50 Natives: Florida – Bursera simaruba – Gumbo Limbo

Gumbo Limbo bursera simaruba

1. gumbo limbo tree, 2. Fly on Gumbo Limbo flower, 3. Gumbo Limbo Butterfly, 4. gumbo limbo tree, 5. Gumbo limbo bark, 6. Nighthawk & Gumbo Limbo Tree.

It took me a while, but happily, I have found an interesting specimen that is native to only just one state, in this case Florida.  Gumbo-limbo (Bursera simaruba) is often referred to as the Tourist Tree because the tree’s bark is red and peeling, like the skin of sunburnt tourists, who are a common sight in the plant’s range.

It is a very useful plant economically and ecologically.  It is well adapted to several kinds of habitats, which include salty and calcareous soils. It grows rapidly and is frequently planted in coastal areas.  Gumbo-limbo is also considered one of the most wind-tolerant trees, and it is recommended as a rugged, hurricane-resistant species in south Florida.  Frequently planted for wind protection of crops and roads, or as living fence posts, if simply stuck into good soil, small branches will readily root and grow into sizeable trees in a few years. Gumbo-limbo wood is suitable for light construction and as firewood, and the tree’s resin, called chibou, cachibou or gomartis is used as glue, varnish and incense. And here is a bit of trivia…. Gumbo Limbo is the traditional wood used for the manufacture of carousel horses in the United States.

carosel horse carousel

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Hi, I'm Rochelle and for 18 years I have worked as a landscape designer, author/writer, and design teacher. I've designed residential and hospitality (for hotels, restaurants, and spas) gardens across the USA and in the UK, Europe and the Middle East. After many years of teaching garden design topics in person, I launched the PITH + VIGOR Boot Camp series in early 2018. Through my blog, social media, and online courses (Garden Design Bootcamp and Planting Design Boot Camp) I aim to help homeowners learn how to confidently design and create home gardens that reflect their own personal and unique style.
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