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Bursera simaruba

Pronunciation: Ber-ser-uh sim-uh-roo-buh.
Family: Burseraceae (torchwood or gumbo-limbo family)
Common Name: Gumbo-limbo, west indian birch, tourist tree
Plant Type:
  • trees, shrubs
Height to: 20-50'
USDA Hardiness Zones:
  • 40 to 30ºF ZONE 10
  • 50 to 40ºF ZONE 11
  • 60 to 50ºF ZONE 12
Sun Exposure:
  • part sun
  • full sun
Bloom Description: The tree blooms in winter, producing small inconspicuous flowers composed of 3-5 greenish petals arranged in elongate racemes (spikelike clusters with each flower on its own stem). Staminate (male), pistillate (female), and perfect (both) flowers usually occur on a single tree. The dark red elliptic fruits are about a 0. 5 in (1. 3 cm) long and take a year to mature. Fallen gumbo-limbo trees resprout with suckers and sometimes form thickets. The wood is light-weight, light in color, soft and brittle.
Soil Type: Water when dry. Gumbo-limbo does not tolerate constantly wet soils.
Propagation: A green gumbo-limbo branch simply stuck into the moist ground will take root and grow rapidly. It also is easy to propagate from seed.
Native to: In florida gumbo-limbo occurs naturally in coastal hammocks, above the mangrove zone, from brevard and pinellas counties southward. Bursera simaruba also occurs in the west indies, mexico, central america and northern south america.
Notes for Identification: Very fast growing, tolerant of salt and calcareous soils, the gumbo-limbo, with its attractive shiny red exfoliating bark, makes a beautiful specimen tree in a mild coastal location. It thrives with little or no care. Gumbo-limbo makes a handsome summertime shade tree, and is used as a street tree in coastal cities. Gumbo-limbo is used as a living fencepost wherever it occurs. Haitians make drums from the trunk of gumbo-limbo. A resin obtained from the trunk and bark is called chibou, cachibou or gomart in the west indies, and is used to make glue, varnish, water repellent coatings and incense. The resin smells a little like turpentine. The fruits are eaten by several kinds of birds. The soft wood is easily carved.
Located in: Trees, Shrubs
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