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Guaiacum sanctum - Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants Login Logout
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Guaiacum sanctum

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Guaiacum sanctum, commonly known as holywood or holywood lignum-vitae, is a species of flowering plant in the creosote bush family, Zygophyllaceae. It ranges from southern Florida in the United States and the Bahamas south to Central America and the Greater Antilles.<ref name="GRIN"/> It is threatened by habitat loss.

Guaiacum sanctum is the national tree of the Bahamas.<ref name=":1">Template:Cite web</ref>

Properties

This small tree is slow growing, reaching about Template:Convert in height with a trunk diameter of Template:Convert. The tree is essentially evergreen throughout most of its native range. It is shade tolerant. It fruits between the age for 30 and 70 years over the summer months in the Northern Hemisphere.<ref name="GRIN"/>

The wood is hard, heavy and self-lubricating and has a Janka Hardness Score of 4500,<ref>Template:Cite journal</ref> which is one of the hardest in the world. It can sink when placed in water.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref> There are fine ripple marks on the wood.<ref>Record, Samuel J. “Tier-Like Arrangement of the Elements of Certain Woods.” Science, vol. 35, no. 889, 1912, pp. 75–77. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/1638125.</ref>
Leaves

Leaves

The leaves are compound, Template:Convert in length, and Template:Convert wide. They are dark green in color and occur as three to five pairs of leaflets.<ref name=":2">Template:Cite web</ref> They fold together during the hottest parts of the day.<ref name=":0">Template:Cite web</ref>

Flower

The purplish blue flowers have five petals each. They can grow individually or in clusters at the ends of branches.<ref name=":0" /> The flowers have both male and female parts (stamens and pistils) and yield yellow pods containing black seeds encapsulated separately in a red skin.<ref name=":3">Template:Cite book</ref>
Flower

Uses

Template:For This tree is one of two species which yield the valuable Lignum vitae wood, the other being Guaiacum officinale.

The wood has been used for making specific parts of ships that needed to be self-lubricating so that they would last longer.

The tree is considered to have medicinal value, used mostly for home remedies, though it had also been used to treat Syphilis.<ref>MUNGER, ROBERT S. “Guaiacum, the Holy Wood from the New World.” Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences, vol. 4, no. 2, 1949, pp. 196–229. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/24619141.</ref> The bark can be steeped to create tonics.<ref name=":1" />

It is also used as an ornamental plant.<ref name=":2" />

Threats

The type of rainforest (tropical-deciduous and dry forests) that holywood is found in are the most threatened ecosystems in the world.<ref name="GRIN" />

The plant was exploited until it was endangered due to use for timber and medical resin. Deforestation also occurred to create more human managed areas like farmland, cities, etc.<ref name="GRIN" /> This has caused habitat fragmentation for the species, which reduces the chances of lowering its risk status.<ref>Eric J. Fuchs, James L. Hamrick; Genetic Diversity in the Endangered Tropical Tree, Guaiacum sanctum (Zygophyllaceae), Journal of Heredity, Volume 101, Issue 3, 1 May 2010, Pages 284–291, https://doi.org/10.1093/jhered/esp127</ref> Moreover, since this is a slow growing tree, it becomes harder to regrow and maintain sizable forests of it. It can be cultivated to grow faster, but needs to be watered regularly and to have well drained soil.<ref name=":3" />

It has no major pests<ref name=":3" /> and though there were cases of illegal trade in 2008, this is no longer a major threat to the species.<ref name="GRIN" />

References

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External links

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