Trees, Shrubs, and Palms of Panama

Trees, Shrubs, and Palms of Panama

Enterolobium cyclocarpum (Jacq.) Griseb.

Family: Fabaceae-mimosoideae

Common names: corotú

Photo: R. Pérez

Description: A very large pasture tree. The huge trunk on big individuals often forks near the ground, so the immensely wide crown almost touches the ground. There are trees near the Panamerican highway with a crown that spreads across the road and touches the ground on the opposite side. Occasionally does grow a straight, unbranched crown, though. Leaves are bipinnate - doubly compound - with tiny leaflets, about 10 mm long by 2 mm wide.

photos: trunk... bark... leaf... flower... leaf-flower... leaf-flower... fruit... tree form... leaf-fruit... tree form...

drawings: leaf-fruit...

Drawing: R. Pérez

Flowers and fruits: Drops its leaves during the middle of the dry season, but grows them back before rains begin, then produces flowers. The flowers are 2-3 cm balls of stamen, cream-colored, and single trees smell sweet from afar when covered with flowers. The fruits are green at first, but mature brown, and shaped like an ear; they take an entire year to develop. Cattle, goats, horses eat the fruits and disperse the see

Distribution: The dominant large tree of pastures and grasslands of the Pacific slope in Panama. It can also be a major component of secondary forest, where the forest recently regenerated from pasture. Very common around Panama City, Parque Metropolitano, all along the Canal to Gamboa. There are quite a few individuals in second forest at Pipeline Rd, and just a few remnant trees in the second forest at Barro Colorado. There are no saplings at all in the forest - it only regenerates successfully in open fields where there are livestock around.

How to recognize: The corotú has a close relative - Enterolobium schomburgkii -- which looks very similar and is easily confused, and both species are abundant in secondary forests around Panama City and Gamboa. E. schomburgkii has smaller, more numerous leaflets - only about 1 mm wide, almost needles, and it never reaches the large size of the corotú. There are other legumes with fine, compound leaves, Acacia for instance, which are more likely to be distinguished by the form and size of the tree and the habitat, not the leaves.

Uses: The wood is fine quality, used for furniture, and giant trunks are used for making dugout canoes.