Guaiacum angustifolium

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Guaiacum angustifolium
Guaiacum angustifolium.jpg

Secure (NatureServe)[1]
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Rosids
Order: Zygophyllales
Family: Zygophyllaceae
Genus: Guaiacum
G. angustifolium
Binomial name
Guaiacum angustifolium
Guaiacum angustifolium range map.jpg
Natural range

Porlieria angustifolia (Engelm.) A.Gray[2]

Guaiacum angustifolium is a species of flowering plant in the caltrop family, Zygophyllaceae. Common names include Texas guaiacum, Texas lignum-vitae, soapbush and huayacán. It is native to southern and western Texas[3] in the United States and northern Mexico.[2] The specific name is derived from the Latin words angustus, meaning "narrow," and folius, meaning "leaf."[4]


Texas lignum-vitae is a many branched shrub or small tree, reaching a height of 7 m (23 ft).[5] This evergreen has a dense canopy and short lateral branches.[6]


Leaves are 1–3 cm (0.39–1.18 in) long, opposite and pinnately compound, with four to eight pairs of leaflets. The dark green, leathery, linear to linear-spatulate leaflets are 5–16 mm (0.20–0.63 in) long and 2–3 mm (0.079–0.118 in) wide. Leaflets fold themselves at night and when exposed to hot sunlight.


The small blue to purple flowers are 12–22 mm (0.47–0.87 in) in diameter. They have five sepals, five petals around 1 cm (0.39 in) in length, and ten stamens.[7] The blooming period lasts from March until September,[8] with flowers appearing after rain.[9]


The fruit is a flat, leathery capsule 1–2 cm (0.39–0.79 in) in diameter with one to two lobes, sometimes as many as four. Dehiscent locules contain a single shiny, bean-like seed that is usually bright red.[7]


Like other species in its genus, the wood of G. angustifolium has extreme hardness and density and will sink in water. The sapwood is creamy yellow, while the heartwood is dark purple-brown.[10] The wood is used for fence posts, tool handles, and firewood. Root extracts are used to treat rheumatism and sexually transmitted diseases.[6] Soap can be made from the root bark because it contains saponin; historically soap made in this way would be used to wash wool.[11] The flowers are valued by beekeepers for their consistent nectar production.[12] Texas lignum-vitae is cultivated as an ornamental because of its drought tolerance, dense foliage, compact size, gnarled branches, and fragrant flowers.[8] It is used in hedges, rock gardens, and xeriscaping.[6]


Guaiacum angustifolium is a host plant for the caterpillars of the lyside sulphur (Kricogonia lyside).[13] The leaves contain 16-18% crude protein and are browsed by White-tailed deer.[14]


Like other members of its genus, the international trade of Texas lignum-vitae is restricted by CITES Appendix II. Only seeds, pollen, and finished products ready for retail sale may be legally exported.[15]


  1. ^ "Guajacum angustifolium - Engelm. Texas Guaiacum". NatureServe Explorer. NatureServe. Retrieved 2009-11-28.
  2. ^ a b "Guaiacum angustifolium". Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Agricultural Research Service (ARS), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Retrieved 2009-11-28.
  3. ^ "Guayacan, Guajacum, Soapbush, Texas Porlieria". Texas Native Plants Database. Texas A&M University. Retrieved 2009-01-29.
  4. ^ Eggli, Urs; Leonard E. Newton (2004). Etymological Dictionary of Succulent Plant Names. Birkhäuser. p. 11. ISBN 978-3-540-00489-9.
  5. ^ Richardson, Alfred (1995). Plants of the Rio Grande Delta. University of Texas Press. p. 123. ISBN 978-0-292-77070-6.
  6. ^ a b c "Guayacan Soap-bush Guaiacum angustifolium Engelm". Native Plants of South Texas. Texas AgriLife Research and Extension at Uvalde. Retrieved 2009-12-07.
  7. ^ a b Powell, A. Michael (1998). Trees and Shrubs of the Trans-Pecos and Adjacent Areas. University of Texas Press. pp. 203–204. ISBN 978-0-292-75147-7.
  8. ^ a b Mielke, Judy (1993). Native Plants for Southwestern Landscapes. University of Texas Press. p. 158. ISBN 978-0-292-75147-7.
  9. ^ "soapbush Zygophyllaceae Guaiacum angustifolium Engelm". VTreeID. Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. Retrieved 2010-10-04.
  10. ^ "Guayacán Guaiacum angustifolium Engelm". Ethnobotany of the Lower Pecos Canyonlands. Texas Beyond History. Retrieved 2009-12-07.
  11. ^ Irish, Mary (2008). Trees and Shrubs for the Southwest: Woody Plants for Arid Gardens. Timber Press. pp. 205–206. ISBN 978-0-88192-905-8.
  12. ^ Pellett, Frank Chapman (1920). American Honey Plants. American Bee Journal. p. 237.
  13. ^ "Lyside Sulphur Kricogonia lyside (Godart, 1819)". Butterflies and Moths of North America. Retrieved 2009-11-28.
  14. ^ "Guayacan (Guajacum angustifolium)". Native Plant List. Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute. Retrieved 2010-08-20.
  15. ^ "Guaiacum angustifolia Engelm". UNEP-WCMC Species Database: CITES-Listed Species. CITES. Retrieved 2010-10-04.

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