A tree in Costa Rica

January 18, 2012 • 9:24 am

On the way to Biolley in the mountains of Costa Rica, my colleague, botanist Judy Stone, pointed out this magnificent specimen of Bursera simaruba, also known locally as indio desnudo, or the “nude Indian” tree. The name certainly derives from its reddish bark and the fact that it’s semi-deciduous, shedding its leaves completely before producing new ones.

The tree is found throughout tropical America, including the southeastern U.S., where it’s called the “gumbo-limbo tree”.

This specimen is nearly in the desnudo stage. Click to enlarge.

The tree has important medicinal uses for the locals, and is used to treat skin problems, digestive disorders, and infections.

I won’t often post single pictures from my trip to Costa Rica (I plan on doing posts with multiple photos), but this magnificent tree didn’t fit in anywhere.

11 thoughts on “A tree in Costa Rica

  1. Well it is really a gorgeous photo – the azure sky, the nude tree – is is leafless or does the name indicate the sparse nature of the foliage?

  2. Cool tree and all, but important source of medicinals? Maybe, but the link to a naturoquack’s website was a bit disturbing to find on WEIT!

  3. I don’t know about any medicinal value of Bursera, but this species has one very important economic use in Mexico and Central America — limbs and trunk sections are used as fence posts.

    Cut sections stuck into the ground readily root and form a new tree, wherever you want it. By nailing on barbed wire you get a quick, inexpensive and “permanent” barbed wire fence. This saves buying metal posts and prevents a serious problem with posts made from dead wood — termites eating them. Many roads are lined with these trees holding up the wire that forms the edges of pastures.

  4. Beautiful shot of one of my favorite tree species. The red, peeling bark stage may be reminiscent of gringo tourists, but when that layer is gone in large expanses, the underlying, shiny, grayish trunk definitely evokes an expanse of naked, muscular flesh! 😀

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