An occasional tree of coastal hammocks and shell middens in the central and southern peninsula. The range extends throughout the West Indies, Mexico, Central America and northern South America..
Growing to 20m (66 ft.) tall, these trees have distinctive smooth copper-colored bark that peels off revealing a greenish-brown trunk. The reddish peeling bark has lead to Bursera simaruba often being called the tourist tree after sunburned visitors. Gumbo limbo is aromatic giving off a scent reminiscent of turpentine. Leaves are alternate and pinnately compound, 15-20cm (6 to 8 in.) long and 10-15cm (4 to 6 in.) wide. The three to nine leaflets are opposite with short petioles and entire, ovate to oblong, 6-7.5cm (2-1/3 to 3 in.) long and 2-5cm (3/4 to 2 in.) wide. The tiny flowers appear in spring in elongated terminal clusters 5-15cm (2 to 6 in.) long. The drupelike fruit is a three-angled diamond shape, about 1.5cm (5/8 in.) long and 1cm (3/8 in.) wide and pointed at both ends.
Bursera simaruba is a member of the Burseraceae - Frankincense family.
Date record last modified: Nov 26, 2022