Gumbo-limbo, Bursera simaruba

Bursera simaruba or Gumbo-limbo is a tree indigenous to the southeastern United States, Mexico, Brazil and Venezuela. Growing nearly 100 feet tall, this slender tree has a diameter of only 3-5 feet and features shiny crimson leaves growing in a spiral pattern. Each leaf has 7-11 smaller leaflets growing symmetrically along a center stalk. It is often referred to as the Tourist Tree because its red peeling bark resembles a sunburnt tourist.

While fruits are produced year round, the primary season for fruit bearing is early Spring. Each fruit consists of a tri-faceted pocket surrounding one seed encased in a red seedcoat less than a quarter inch in width. The seed coat is an important part of the diets of regional birds.

Because of its fast growth and high wind tolerance, it is grown in coastal areas to protect crops and roads and is used in the refroestation of fire devestated areas. It can also be used in construction, to carve carousel animals and as firewood. The trees resin is called chibou can be used in adhesives, stains and incense. Its sap can be used in the treatment of gout and its leaves can be made into a tea used as an anti-inflammatory.

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