The Guaiac (Guaiacum sanctum L.) is a tree found in tropical dry forest. It is found in southern Florida, eastern Mexico, Central America, northern South America and the Antilles. In Nicaragua, it is called “Guayacan”. The Guaiac grows at low altitudes (5 to 200 m) and in dry to semi-arid climates (i.e. less than 1 500 mm annual rainfall).

It is a medium-sized tree (max. height 20m, max. diameter 80cm) with a dense, round crown and blue flowers. When young, the bark is thick, corky, soft and white or yellow. The bark of adult trees is hard as stone, light gray with an appearance of cement. The bark exfoliates in large plates. Guaiac wood is very dense, durable and heavy, making it difficult to work with. The sapwood is yellow and the heartwood ranges from gray to olive-green or almost black.

The wood produces an oily liquid, translucent green in colour and with medicinal and lubricating properties. This oil, known as guaiacol, has been exploited for centuries in various applications, such as the manufacturing of parts that require constant lubrication (e.g. ship axels, pulleys, etc.) and in the development of drugs, including a famous remedy for syphilis.

These uses largely explain the loss of Guaiac trees in the last few centuries. Over-exploitation, combined with the tree’s slow growth and low rates of natural regeneration mean the Guaiac tree is currently listed as an endangered species (see Appendix II of the Washington Convention). Research programs and protection are urgently needed.

The Guayacan Project aims to reintroduce the Guaiac tree into the natural environment. It includes establishment of Guaiac tree nurseries and reforestation in different areas of the country, as well as a public education campaign to raise awareness.

We ask people who have a Guaiac tree near their home to take care of it and try to reproduce it. Seed germination takes several months, which may discourage reproduction efforts. An easier reproduction method is to collect seedlings that appear at the foot of mature trees and to place them in a nursery. In one to two years the trees will be of sufficient size for transplanting. A seedling in a pot will provide a nice ornamental plant with attractive flowers and foliage. It can be pruned to look like a bonsai.

There are other projects to safeguard the Guaiac tree, including one in Puerto Soley, Costa Rica.





Guayacan Export S.A., Managua, Nicaragua
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