The Jatobá: Tree, Fruit, and Seed

Hymenaea courbaril
Also known in Brazil as jataí, farinheira, and imbiúva.
family: Fabaceae-Caesalpinioideae
English common names: Brazilian Cherry, South American Locust, Stinking Toe, Brazilian copal and various other names.

The name of the tree, Hymenaea, refers to the way it displays its leaves in matching pairs, for Hymen is the Greek god of marriage.

The jatobá is a canopy tree indigenous to the Amazon rain forest and tropical areas in Central America. It is a tree that grows to about 60ft and its wood is hard and heavy -- it is grown commercially for its high value timber. It produces a high-grade resin known as "copal" that is dug up from the base of the trunk and used in the making of varnish and for glazing pottery; the resin is aromatic and it is also used as incense.

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The jatobá's large brown fruits contain a flour that is rich in minerals and calcium. It is food to animals and humans. Its resin, leaves, and seeds are employed medicinally in the treatment of respiratory illnesses. The bark is this Amazon tree has a delicate spicy flavor and is a popular energy drink in Brazil. In health stores and websites in the U.S. one can buy jatobá in liquid or capsules form; it is claimed as being a digestive and liver tonic, with antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, and anti yeast properties. Like most herbal products, it has not been tested by the FDA.
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The jatobá tree is also used in landscaping, for it produces clusters of beautiful white flowers.

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