Copaifera langsdorfii

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Local names:
English (diesel tree), French (copahu), German (copaiva), Portuguese (copaiba), Spanish (kupay,cupay,cabismo), Trade name (óleo de copaíba,baume de San Paulo,bálsamo)

Copaifera langsdorfii is an evergreen tree to 6-12(-35) m tall, and 1m diameter.

Leaves paripinnate, glabrous, subcoriaceous, 5-10cm long; leaflets 2-4 pairs, opposite or semi-alternate, petiolulate, elliptic ovoid, 2-6cm long, 1.2-2.5cm broad, with finely pinnate reticulate nervation, glandular-punctate.

Flowers in terminal racemes to compound panicles with numerous, subsessile whitish flowers. Sepals 4, lanceolate, concave, firm, glabrous outside, pubescent inside.  Petals absent. Stamens free, (8)10, anthers elliptic, versatile. Ovary hirsute, briefly stipitate.

Fruit ovoid, compressed, 2 x 3cm, coriaceous, with one large seed partially covered with a thick aril.


Copaiba is a climax species probably ranging from subtropical to tropical dry and wet forest, it is found in both riparian forest and montane semi-deciduous forest. The tree tolerates annual precipitation of 1000-4000mm, annual temperature of 20-27 deg C (with no frost), and soil pH of 4.5-7.5.

Native range
Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Venezuela

Tree management

Planting at a spacing of 3 x 1.5m, C. langsdorfii showed high growth rate in height and stem diameter after 5 months.  Reports of 40 liters yields of hydrocarbon per tree per year have been recorded.

Seed storage behaviour is orthodox.  Viability is maintained after 8 months storage at 7.8% moisture content and 3 deg C.

Copaiba is a climax species probably ranging from subtropical to tropical dry and wet forest, it is found in both riparian forest and montane semi-deciduous forest. The tree tolerates annual precipitation of 1000-4000mm, annual temperature of 20-27 deg C (with no frost), and soil pH of 4.5-7.5.

Seedlings germinate well in dense shade.

Poison:  It creates an irritant action on the whole mucous membrane, causes an eruption resembling measles attended with irritation and tingling.

Apiculture: Bees are major visitors of the tree for pollen.

The balsamiferous wood, with density of 700-900 kg/cu m, burns readily, perhaps even when green.  The hydrocarbon obtained from the trunk can be used directly by a diesel-powered car.

Timber: The timber is highly resistant to natural decay caused by Gloeophyllum trabeum, Coriolus versicolor and Poria monticola.  The wood is used in carpentry.

Medicine: The balsam is stimulant, diuretic, carminative and laxative; in large doses it is purgative, causing nausea, vomiting strangury, bloody urine, and fever.  A good remedy for chronic catarrh and bronchitis, as it assists expectoration and is antiseptic; given with advantage in leucorrhoea, chronic cystitis, diarrhoea, and hemorrhoids.  It is chiefly used in gonorrhea (though not advocated for chronic cases), often combined with other substances. It has also been recommended externally for chilblains. It is considered a valuable hydragogue diuretic in obstinate dropsy.  The resin, not the oleoresin, is used as diuretic. This species is a folk remedy for dermatosis, eczema, and gonorrhea.  In Panama, Yaviza negros mix cabismo resi with honey and give it to the newborns, to impart knowledge and ward off hexes.  The gum is also used for treating venereal diseases and for massage.

Gum or resin:  The oleoresin called copaiba is obtained by incising the trunk.  The hydrocarbon is used as an emollient and for other non-energy-related purposes by the natives. The copal is used in lacquers, massage preparations, medicines, and paints.