The gumbo-limbo or rubber tree (Bursera simaruba (L.) Sarg. 1890) is an arboreal species belonging to the Burseraceae family.
From a systematic point of view it belongs to the Eukaryota Domain, Kingdom Plantae, Magnoliophyta Division, Magnoliopsida Class, Sapindales Order, Burseraceae Family and therefore to the genus Bursera and to the species B. sima ruba.
The terms are synonymous:
– Pistacia simaruba L. 1753;
– Elaphrium simaruba (L.) Rose;
– Bursera arborea (Rose) L.Riley;
– Bursera bonairensis Bold .;
– Bursera gummifera L .;
– Bursera gummifera var. glabrata Griseb .;
– Bursera gummifera var. polyphylla DC .;
– Bursera integerrima (Tul.) Triana & Planch .;
– Bursera simaruba var. yucatanensis Lundell;
– Bursera subpubescens (Rose) Engl .;
– Elaphrium arboreum (Rose) Rose;
– Elaphrium integerrimum Tul .;
– Elaphrium subpubescens Rose;
– Icicariba simaruba M.Gómez;
– Terebinthus arborea Rose;
– Terebinthus simaruba (L.) W.Wight ex Rose.
The term Bursera of the genus was dedicated to Joachim Burs (ch) er (1583-1639), German physician, pupil of C. Bauhin, who herbized the mountains near Salzburg and Valais.
The specific epithet sima ruba comes from the original language of the Caribbean language.
Geographical Distribution and Habitat –
The Bursera simaruba is a tree native to the tropical regions of the Americas; present from southern Florida to Mexico and from the Caribbean to Brazil, Jinotega (Nicaragua) and Venezuela.
Generally it is found in dry forests, but sometimes in the more humid forests and mangroves, plant formation, consisting of mainly woody plants, which develops on the low coasts of the tropical sea coasts, in particular in the belt periodically submerged by the tide.
The Bursera simaruba is a medium-small tree that grows up to 30 meters in height, with a diameter of one meter or less 1.5 meters above the ground.
The bark is glossy dark red in color, and the deciduous leaves are spirally arranged and pinnate with 7-11 leaflets; each ovate wide leaflet is 4-10 cm long and 2-5 cm wide.
The leaves are bright green and the flowers are creamy white.
The flowers are pollinated by insects, especially bees. The plant is not self-fertile.
The fruits are edible succulent red berries.
The gumbo-limbo is a plant that grows in its habitats and that can be used in coppice, cut repeatedly on the ground, due to its ability to reject vigorously. It is important to operate with non-destructive management systems that keep organic carbon in the soil.
It can be propagated both by seed, which remains vital for 10 months, and by cutting that easily roots. Even large branches of 1-3 meters are able to root.
If seed is to be produced, both male and female plants must be grown.
This plant prefers areas where the average annual temperature is between 18 and 25 ° C and the average annual rainfall is 800-3000 mm.
It prefers a sunny location and well-drained soil. It also grows on a wide range of soils, including lithosols, vertisols and oxysols. By now rooted plants are resistant to drought.
Uses and Traditions –
In medicine, the gum tree promotes sweating, urination, bowel movement and wound healing. It is used as a treatment for dropsy, dysentery and yellow fever. The leaves of this plant are used in place of tea.
The resin obtained from the bark is diaphoretic, diuretic, purgative and vulnerable. It is used in the treatment of dropsy, dysentery and yellow fever.
The bark produces American elemi, otherwise known as cachibok or gomart, a balsam resin used in paints and as a substitute for gum arabic. It has many other uses such as glue, canoe paint.
Trees are used as a living fence to delimit pastures, using stakes 1-3 meters long, 10-15 cm thick and spaced 3 meters or more apart.
It is also used as a glue to repair broken porcelain and glass.
The plant has been used by the Maya as incense since ancient times but is still concentrated, dried and used in modern South America as incense in churches.
The aromatic resin is a natural insect repellent and no pests or diseases have been reported for this species.
The heartwood is white, yellowish or light brown; it is not differentiated from sapwood. Both the heartwood and the sapwood are often discolored to a gray by fungi that stain the sap.
The wood is soft and light, ideal as a veneer, plywood, rustic furniture, matches and toothpicks, lockers, etc. When dried, it is used as firewood or coal and is not very resistant to contact with the soil.
Wood is used for veneer, as plywood for indoor use, in rustic furniture, for boxes and rough cases, as tool handles, as soles for sandals, for matches and toothpicks, to build wardrobes, to make decorative articles.
From an ecological point of view, this plant attracts bees, butterflies and birds.
The tree produces ripe fruit all year round, but the main fruiting season is March and April in the northern part of the plant’s growing area. Both ripe and unripe fruits are generated fairly slowly on their stems and can spontaneously detach if the tree is shaken. The mature capsules are dehiscent or are split by birds. Birds also look for the fruit to feed on aril, which, although small, is rich in lipids (about half of its dry weight).
The rapid growth, ease and low cost of propagation of gumbo-limbo and ecological versatility make it highly recommended as a “starter” tree in reforestation, or for degraded habitats, and in general it has a much better performance in this role than to most exotic species.
Method of Preparation –
The resin of this plant is used as a treatment for gout, while the leaves are prepared to obtain a medicinal tea.
Leaf hexane extracts have been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties in animal tests.
– Acta Plantarum – Flora of the Italian Regions.
– Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
– Treben M., 2000. Health from the Lord’s Pharmacy, Tips and experiences with medicinal herbs, Ennsthaler Editore
– Pignatti S., 1982. Flora of Italy, Edagricole, Bologna.
– Conti F., Abbate G., Alessandrini A., Blasi C. (edited by), 2005. An annotated checklist of the Italian vascular flora, Palombi Editore.
Warning: Pharmaceutical applications and alimurgical uses are indicated for information purposes only, they do not in any way represent a medical prescription; therefore, no responsibility is accepted for their use for healing, aesthetic or food purposes.