Hymenaea courbaril

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Hymenaea courbaril
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Rosids
Order: Fabales
Family: Fabaceae
Genus: Hymenaea
Species: H. courbaril
Binomial name
Hymenaea courbaril
Hymenaea courbaril

Hymenaea courbaril (Jatobá or Guapinol or Algarrobo) is a tree common to the Caribbean, Central, and South America. It is a hardwood that is used for furniture, flooring and decorative purposes. Its sap is utilized in perfumes and varnishes.


Although Jatobá is sometimes referred to as Brazilian cherry or South American cherry, it is not a cherry tree but a legume belonging to the Fabaceae family. Depending on the locale, Jatobá is also known as Brazilian copal, South American locust, or the West Indian locust. It is also known as stinking toe, old man's toe or stinktoe[1] because of the unpleasant odor of the edible pulp inside its seed pods.[2][3]


Jatobá produces an orange, resinous, sticky gum called animé, identical with the French word for animated, in reference to its insect-infested natural state. The production of the gum can be encouraged by wounds in the bark, and the resin will collect between the principal roots.[4][5]

This gum is soft and sticky. Its specific gravity varies from 1.054 to 1.057. It melts readily over fire, and softens even with the heat of the mouth. It diffuses white fumes and a very pleasant odor. Insects are generally entrapped in large numbers. It is insoluble in water, and nearly so in cold alcohol. It is allied to copal in its nature and appearance, and a copal from Zanzibar is sometimes given this name. It can be obtained from other species of Hymenaea growing in tropical South America.[4][5]

Brazilians use it internally in diseases of the lungs. It was formerly an ingredient of ointments and plasters, but at present its only use is for varnishes and incense.[5]

The gum will convert to amber through a chemical process that requires millions of years. Amber of million-year-old Hymenaea trees have provided scientists with many clues to its prehistoric presence on Earth as well as to the often extinct insects and plants encased in it, as shown in the Jurassic Park films. (See Dominican amber.)


Jatobá is a very hard wood measuring 5.6 on the Brinell scale or 2,350 lbf (10,500 N) on the Janka scale, approximate measurements of hardness. For comparison, Douglas fir measures 660 lbf (2,900 N), white oak[disambiguation needed] 1,360 lbf (6,000 N), and Brazilian walnut 3,800 lbf (17,000 N) on the Janka scale.

Jatobá wood features a tan/salmon color with black accent stripes that over time turns to a deep rich red color.[citation needed]


  1. ^ Mesoamerican Copal Resins from Brian Stross at the University of Texas at Austin
  2. ^ Worldwide weird: Bite into a stinking toe from BBC Travel
  3. ^ Stinking Toe from StJohnBeachGuide.com
  4. ^ a b  Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Animé". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. 
  5. ^ a b c Wikisource-logo.svg "Animé". The American Cyclopædia. 1879. 

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