The Gumbo Limbo tree is one of the most recognizable trees of the American tropics—often called the “tourist tree” because of its characteristic peeling red bark, reminiscent of a sunburnt tourist! This medium-sized tree grows to 30 meters tall and has a diameter of 1 meter or less. The leaves are pinnate with 7-11 leaflets and are arranged in spirals. The fruits are small, 3-valved capsules which encase one small seed covered in a red fatty seed coat (aril). The Bursera simaruba is an important food source for many resident and migrant species of birds, as well as monkeys and squirrels, who feed on the aril. Gumbo Limbo is a very useful tree; its wood is suitable for light construction and firewood, and the resin is used as glue, varnish and incense. Anti-inflammatory properties in its leaves, bark and resin can be used to treat a variety of aches and pains. The resin is used as a treatment for gout. The bark is used as a common topical remedy for a variety of skin conditions including sores, measles, sunburn and insect bites, and a decoction can be taken internally to cure pain, cold and flu, fever and sunstroke. Furthermore, this tree is considered one of the most wind-resistant species and can act as a good wind barrier to protect crops and roads, and is commonly planted in hurricane zones. Gumbo Limbo trees grow in a wide variety of habitats from south Florida through Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, to Brazil and Venezuela
Growing Instructions for Gumbo Limbo
- The seeds like moist, well-drained soil. Prepare a mixture of half potting soil and half sand, perlite or vermiculite. Put the soil in a pot. Water the mixture so that it is moist but not wet. 2. Put the seeds on the soil. 3. Cover the seeds with a thin layer of soil. The seeds take about a month to germinate. 4. Water the seeds. 5. Place the pots in an area with warm temperatures in full sun or part shade. 6. When the seedlings are a few inches tall, they can be transplanted.