The Gumbo Limbo Tree - Florida Trees

The Gumbo Limbo Tree

Better known as "the tourist tree"






Florida Everglades


Gumbo Limbo Tree

The tall tropical gumbo limbo tree (Bursera simaruba) grows from South Florida into Mexico, the Caribbean south to Brazil and Venezuela. The tree has a distinctive shiny red bark that looks like it is constantly peeling.

They’re sometimes called “the tourist tree” because the peeling red bark resembles the skin of so many first-time South Florida visitors.

The green leaves are arranged in spirals and some fruit is year-round. The main fruiting season in South Florida is March and April.

Tall and stately as these trees appear, wood from the gumbo limbo is surprisingly lightweight and easy to carve. Those qualities combined with the considerable girth the trees normally have once made them a favorite for fashioning carousel horses.

Gumbo-limbo is also considered one of the most wind-tolerant trees, and it is recommended as a rugged, hurricane-resistant species in south Florida. But they will topple, which has been evident at the Gumbo Limbo Trail in the Everglades since Hurricane Andrew in 1992. However, when a tree falls, it usually resprouts from a broken branch on the ground.

Plantings also can be started by sticking a piece into the ground. Small branches quickly root and grow into sizeable trees in a few years. Which is why in Central America the cut limbs are planted as fence posts, which immediately start growing

Medicinally, the resin can be used to treat gout. Tea from the leaves may have anti-inflammatory properties.

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