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Guatemala's Trees

Download IUCN report about 154 species in the red list

Ceiba or Yaxché in Mayan
Ceiba pentandra

Familiy: Bombacaceae

Guatemala’s national tree is the Ceiba, also known as kapok or silk cotton tree. This tree grows in humid and semi humid forest, it thrives at an altitude of 0-500 meters above sea level, and at temperatures between 20ºC to 30ºC.  It grows naturally from Mexico throughout all of Central America and Brazil.

Sapodilla Tree (Chico Zapote)
Manilkara zapota
Family: Sapotaceae

:Manilkara zapota = Achras zapota

Origin: Tree from southern Méjico, Central America  and north of South America,  Venezuela and Colombia.

Chico-Zapote is its fruit, and the chewing gum latex is produced in its cortex.

An evergreen tree from 8 to 15 m, in the forest up to  30 m high. Chicle has been tapped from the trees since the time of the ancient Maya. In the Maya forest, chicle was a primary export between the 1880s and the 1950s as a natural base for chewing gum. Exports declined, however, when cheaper synthetics took over the market. Chicle trees can be sustainably tapped every six years and are now experiencing a small revitalization as a native forest product.
The ancient Maya used this tree for many of its resources, most notably its rich sweet fruit. The wood was prized for beams and lintels because of its tremendous strength and durability against the ever-present termite. It is such a dense wood that it sinks in water! Some of the area's most impressive carvings are created on Chicozapote


Mahogany Caoba
Swietenia macrophylla
Family: Meliaceae

This tree grows up in the Atlantic Coast from Mejico through Panama and the Amazon region of Peru, Bolivia and Brazil.  It was used by the Maya to make dugout canoes. They called this tree Punab.


Cedrela odorata
Family: Meliaceae

This tree is distinguished by its whitish and brilliant surfaced bark.  Its trunk is straight and slender.  Its leaves when crushed smell like garlic, a characteristic smell that extends throughout the woods.The Cedar grows in humid subtropical forests and dry subtropical forests, between 0 to 900 meters above sea level, in Petén, Quiché, Alta Verapaz, Izabal, San Marcos, Quetzaltenango, Retahuleu, Suchitepéquez, Escuintla and Santa Rosa in Guatemala.  It also grows in Belize, and in other counties from the South of Mejico throughout South America in subtropical and tropical forests.

It requires temperatures between 20ºC and 30ºC to grow.  The Cedar is well known, because it has been used in the local and international wood business for hundreds of years, being a tropical hardwood.  The Spanish conquerors were the first ones to use it and gave it the name of Spanish Cedar because they associate its smell with that of the Old World Cedar.

The resin of this tree is very resilient and was used to prepare laboratory samples.  It was an export wood, used to make boxes for Cigarettes and Cigars in the 1800s. In Guatemala it is used frequently in ornamental gardens and shade coffee plantations.  In the jungle it is a beautiful sight, where parrots make their nests and feed.

Tabebuia rosea

Family: Bignoniaceae

The Matilisguate tree grows in the humid forest.  It grows at an altitude of 0 to 1300 meters above sea lever and it may thrive in temperatures between 17°C to 30°C.  The main use of this tree is for traditional medicine.   The Matilisguate is a medium level tree.  Its bark is straight.  The Matilisguate may reach 30 meters in height and 70 cms. in diameter.  It has a prominent top. The bark is fissured in parts and it is rough and gray. The wood is yellow and in some parts brown with strong and durable texture.  Its fruit grows in long capsules with a lot of seeds inside. This tree is found in Mejico, Central America, Colombia, Ecuador, Venezuela and The Antillas.

Brosimium alicastrum

Family: Moraceae

Arbol de Ramon o Palo de Maíz (Maya used its fruits instead of corn flour)

The Ramon is grows in the humid and sub-tropical forest.  Its grows at an altitude of 80 to 1600 above sea level; it thrives on temperatures between 21°C to 25°C.  It is used commonly as human food.   The Ramón grows to be 40 meters tall and 1 meter across in diameter. Sometimes, twice a year, it looses its foliage.  Its bark is channeled and cylindrical, and it has outer roots, which provide the necessary support.  It contains a milky sap.  On the outside the bark is smooth, white gray and with reddish wood, the central section of it is yellow.  The fruit of this tree is orange with seeds containing much starch.  It does not have any color or flavor.  In Guatemala it grows in all of the south coast and in the north west region of Peten.  It is great fodder for mules in the forest.

Platymicium dimorphandrum

Family: Papilionaceae

 The Hormigo is a tree that grows in humid forest zones.  It is a subtropical tree, which thrives at an altitude of 0 to1400 meters above sea level and at temperatures of between 22ºC to 27ºC.  It is used commonly to make musical instruments, such as the keys of the marimba. The Hormigo, reaches 25 to 30 meters in height and a diameter of 60 or more centimeters.  Its bark is smooth, straight and cylindrical. The bark is brown gray and fissured in a longitudinal form.  Its wood is reddish with clear pigmentation, it is strong and compacted, durable and beautiful sounding when struck.  The top is thin with opposing uneven leaves.  Its yellow flowers grow in bundles.    Its fruit are small membranous smooth vines, and have only one seedling.  It grows in Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.  In Guatemala it grows in El Petén, Alta Verapaz, Baja Verapaz, Izabal, Chiquimula, Jutiapa, Escuintla, Suchitepéquez, Retahuleu, Quetzaltenango and in Huehuetenango. 

Santa Maria
Callophylum brasilensis
Family: Guttiferae

The Santa Maria Tree grows in humid and dry forest zones at an altitude of 0 to 1200 meters above sea level.  This tree has many uses: medicine, foraging, ornamental and good shade.  The Santa Maria is a tree that grows 40 meters high and 1 meter in diameter.  It contains a yellow latex.  Its brown bark is finely fissured.

Its wood is yellowish externally with a reddish or rosy inside.  Its fruits are fleshy with just one round, green and yellow seed.  It grows in the south of Mexico and in all Central America throughout the Northern region of South America.


Cecropia Peltata
Family: Moraceae

The Guarumo is a medium tree that can reach 20 mts. in height and is found occasionally in shiny places or in the shores of water.  Regularly, it has long roots and its stalk is straight, while its bark is gray, smooth and interrupted by rings which may be seen around the stalk.  These are scars left behind by fallen leaves while the tree is growing.  Ants because of their honey often frequent this tree’s flowers, and the “ears” represent food for some birds and mammals.  However, the Mayas perhaps used this tree as a food resource.  The alcoholic extract of Guarumo in adequate doses increase the contraction of ventricular energy, and it is applied in therapeutic ways.  It has good diuretic properties because increases urinary secretions and regularizes the cardiac pulse.  In the region of El Petén, it is called guarumo, and in Belize it is known as the tobacco tree.


Cupania belizensis
Family: Sapindaceae

     This tree is known in the forest for its leaves which have a characteristic smell when crushed, these leafs are green in the superior face and a lighter tone in the lower face, where the nerves are quite defined.  The Copal is a tree that may reach up to 15 mts. in height and 20 to 35 cms. in diameter.  This tree grows in the humid subtropical forest from 0 to 600 meters above sea level.  However, this tree maybe was used by the Maya to prepare incense, which they used in their rituals.  Its wood is reddish and is used only to make rural constructions and for fuel.  The Copal does not have any commercial characteristics, except to produce incense.  Its resins are still burned during festivals and ritual offerings, they are thought to have a purifying function and its thick smoke was meant to go up to the heavens and transmit messages to the Gods…


Stemmadenia donnel smitii

Family: Apocynaceae

This tree is has gray bark, with greenish to yellowish tones, which exudes a whitish latex.  It receives much notice in Tikal because of its fruit, composed of 2 separate carpels, which resemble horse’s testicles,  from which it receives its name.  Inside, along the fruits’ length of 3 to 6 cms., are red or orange seeds which are produced in abundance.  When it was cut exude abundant latex, it occurs in the same manner with the leafs.  This tree grows up in humid subtropical forest, or very humid subtropical forest, like Petén, Belice, Quiché, Alta Verapaz, Izabal, Santa Rosa, Escuintla, Guatemala, Sololá, Suchitepéquez, Retahuleu, Quetzaltenango, San Marcos and from the South East of Mejico to Panama.  The wood is light brown, and it is a little bit smooth and the weight is strong and firm.  It is not used for any purpose.  Some chicleros use the latex to adulterate the composition of the Chicle. 


All Spice
Pimenta dioica
Family: Myrtaceae
Origin: Guatemala

The All Spice tree is one of the best well known by the people of the region of el Petén and Tikal, as it was undoubtedly by the Mayans, because it is a Home medicine, and it is used to seasoning food.  It is recognized in the forest at the first by its smell, and then because the bark is regularly yellow with red spots, smooth, the stalk not always straight and with some characteristic bulkies, which distinguish the tree.  The leafs when are crushed have a strong Pimienta Gorda’s smell which can confuse. The flowers are fragrant with a 6 cms. of diameter.  The fruit is a berry of 10 cms.. with 1 or 2 seeds. The three can reach 20 mts. High, and 30 or 40 diameter.   This tree lives 0-400 under sea level in humid subtropical forest, and very humid subtropical forest, like Peten, Belize, Quiche, Alta Verapaz, Izabal, from South East of Mexico to Panama.  All spice wood is brown reddish.  It is one of the harder woods of Guatemala. It is commonly used but as ornamental and to produce pepper, the density is appropriate to produce a excellent degree coal.  It is possible that the Mayans used it in this way and called it Nabacuk




Tabebuia chrysantha
Nombre científico
Tabebuia chrysantha (Jacquin) Nicholson

Sinónimos botánicos Bignonia chrysantha Jacquin; Tecoma chrysantha ( Jacquin) D.C.

Familia Bignoniaceae

Descripción general: Árbol caducifolio de hasta 30 m. de alto. Corteza gris pálida a pardo oscura, con ritidoma leñoso, fisurado, fuste cilindrico. Ramitas con pubescencia estrellada. Hojas decusadas con 3 a 7 foliolos ampliamente elípticos a oblongo-obovadas, de 5 a 15 cm. de largo, con el peciolo, los peciolulos y el envés de los foliolos densamente cubiertos con pubescencia ferrugineo-estrellada, ápice abruptamente acuminado, base obtusa a truncada o asimétricamente subcordada, borde entero o aserrado, a veces estrellado pubescente en el haz, estrellado pubescente en el envés. Flores campanuladas en grupos terminales, de color amarillo claro, con líneas rojas en la garganta. Frutos cápsulas cilíndricas pubescentes, de 15 a 30 cm. de largo, semejante a legumbres, abusadas en los extremos, con semillas aladas.

Características claves de la especie:
Corteza, fuste cilíndrico y hojas compuestas.

Distribución: Desde México, hasta la parte norte de América del Sur, Venezuela, Ecuador y Perú.


Caoba de Petén

(Swietenia macrophylla)


NOMBRE COMUN: Caoba de Petén.

Sinónimos : Chacalté (Maya) (Guatemala); Caoba de hoja grande, Caoba del Sur, Caoba del Atlántico, Cáguano (América Central, México y Colombia); Mongno, Aguano, Araputanga (Brasil); Mahogany Honduras, Acajou du Honduras (Guadalupe); Oruba (Venezuela); Mara (Bolivia); Mahoni (Surinam).

NOMBRE CIENTIFICO: Swietenia macrophylla King.

Sinónimos: Swietenia aubrevilliana, S. belizensis Lundell, S. candollei, S. krukoii, S. tassmanii.


(Cedrela oderata)




Sinónimos: Culche (Maya),  Cedro colorado (El Salvador), Cedro real (Nicaragua), Cedro amargo, Cedro blanco, Cedro Cóbano (Costa Rica).

NOMBRE CIENTIFICO: Cedrela odorata L.

Sinónimos: Cedrela angustifolia Mocino & Sesse ex DC., C. brounii Loef. ex D. Kize, C. fissilis Vellozo, C. guianensis A. Juss, C. longipes Blake, C. occidentalis DC. & Rose, C. sinteisii C. DC, C. velloziana Roem,  Surcnus brounii (Loefl. ex O. Ltz.) Ktze.






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Last updated 28/01/2011 17:07:36 -0500
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