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Not to be confused with Myroxylon J.R.Forst. & G.Forst, a synonym of Xylosma.
Myroxylon balsamum - Köhler–s Medizinal-Pflanzen-140.jpg
Myroxylon balsamum from Koehler's Medicinal-Plants (1887)
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Rosids
Order: Fabales
Family: Fabaceae
Subfamily: Faboideae
Tribe: Amburaneae[1]
Genus: Myroxylon

Myroxylon, the source of Balsam of Peru and Balsam of Tolu (which differ in production), is a genus of tree grown in Central America (primarily in El Salvador) and South America.[4] It is in the Fabaceae (Leguminosae) family of flowering plants. There are two species, M. balsamum and M. peruiferum.

The tree[edit]

Myroxylon peruiferum

The trees are large, growing to 40 metres (130 ft) tall, with evergreen pinnate leaves 15 centimetres (5.9 in) long, with 5–13 leaflets. The flowers are white with yellow stamens, produced in racemes. The fruit is a pod 7–11 centimetres (2.8–4.3 in) long, containing a single seed.[5] The tree is often called Quina or Balsamo, Tolu in Colombia, Quina quina in Argentina, and sometimes Santos Mahogany or Cabreuva in the lumber trade.

The wood is dark brown, with a deep red heartwood. Natural oils grant it excellent decay resistance. In fact, it is also resistant to preservative treatment. Its specific gravity is 0.74 to 0.81.

As regards woodworking, the tree is moderately difficult to work but can be finished with a high natural polish; it tends to cause some tool dulling.

Invasive species[edit]

The balsam tree can become a highly invasive species when introduced into tropical countries where it is not native. In Sri Lanka, it has overgrown several hectares of the Udawatta Kele Sanctuary and is rapidly spreading there.[6] In this Sri Lankan rain forest, Myroxylon seeds sprout in very high numbers due to tolerating more diverse light conditions than native species and due to the absence of natural enemies such as diseases and insects. This has given rise to dense stands of young trees where no other vegetation can grow, causing severe ecological disruption, i.e., the disappearance of local, native plant species and consequently of the animals and insects that feed on these.[7]

The tree has also been introduced to several Pacific islands such as Fiji and to Indonesia, and is a potential ecological threat there.[5]


  1. ^ Cardoso D, Pennington RT, de Queiroz LP, Boatwright JS, Van Wyk BE, Wojciechowski MF, Lavin M (2013). "Reconstructing the deep-branching relationships of the papilionoid legumes". South African Journal of Botany 89: 58–75. doi:10.1016/j.sajb.2013.05.001. 
  2. ^ "ILDIS LegumeWeb entry for Myroxylon". International Legume Database & Information Service. Cardiff School of Computer Science & Informatics. Retrieved January 30, 2014. 
  3. ^ USDA, ARS, National Genetic Resources Program. "GRIN species records of Myroxylon". Germplasm Resources Information Network—(GRIN) [Online Database]. National Germplasm Resources Laboratory, Beltsville, Maryland. Retrieved January 30, 2014. 
  4. ^ Alexander A. Fisher (2008). Fisher's Contact Dermatitis. PMPH-USA. Retrieved March 5, 2014. 
  5. ^ a b "Pacific Island Ecosystems at Risk: Myroxylon balsamum". PIER. Retrieved March 15, 2010. 
  6. ^ "'W. De Costa, H. Hitanayake and I. Dharmawardena, "A Physiological Investigation into the Invasive Behaviour of Some Plant Species in a Mid-Country Forest Reserve in Sri Lanka"" (PDF). JNSFSL, 2001, 29 (1 & 2):35–50. Retrieved March 15, 2010. 
  7. ^ "H. P. Wedathanthri and H.M.G.S.B. Hitinayake, "Invasive Behaviour of Myroxylon balsamum at Udawattakele Forest Reserve"". Forestry and Environment Symposium 1999, Sri Lanka. Retrieved March 15, 2010. 

External links[edit]

  • Media related to Myroxylon at Wikimedia Commons