Bursera simaruba - (L.) Sarg.
Common Name Gum Tree, Gumbo Limbo
Family Burseraceae
USDA hardiness 10-12
Known Hazards None known
Habitats Generally found in dry forests, but sometimes in wetter forests; common in advanced secondary growth[ 303 ]. In the wetter areas of its range it is more likely to be found growing on slopes where the soil is shallow and dries quickly[ 510 ].
Range S. America - Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana; north through the Caribbean to Florida; C. America - Panama to Guatemala.
Edibility Rating  
Other Uses  
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating  
Tender Well drained soil Moist Soil Semi-shade Full sun

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Native to tropical America, Gum Tree, Bursera simaruba, is a drought-tolerant, deciduous tree that reaches up to 25 m tall when fully matured. It has a single trunk that is smooth and red. The leaves are bright green and the flowers are creamy white. The fruits are edible succulent red berries. Medicinally, gum tree promotes sweating, urination, bowel movement, and healing of wounds. It is used as treatment for dropsy, dysentery and yellow fever. Gum tree leaves are tea substitute. The bark produces American elemi, otherwise known as cachibok or gomart, a balsam resin used in varnishes and as gum arabic substitute. It has many other uses such as glue, canoe paint, incense, and insect repellent. The wood is soft and light, ideal as veneer, plywood, rustic furniture, match sticks and toothpicks, cabinets, etc. When dried, it is used as firewood or charcoal. Found In: Bahamas, Belize, Brazil, Central America, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guiana, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, North America, Panama, South America, Trinidad & Tobago, USA, Venezuela, West Indies. Other Names: Tourist Tree, Copperwood, chaca, and Turpentine tree, Torchwood, Dysentery Bark , Incense tree, West Indian birch, Indio pelado, Jinote, Carana, Indio desnudo.

Bursera simaruba Gum Tree, Gumbo Limbo

Bursera simaruba Gum Tree, Gumbo Limbo
Physical Characteristics
 icon of manicon of lolypop
Bursera simaruba is a deciduous Tree growing to 20 m (65ft) by 16 m (52ft) at a medium rate.
It is hardy to zone (UK) 10 and is frost tender. and are pollinated by Insects, especially bees.The plant is not self-fertile.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: neutral and basic (alkaline) soils and can grow in very alkaline and saline soils.
It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers dry or moist soil and can tolerate drought. The plant can tolerates strong winds but not maritime exposure.

Bursera gummifera L. Bursera ovalifolia (Schldl.) Engl. Elaphrium ovalifolium Schltdl. Elaphrium sim

Edible Uses
Edible portion: Leaves ? tea. The leaves are used as a tea substitute[ 301 ].
Medicinal Uses
Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.

The resin obtained from the bark is diaphoretic, diuretic, purgative and vulnerary[ 46 , 348 ]. It is used in the treatment of dropsy, dysentery and yellow fever[ 46 ]. It is an effective vulnerary[ 348 ].


Other Uses
Other uses rating: High (4/5). Seaside, Street tree, Massed as an accent, Xerophytic. Agroforestry Uses: Trees are used as living fence to delimit pastures, using stakes 1 - 3 metres long, 10 - 15cm thick, and spaced 3 metres or more apart[ 303 ]. Other Uses The bark yields a balsam resin known as American elemi, cachibok or gomart[ 303 ]. It is used in varnishes and as a substitute for gum arabic (from Acacia spp.)[ 46 ]. It is painted on canoes to preserve the wood from insects etc[ 46 ]. It is also used as a glue for mending broken china and glass[ 46 , 510 ]. Used by the Maya as an incense since ancient times[ 46 ], it is still concentrated, dried and used in modern South America as incense in churches[ 46 , 303 ]. The aromatic resin is a natural insect repellent, and no pests or diseases are reported for this species[ 303 ]. The heartwood is white, yellowish, or light brown; it is not differentiated from the sapwood. Both the heartwood and sapwood are often discoloured to a gray by sap-staining fungi[ 378 ]. The texture is fine to medium; the grain fairly straight; lustre is moderate and there is no distinctive taste or odour. The wood is soft, light in weight, firm, tough, not very durable in contact with the soil[ 378 ]. It works easily with all types of tools and machines; saws cleanly; planes to a smooth finish; drills cleanly with some tearing at the exit side; and turns readily on the lathe. The wood takes all stains and polishes well and holds nails firmly without splitting[ 378 ]. It is used for veneer, as plywood for interior use, in rustic furniture, for rough boxes and crates, as handles for tools, as soles for sandals, for match sticks and toothpicks, to build cabinets, to make decorative articles[ 303 ]. When thoroughly dry, the wood is used as firewood or charcoal[ 303 ]. This plant is attractive to bees, butterflies and/or birds
Cultivation details
Agroforestry Services: Living fence;  Industrial Crop: Biomass;  Management: Coppice;  Regional Crop.

A plant of the tropical regions of Central America, where it is found growing at elevations up to 1,000 metres[ 303 ]. It prefers areas where the mean annual temperature is in the range 18 - 25?c, and the mean annual rainfall is 800 - 3,000mm[ 303 ]. Prefers a sunny position and a well-drained soil[ 200 ]. Grows on a range of soils, including Lithosols, Vertisols and Oxisols[ 303 ]. Succeeds in dry soils[ 303 ]. Established plants are drought resistant[ 510 ]. Plants can be pruned back very hard and will resprout successfully[ 510 ]. A dioecious species, both male and female forms need to be grown if seed is required[ 200 ].
Seed. Forty per cent germination occurs within 20 days[ 303 ]. Seed storage behaviour is orthodox. Seeds remain viable for 10 months[ 303 ]. Cuttings root easily. Even large branches 1 - 3 metres long will produce roots[ 510 ].
Other Names
Gum Tree, Bursera simaruba. Other Names: Tourist Tree, Copperwood, chaca, and Turpentine tree, Torchwood, Dysentery Bark , Incense tree, West Indian birch, Indio pelado, Jinote, Carana, Indio desnudo.
Found In
Found In: Bahamas, Belize, Brazil, Central America, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guiana, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, North America, Panama, South America, Trinidad & Tobago, USA, Venezuela, West Indies.
Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

None Known
Conservation Status
IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status : This taxon has not yet been assessed.
Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameEdibility RatingMedicinal Rating
Canarium albumChinese White Olive11
Canarium indicumCanarium Nut, Ngali, Galip nut, kenari nut42
Canarium luzonicumManila Elemi43
Canarium ovatumPili Nut43
Canarium vulgareJava Almond, Kenari Nut41
Commiphora myrrhaMyrrh, Myrrh Gum24
Commiphora wightiiGuggul, Indian bdellium-tree23
Dacryodes edulisBush Butter Tree, Butterfruit, African Plum, bush pear, bush plum, safou52


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(L.) Sarg.
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For a list of references used on this page please go here
A special thanks to Ken Fern for some of the information used on this page.
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