rural areas for firewood and in temporary construction. Because of its attractiveness, it is often planted in parks and gardens.

27. Chrysophyllum cainito "Caimito". Sapotaceae.
Approx. 60 - 75 feet. The foliage is the showiest of the tropical trees, their leaves are malachite green on top and the bottoms are covered with an iron pubescence, dense and uniform - that gives it a golden appearance. The old leaves, before they fall turn a red wine color on top. Flowers from July to September. Fruits mature during the dry season. The bark contains a milky white latex. Probable origin is Antilles, taken by Europeans to Americas and cultivated extensively. The name is a misnomer because Mexican dialects indicate that it was not known in Mesoamerica. Its fruits are eaten by birds and other animals of the forest and also by humans. Its wood is hard and utilized in durable construction. It is cultivated in many regions as a fruit tree. It's a popular ornamental because of its attractive foliage.

28. Ormosia macrocalyx "Cabresto". Leguminosae.
Approx. 90 - 120 feet tall. Trunk is characterized by being straight and rather uniform; the tree top is rounded with dark green foliage. Flowers mainly during middle of rainy season. Its fruit is a pod which encloses the seeds which are an orange-red color, and they persist for most of the year. In some regions it is customary to put them around the necks of small children and make bracelets from the seeds to prevent illness and bad influences from the surrounding environment ("evil eye"). Wood is used in construction, but without additional support, it is not very good quality.

29. Zanthoxylum sp. "Arcabu". Rutaceae.
Trunk is elongate and has plenty of sharp spines. This tree is related to the orange tree, and the leaves have the same scent. They live in young forests and persist even when the forest is old. Flowers are produced from June to September and the fruits occur from June to December. The wood is used to make crosses, notwithstanding the spines, which are carried by the faithful during the walk of the Holy Week as self punishement for sins committed. The bigger the cross, the bigger the sins.

30. Cryosophila warscewiczii "Palma blanca"; "Palma escoba" ("White palm"). Palmae.
Grows quickly to 30 feet tall. Trunk is straight and covered with branching spines. The fronds are rounded (i.e. palmate) and with a large petiole. This gives a grand appearance to the palm. Flowers May to October and produces fruits from August to December. The fronds are used to make brooms and paintbrushes. Fruits are consumed by agoutis, coatimundi and other animals. Are cultivated as ornamental in gardens and parks.

31. Carludovica palmata "Palma de sombrero Panama" ("Panama Sombrero Palm"). Cyclanthaceae.
Has the appearance of a palm (but is actually a cycad). The fronds are similar to those of the Palma escoba, i.e. palmate. The seeds are produced on a spike that grows up from the ground in the middle of the fronds. The seeds are black on the outside covered with a red pulp. Flowers in January and February and fruits from April to June. In Panama, this is one of the plants most utilized by craftsmen. From the new leaves they obtain fibers to make the Panamanian sombrero and with the straight stems the Embera Indians make baskets. Their fruits are preferred by birds. They are also cultivated as ornamentals in gardens.

32. Sterculia apetala "Panama tree". Sterculiaceae.
Approx. 120 feet tall. Very hard, straight trunk with very developed buttresses. Flowers from November to March and fruits from January to April. The palmate lobed leaves are deciduous for most of the dry season. It is the National Tree of Panama - probably because of its abundance. At times the wood is used for construction. The seeds are call chestnuts. They have a high oil content and are eaten boiled or roasted. They have medicinal properties.

33. Ochroma pyramidale "Balsa". Bombacaceae.
Approx. 75 feet tall. Has foliage year round. Grow very quickly. Flowers occur from November to March. The flowers open at night and are pollinated by bats. Fruits mature from mid January to June. Their seeds are covered by a material similar to cotton but of a light chocolate color. Balsa is a pioneer tree because of its rapid growth. It is important ecologically for preventing soil erosion and creates shade for the tree species that can not tolerate the sun directly. The wood is very light and used in the construction of boats, floats and in aviation. The flowers contain a great quantity of water and nectar which is eaten by monkeys, bats, opossums and other arboreal mammals. The cotton-like material that produces the fruit is utilized to make pillows.

34. Anacardium excelsum "Espave". Anacardiaceae.
One of the largest trees of the forest - 115 feet or more. Flowers from February to April and fruits mature from March to May. Usually near dense or thick growth. Its fruits are mainly consumed by monkeys. Its wood is utilized in making pilings, skiffs, canoes and for temporary construction. They say that the name comes from the time of the conquistadors, when the Spaniards asked the Indians for a tall tree from which they could see their surroundings, and it was this tree - "es para ver" was shorteded to espave.

35. Cavanillesia platanifolia "Cuipo". Bombacaceae.
Approx. 105 feet or more. The top is above the level of the forest and is called an emergent tree. The trunk is straight and the base is bulged, with rings resembling belts for reinforcement. Flowers from March to April and fruits mature mid April. Its fruit is winged and a pinkish-orange color, that creates a spectacular sight when the tree is in the fruiting period. Similar to the Kapok tree, it drops its leaves in the dry season. This species is adapted to rocky forest floor. The Harpy Eagle utilizes this species for its nests. The seed is oily, edible, with a flavor similar to the peanut. When the tree is young, fibers from the bark are used to make rope. The wood is not of good quality - which gives it protection from lumbermen since with its long straight trunk, it would be very desirable.

36. Chlorophora tinctoria "Palo mora". Moraceae.
Characterized by having a white bark. It produces a white sap and has sporadic spines on the trunk and branches. It is a main species of dry forests. The wood is utilized in the manufacture of wagon wheels and other works where flexible and durable wood is needed.

37. Heisteria concinna "Naranjillo". Olacaceae.
Tree, 45 - 60 feet tall. Trunk is straight and thin. The branches hang down low. Flowers in November, and sometimes in May. Fruits from January to April. It is characterized by having red lobes at the base of the fleshy fruit which is white - in the from of a cap. They constitute an important part of thick and semi-thick forests that receive little light. This species is characteristic of a mature forest. Its fruits are consumed and dispersed by birds and other forest animals. The fruits are very attractive and the tree is frequently visited wherever they occur.

38. Gustavia superba "Membrillo". Lecythidaceae.
This species forms part of the understory of the forest. It is characterized by having large leaves occurring in groups at the tip of the branches. Its flowers are very attractive despite a repugnant odor. Flowers from March to June, and fruits from June to August. It is very common in the Canal area. Its fruits constitute an important source of food for many forest animals - among them are monkeys and rodents. In some regions the pulp is cooked for human consumption, which has a high phosphorus content. It is cultivated in some regions of the country as a fruit tree or ornamental since the flowers and leaf arrangement and branches present a spectacular sight. The unpleasant odor that it gives off serves as an attractant to insect pollinators.

39. Desmoncus isthmius "Matamba". Palmae.
This is the only genus of climbing palm in Panama. It is able to reach 6 to 36 feet in length and has black spines. Its stalk is woody and able to attain 1-2 inches in diameter. Flowers during the rainy season and it fruits from April to August. The climbing habit is rare among the palms of the American tropics, but it is not even found in the tropics of southern Asia.

40. Enterolobium cyclocarpum "Corotu". Leguminosae.
This is a tree of great size, with a thick, broad crown. It is very similar to E. schomburgkii, nevertheless differing in that the foliage, flowers and fruits are larger. Flowers from January to May, and the fruit develop within a flattened pod that is curled and resembles a human ear. The fruits take another year to mature. This is the national tree of Costa Rica. It has the same uses as E. schomburgkii.

41. Ficus bullenei "Matapalo" (Strangler fig). Moraceae.
Attains a height of 60 feet or more. Is usually a strangler. (It germinates in the top of a tree and envelopes the top encircling it with its roots.) It is characterized by having an abundance of pubescence on the leaves, fruits and new branches. In general, the seeds are distributed by birds and bats, that eat the fruits containing the seeds which are excreted intact above trees and other structures where they germinate a new plant. The fruits serve as food to many birds, bats, monkeys and other forest animals.

42. Cupania sylvatica "Gorgojo". Sapindaceae.
A shrub, 30 to 45 feet tall, with many branches that droop, with a thin bark, gray and very clean. Flowers from November to May. The fruits mature from March to June and are red in color. When mature, they open, showing seeds that are a brilliant black. Its attractive fruits are consumed by different species of birds. Its wood is utilized in he construction of ranchos and as firewood.

43. Cordia alliodora "Laurel blanco" ("White laurel"). Boraginaceae.
Approx. 75 feet tall. Grows rapidly with a straight trunk and rounded crown. Flowers from beginning of February to April. The fruits, which are very small, mature from April to May. At the end of the dry season, the trees begin to drop their leaves and they are renewed the end of June. The laurel is considered a good tree for reforestation because of its rapid growth. Its wood is utilized in the manufacture of furniture and for construction.

44. Genipa americana "Jagua". Rubiaceae.
Shrub or tree, up to 60 feet tall. Has a straight trunk and more or less spherical top and frequent vertical branches. Flowers and fruits most of the year. Its flowers are white at first, but then turn slightly yellowish toward the end. The leaves are dropped during the dry season. The green fruit contains a juice that upon contact with the air turns light blue and is utilized in other parts of tropical Americas by indigenous peoples to paint their skin, clothing and other objects. The fruits, when mature, are eaten or prepared in refreshments and liquors.

45. Pithecellobium longifolium "Guabito de rio". Leguminosae.
A very common tree on the edges of rivers and ravines throughout the country. Its fruit is a flattened pod. Its presence indicates high humidity on the forest floor. Its fruit serve as food to birds, monkeys and other mammals.

46. Apeiba tibourbou "Peine de Mono" ("Monkey's comb). Tiliaceae.
Approx. 60 feet tall. With a broad top and small buttresses. Flowering occurs mainly during the rainy season. The fruits resemble a sea urchin and are produced from February to April, when the leaves are dropped. The campesinos utilize the fiber, which is white in color, for some domestic chores (e.g. sweeping). Its fruits contain many seeds with a high oil content that are consumed by many animals and sometimes by man. The children use the fruits as toys in their games and in the schools for work materials.


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