Plant Guide > Trees > Lignum Vitae

Lignum Vitae


The Lignum-vitae is Guaiacum sanctum, Linn.-The chief reason for mentioning this tree is that its wood is one of the toughest and hardest known to commerce. It is very close grained, and varies from dark green to yellowish brown.

It is used for sheaths of ships' blocks, pulleys, cogs and other bearings in machinery, and also for tenpin balls. The heart wood, chipped and heated, yields a medicinal gum.

The tree grows on the Bahamas, the Antilles and the Florida Keys. It is squatty and gnarled, but beautiful in its silvery bark, little, lustrous, ash-like leaves and delicate blue flowers which keep on opening for weeks. The fruit is a little fleshy 5-celled capsule of bright orange colour.

The West Indian Guiacum officinale, Linn., ranks with the species just described in commercial importance. No distinction is made between the two woods in the trade.