Simarouba amara

Simarouba amara

The Simarouba amara (Simarouba amara Aubl. 1775) is an arboreal species belonging to the Simaroubaceae family.

Systematics –
From a systematic point of view it belongs to:
Eukaryota Domain,
Kingdom Plantae,
Magnoliophyta Division,
Magnoliopsida class,
Sapindales Order,
Simaroubaceae family,
Genre Simaba,
S. amara species.
The terms are synonymous:
– Pistacia americana Mill.;
– Quassia dioica P.J.Bergius;
– Quassia simarouba W.Wright;
– Quassia simaruba L.f.;
– Simarouba amara Hayne;
– Simarouba amara var. amara Aubl.;
– Simarouba amara var. opaca Engl.;
– Simarouba amara var. puberula Cuatrec.;
– Simarouba amara var. typica Cronquist;
– Simarouba opaca (Engl.) Radlk.;
– Simarouba opaca (Engl.) Radlk. ex Boas;
– Simarouba opaca (Engl.) Radlk. ex Engl.;
– Simaruba amara Aubl.;
– Zwingera amara (Aubl.) Willd..

Etymology –
The term Simaba is in reference to the Simaroubaceae family and comes from the Caribbean language.
The specific bitter epithet refers to the bitter, acrid taste, due to the flavor of parts of the plant.

Geographic Distribution and Habitat –
Simarouba amara is a tree found in the rainforests and savannahs of South and Central America and the Caribbean.
The area of ​​origin is neotropical, in the ecoregion of Central and South America. Its range extends from Guatemala in the north to Bolivia in the south and from Ecuador in the west to the east coast of Brazil.
This plant was introduced to the islands of Dominica and Puerto Rico in the Caribbean Sea, naturalizing in Puerto Rico.
It is found very frequently in Ecuador and French Guiana.
Genetic population analysis suggests that it has always been relatively common within its range.
Its habitat is that of rainforests and savannahs. S. amara seedlings are rare in the primary forest due to their habit which requires light; their altimetric distribution and up to altitudes of 800 meters.

Description –
Simarouba amara is a tree that grows up to 35 meters in height, with a maximum trunk diameter of 125 cm and an estimated maximum age of 121 years.
The leaves are compound and about 60 cm long each; the petioles are 4–7 cm long and each leaf has 9–16 leaflets. Each leaflet is 2.5–11 cm long and 12–45 mm wide, with those towards the end of the compound leaf tending to be smaller.
The flowers are carried on a stem about 30 cm long, widely branched and densely covered with flowers. The flowers are unisexual, small (<1 cm in length) and pale yellow. They are thought to be pollinated by insects such as small bees and moths.
It is a dioecious species with male or female trees and producing only male or female flowers.
On the island of Barro Colorado (Panama), it tends to flower during the dry season, from late January to late April, persisting for 11-15 weeks a year. In Costa Rica, it blooms slightly later, between March and July, peaking in April.
The fruits form between 1 and 3 months after pollination and are bright green to purplish-black, about 17 mm long and contain large seeds (10-14 mm), found in groups of 3-5 drupes. The seeds cannot remain dormant and are dispersed by vertebrates. Each seed weighs approximately 0.25g.

Cultivation –
Simarouba amara is an evergreen tree that produces a new set of leaves once a year. This plant requires relatively high light levels but lives for a relatively short time in order to grow well.
This plant has visible, but indistinct growth rings that are 7mm wide on average. A study conducted on individuals in Panama found that they grow an average of 8.4mm in diameter per year, while in Costa Rica, growth rates of up to 18mm per year have been recorded and the stem grows steadily throughout the year. .
Xylem vessels in mature trees are 20 to 90 μm in diameter, with approximately 50 vessels present per mm2 of branch.
It is a fast growing species, fastidious to light and intolerant to shade. Saplings are typically straight, with several compound leaves and a single growing point. This allows the sapling to achieve maximum vertical growth with a minimum amount of biomass. Branching begins when they are 2-5 m tall.
Individuals typically do not reproduce until they have a trunk diameter of 30 cm. Once mature, the trees produce flowers every year, but not all females produce fruit every year.
Their floral morphology is useful for the pollination of small insects such as bees and moths.
S. amara seeds are dispersed by vertebrates, mainly large birds and mammals, including chachalacas, flycatchers, motmots, thrushes, howler monkeys, tamarins, and spider monkeys. Leaf cutter ants have also been observed to disperse seeds and form dense planting mats in areas where they dump waste material, but most seedlings die and ants’ dispersal is not thought to be important in determining long-term models of recruitment and dispersion.
Seeds that are eaten by monkeys are more likely to germinate than seeds that have not. Fruit-eating phyllostomid bats have also been noted to disperse their seeds; this can help forest regeneration as they disperse the seeds of successive species as they feed on S. amara.
In the forest there are many seeds and seedlings under the reproductive females; Genetic data indicates that the seedlings are unlikely to come from nearby adults, but rather dispersed there by vertebrates that fed on one tree and then moved on to feed on another, defecating while in the canopy and depositing seeds.
In general, it is a plant that is easy to grow, if its needs for light and soil and climate are respected. Consider that this plant is found in the humid tropics at altitudes of up to 800 meters. It grows best in areas where the average annual temperature is between 22 and 29 ° C, but can tolerate a range of 18 – 34 ° C.
It prefers an average annual rainfall in the range 2,000 – 3,000 mm, but tolerates 1,200 – 4,000 mm, growing in areas with a distinct dry season and where there is no dry season. It is a plant that tolerates shade and prefers sandy soils in the wild.
In nature it is found on the shallow rocky and limestone soils of mountain slopes and ridges, as well as on the deeper soils of ravines and floodplains.
The plant develops a shallow root system, often suitable for mountainous soils and prefers a pH between 6 and 8, tolerating 5.5 – 8.5.
Propagation in crops can take place by seed which must be sown as soon as it is ripe in a partially shaded position in single containers. A moderate germination rate can usually be expected, with seed germinating within 20 – 40 days.
When the seedlings reach 4 – 6 cm in height they should be placed in single pots from where they will be transplanted after a growth period of 4 – 5 months.

Customs and Traditions –
Simarouba amara is a plant that was first described by Jean Baptiste Christophore Fusée Aublet (November 4, 1720 – May 6, 1778) in French Guiana in 1775 and is one of six species of Simarouba.
This plant is used locally for the production of paper, furniture, plywood and matches and is also used in construction.
It is also grown on plantations, as its bright, light timber is highly sought after in European markets for use in the production of fine furniture and veneers. The wood dries quickly and is easy to work with normal tools. It is creamy white to light yellow in color, with a coarse texture and a straight grain. It must be treated to prevent fungi, xylophagous insects and termites from eating it. Heartwood has a density of 0.35–0.45 g / cm3. It has been noted that it is one of the best timber species that can be grown in the Peruvian Amazon, along with Cedrelinga Catenaeformis, due to its fast growing characteristics.
The World Fund for Nature recommends consumers ensure that S. amara lumber is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council so as not to contribute to deforestation.
S. amara wood chips have been used in animal bedding leading to poisoning of horses and dogs.
The leaves and bark have a long history in medicinal use, especially in the tropics, particularly in the treatment of malaria, fevers and dysentery; as an astringent to stop bleeding and as a tonic.
These are also used as a digestive, emmenagogue and to treat parasites both inside and on the body.
Research has uncovered a number of medically active compounds in the plant. The main active compounds are a group of triterpenes called quassinoids. The antiprotozoal and antimalarial properties of these chemicals have been documented for many years. Many of the quassinoids found in simarouba, such as ailantinone, glaucarubinone, and olacanthone, are considered the main therapeutic constituents of the plant and are those documented as antiprotozoal, anti-amoebic, antimalarial, and even toxic to cancer and leukemic cells.
Studies have shown that the plant is more than 90% effective against amoebic dysentery.
The cortex, and / or its three main quassinoids, have been shown to be an effective treatment against malaria, including strains that have become resistant to drug treatment.
Research has also shown that the bark has good antiviral properties, effective against herpes, flu, polio and vaccinia viruses.
It has also been shown that the quassinoids responsible for the antiamebic and antimalarial properties have active anticancer properties.
The bark is used as a bitter tonic known as ‘Jamaica Bark’ or ‘Orinoco Simaruba Oil’.
The bark of S. amara was used by the people of its range as well as to treat dysentery and diarrhea, as well as other diseases, it was also exported to Europe in the 18th century to treat these diseases. A number of compounds have since been isolated from the cortex and have been shown to have antimicrobial effects.
A decoction is taken internally in the treatment of anemia, diarrhea, dysentery, malaria, fevers, bleeding, intestinal parasites and colitis.
The leaves are used in the treatment of rheumatism, or are applied in the form of a lotion for muscle pain, bruising or skin itching.
The fruit is a strong stimulant with a pleasantly bitter taste; it is also an effective treatment for dysentery.
Ecologically, Simarouba amara has been extensively studied by scientists in an attempt to understand the tree and also to gain a better understanding of the ecology of the rainforest in general. Many of these studies have been conducted on Barro Colorado Island in Panama or at the La Selva Biological Station in Costa Rica. Of particular interest is how it competes with other species and with individuals of the same species at different stages of its life cycle. Seedlings are normally limited by the amount of light and nutrients found where they grow, and saplings are considered relatively light compared to other species. Juveniles are more likely to survive when they move away from their parents and when there are few other individuals growing up close to them, which may be due to their ability to escape disease. Plant physiologists have studied how tree leaves differ according to their position in the forest canopy, finding that they are thicker in the canopy and thinner in the undergrowth. They also measured how their leaves’ water potential changes and when their stomata open and close during the day; the results suggest that instead of closing the stomata to control water loss, it is instead controlled by the leaf area. Population geneticists have examined how its genes vary, both locally and across its range, using microsatellites. It is genetically different, indicating that gene flow occurs between populations and seeds can be dispersed up to 1km. S. amara leaves are eaten by several species of caterpillars, especially those of the genus Atteva. Several species of termites and ants live on or around the tree, and lianas and epiphytes grow on the tree.

Preparation Method –
Simarouba amara is a plant used since ancient times by the populations of its natural range of origin for various medicinal uses, as well as for the use of timber.
The bark was used by people to treat dysentery and diarrhea, among other diseases, and was also exported to Europe in the 18th century to treat these diseases.
We prepare decoctions, to be taken internally, in the treatment of anemia, diarrhea, dysentery, malaria, fevers, bleeding, intestinal parasites and colitis.
The leaves are used in the treatment of rheumatism, or are applied in the form of a lotion for muscle pain, bruising or skin itching.
The fruit is taken directly as a treatment for dysentery.

Guido Bissanti

Sources
– Acta Plantarum – Flora of the Italian Regions.
– Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
– Useful Tropical Plants Database.
– Conti F., Abbate G., Alessandrini A., Blasi C. (ed.), 2005. An annotated checklist of the Italian vascular flora, Palombi Editore.
– Pignatti S., 1982. Flora of Italy, Edagricole, Bologna.
– Treben M., 2000. Health from the Lord’s Pharmacy, Advice and experiences with medicinal herbs, Ennsthaler Editore.

Warning: Pharmaceutical applications and alimurgical uses are indicated for informational purposes only, they do not represent in any way a medical prescription; therefore no responsibility is taken for their use for curative, aesthetic or food purposes.




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