The Pernambuco Tree

The Pernambuco Tree

By Susana Cortázar

When you visit Zoo Miami’s Amazon and Beyond exhibit, you will come across the beautiful Brazilian pernambuco tree (Caesalpinia echinata), one of which is found on the left just past the covered giant otter window and the other opposite the agouti exhibit.

This tree is quite interesting.  Native to the state Pernambuco in Brazil, hence its name, the main use for this tree’s heartwood is to make violin bows.  It also produces a vibrant red dye which was used in the 15th and 16th centuries in the manufacture of luxury textiles.  
The pernambuco blooms in winter, does best in moderate moisture, and fully to partly sunny spots.  It produces beautiful yellow petals and according to tree expert Sir Bob Beck, “the plant attracts both butterflies and hummingbirds, and the bloom, with its faint red steaks which no other tree has, is one of the main distinctive identifiers of this species." 

Unfortunately, the tree is listed as an endangered species by the IUCN and Brazil lists it as one of its officially endangered flora.  Its endangered status has resulted in the boom of carbon fiber violin bows, which is a positive step in the hopeful restoration of this beautiful tree.

During your next visit to Amazon and Beyond, make sure you stop and take a look at this fascinating tree.


 Photos by Sir Bob Beck