Guazuma ulmifolia

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West Indian elm
Guazuma ulmifolia 1.jpg
Guazuma ulmifolia
Scientific classification Red Pencil Icon.png
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Rosids
Order: Malvales
Family: Malvaceae
Genus: Guazuma
G. ulmifolia
Binomial name
Guazuma ulmifolia

Guazuma ulmifolia, commonly known as West Indian elm or bay cedar, is a medium-sized tree normally found in pastures and disturbed forests. This flowering plant from the Malvaceae family grows up to 30m in height and 30–40 cm in diameter. It is widely found in areas such as the Caribbean, South America, Central America and Mexico serving a number of uses that varies from its value in carpentry to its utility in medicine.

Malvaceae family of plants

Malvaceae, or the mallows, is a family of flowering plants estimated to contain 244 genera with 4225 known species. Well-known members of economic importance include okra, cotton, cacao and durian. There are also some genera containing familiar ornamentals, such as Alcea (hollyhock), Malva (mallow) and Lavatera, as well as Tilia. The largest genera in terms of number of species include Hibiscus, Sterculia, Dombeya, Pavonia and Sida.

Caribbean region to the center-east of America composed of many islands and of coastal regions of continental countries surrounding the Caribbean Sea

The Caribbean is a region of The Americas that consists of the Caribbean Sea, its islands and the surrounding coasts. The region is southeast of the Gulf of Mexico and the North American mainland, east of Central America, and north of South America.

South America A continent in the Western Hemisphere, and mostly in the Southern Hemisphere

South America is a continent in the Western Hemisphere, mostly in the Southern Hemisphere, with a relatively small portion in the Northern Hemisphere. It may also be considered a subcontinent of the Americas, which is how it is viewed in the Spanish and Portuguese-speaking regions of the Americas. The reference to South America instead of other regions has increased in the last decades due to changing geopolitical dynamics.


Common names



Guazuma ulmifolia flowers. Guazuma ulmifolia 2.jpg
Guazuma ulmifolia flowers.

Guazuma ulmifolia grows to 30 m in height and 30–40 cm in diameter and comes with a rounded crown. Leaves are distributed in an alternate pattern with 2 rows in assembled flatly. The leaves are ovate to lance-shaped, finely saw toothed margin, usually have a rough texture and are 6–13 cm in length and 2.5–6 cm in diameter. 3-5 main veins arise from the base (rounded or notched, unequal sided) of the leaf which has a darker green upper surface and a fairer green color underneath. They are virtually hairless and thin. The leaf stalks of this species are lean, approximately 6-12mm long, and are covered with small “star-shaped” hairs.

The panicles (indeterminate flower clusters) are in a branched pattern around 2.5–5 cm in length and are found at the bottom of the leaves. The flowers come in many, are short stalked, small in size, have a brown-yellow color, five parted, 1 cm in length and have a small fragrance to them. The calyx contains are lobed (2-3), have hairs that are brown or light grey in color, as well as greenish. They have 5 petals with a yellow-like stamen, 15anthers per pistil, 5 stigmas (combined), ovary lighter green in color with hairs, and also contains a style. The fruit which have capsules that are round to elliptical in shape are 15-25mm in length. They have many seeds which are shaped like eggs and are 3mm in length, grey in color.


The species itself flowers throughout the year, in particular from April to October. Guazuma ulmifolia can be cultivated by either directly planting seeds or cuttings of the plant, as well as root stumps and bare-root seedlings. Before planting the seeds they need to be soaked in boiling water for 30 seconds; the water should be drained afterwards. 7–14 days after fresh seeds are planted, germination occurs (60-80% rate).When they reach a height of 30–40 cm which is usually about 15 weeks later they are then prepared for “outplanting.” When using root stumps as a means for propagation they are left to dwell in a nursery for a period of time until the stem of the diameter reached 1.5-2.5 cm, which is usually about 5–8 months.

Guazuma ulmifolia (West Indian Elm) Guazuma ulmifolia (West Indian Elm) W IMG 8267.jpg
Guazuma ulmifolia (West Indian Elm)


The Guazuma ulmifolia falls prey most commonly to the defoliating insect Phelyypera distigma . It is also faced with other defoliators such as Arsenura armida and Epitragussp.. These defoliators very rarely cause problems, but has been witnessed: Aepytus sp., Automeris rubrescens , Hylesia lineata , Lirimiris truncata and Periphoba arcaei .

<i>Arsenura armida</i> species of insect

Arsenura armida, the giant silk moth, is a moth of the family Saturniidae. It is found mainly in South and Central America, from Mexico to Bolivia, and Ecuador to south-eastern Brazil. It was first described by Pieter Cramer in 1779.

Lirimiris truncata is a species of prominent moth in the family Notodontidae. It is found in North America.


Guazuma ulmifolia is normally found in the Caribbean, Mexico, Central America and Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Paraguay, Argentina, and Brazil. Places such as India have been cultivating them or more than 100 years. Indonesia has in recent times introduced the species into their territory.



Fruits. Guazuma ulmifolia fruits.jpg

The wood of the Guazuma ulmifolia is utilized for posts, interior carpentry, light construction, boxes, crates, shoe horns, tool handles and charcoal. The wood is found to be very unproblematic to work with. The sapwood has a color of brown (light) and the heartwood is pink to brown.


Guazuma ulmifolia serves as a very vital source of fodder for livestock approaching the end of the dry season of the native array dry areas. It is the favored tree for fodder in Jamaica. The trees also serve to bestow shade in pastures. The immature fruits and leaves are given as food to horses and cattle. The fruits are also given to the hogs in Puerto Rico. The leaves and fruits are usually fed to the cattle throughout the arid season. The trees may also serve the purpose of being actual posts surrounding pastures. The crunchy, woody fruits and its seeds are edible raw or cooked, and have a mild, sweet, honey/granola like flavor.


A beverage of crushed seeds soaked in water is used to treat diarrhea, dysentery, colds, coughs, contusions, and venereal disease. It is also used as a diuretic and astringent. [1]

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  1. Vallejo, M.A., and F.J. Oveido. 1994. Características botánicas, usos y distribución de los principales árboles y arbustos con potencial forrajero de América Central. In: Arboles y arbustos forrajeros en América Central. Volumen 2. Serie Técnica, Informe Técnico N° 236. Centro Agronómico Tropical de Investigación y Ensenañza (CATIE). Turrialba, Costa Rica. p. 676-677.

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