Guaiacum officinale

Invasive species Disclaimer

In view of the fact that some tree species are invasive, the world Agroforestry Center (ICRAF) has put in place a policy document on Invasive Alien Species, currently under draft available at Here.

For more information on this subject, please refer to
100 of the World's worst Invasive and Alien Species.

Species Index    A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
Multiple Criteria Search

Abelmoschus moschatus
Acacia aneura
Acacia angustissima
Acacia aulacocarpa
Acacia auriculiformis
Acacia catechu
Acacia cincinnata
Acacia crassicarpa
Acacia elatior
Acacia erioloba
Acacia etbaica
Acacia ferruginea
Acacia glauca
Acacia holosericea
Acacia karroo*
Acacia koa
Acacia laeta
Acacia lahai
Acacia leptocarpa
Acacia leucophloea
Acacia mangium
Acacia mearnsii*
Acacia melanoxylon
Acacia mellifera
Acacia nilotica subsp nilotica
Acacia pachycarpa
Acacia pennatula
Acacia polyacantha ssp. polyacantha
Acacia saligna
Acacia senegal
Acacia seyal
Acacia sieberiana
Acacia tortilis
Acacia xanthophloea
Acrocarpus fraxinifolius
Adansonia digitata
Adenanthera pavonina
Aegle marmelos
Afzelia africana
Afzelia quanzensis
Agathis macrophylla
Agathis philippinensis
Ailanthus altissima
Ailanthus excelsa
Ailanthus triphysa
Albizia adianthifolia
Albizia amara
Albizia anthelmintica
Albizia chinensis
Albizia coriaria
Albizia ferruginea
Albizia gummifera
Albizia julibrissin
Albizia lebbeck
Albizia odoratissima
Albizia procera
Albizia saman
Albizia versicolor
Albizia zygia
Aleurites moluccana
Allanblackia floribunda
Allanblackia stuhlmannii
Allanblackia ulugurensis
Alnus acuminata
Alnus cordata
Alnus japonica
Alnus nepalensis
Alnus rubra
Alphitonia zizyphoides
Alstonia boonei
Alstonia congensis
Alstonia scholaris
Altingia excelsa
Anacardium occidentale
Andira inermis
Annona cherimola
Annona muricata
Annona reticulata
Annona senegalensis
Annona squamosa
Anogeissus latifolia
Anthocephalus cadamba
Antiaris toxicaria
Antidesma bunius
Araucaria bidwillii
Araucaria cunninghamii
Arbutus unedo
Areca catechu
Arenga pinnata
Argania spinosa
Artemisia annua
Artocarpus altilis
Artocarpus camansi
Artocarpus heterophyllus
Artocarpus integer
Artocarpus lakoocha
Artocarpus mariannensis
Asimina triloba
Ateleia herbert-smithii
Aucomea klaineana
Averrhoa bilimbi
Averrhoa carambola
Azadirachta excelsa
Azadirachta indica
Azanza garckeana
Related Links
Purple flowers emerging on tree in Motagua valley, Guatemala
© Anthony Simons

Local names:
Creole (gayak fran,gayak), Danish (frazostraee), Dutch (pokhout), English (lignum-vitae tree,gum guaiacum,guaiacum), French (arbre de vie,bois saint,gaïac,gaïac bâtard,gaïac franc,gaïac mâle,gaïac officnale), German (Guajakholz,franzosenholz), Italian (g

Guaiacum officinale grows to a height of 9-12 m. Stem is generally crooked, wood intensely hard, the branches knotty and bark deeply furrowed. The dense crown of close-growing foliage gives the tree a rounded, compact, net appearance. 

Each leaf is composed of 2 or 3 pairs of smooth, stalkless leaflets arranged on a slender mid-rib. The leaflets are 6-13 cm in length. There is much irregularity both in their size and shape: some are broadest above the middle (obovate), some almost blunt (obtuse). 

Beautiful blue flowers grow in great profusion and almost cover the tree and remain for a long time. As the older blooms fade from deep blue to paler shades, some becoming almost white, a striking variegation of colour is produced. The flowers grow in clusters at the ends of the branches. Each flower has 5 petals cupped in a small, finely hairy calyx, supported on a slender stalk. There are 10 stamens bearing golden yellow anthers.

The fruit appears as small, round, compressed, yellow capsules, containing 5 cells; occasionally there are fewer. Each cell encloses a single seed. 

The generic name is derived from the Spanish one, ‘guayacan’ or ‘guayaco’, which itself originated from ‘hoaxacan’, the Mexican appellation of the plant. The specific name officinale means ‘officinal’, ‘used of medicinal or other plants procurable at shops’, or ‘used or recognized in pharmacy or medicine’.


G. officinale is an inhabitant of the West Indies, whence it has been introduced into India. It also grows in the arid plains stretching form the Florida Keys of USA to Venezuela. 
It is also credited to the natural flora of Honduras and Panama.

Native range
Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Martinique, Mexico, Montserrat, Netherlands Antilles, Nicaragua, Panama, Puerto Rico, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, United States of America, Venezuela, Virgin Islands (US)

Tree management

The resin sometimes flows spontaneously from the stem of the tree; at other times, it is obtained artificially by jagging or notching the stem and allowing the exuding juice to harden, or by boring holes in logs of the wood and then placing them on a fire so that the resin is melted and runs through the hole, or by boiling chips in salt and water, when the resin floats on the surface of the water.

G. officinale is an inhabitant of the West Indies, whence it has been introduced into India. It also grows in the arid plains stretching form the Florida Keys of USA to Venezuela. 
It is also credited to the natural flora of Honduras and Panama.

G. officinale can be raised from seeds.

Timber:  The heartwood is greenish-brown; sapwood pale yellow, and usually thin, though if the logs have lain for a long time on the ground or in the water it may be entirely absent. Its great strength and tenacity, combined with the self-lubricating properties due to the resin content, make this wood especially adapted for bearing underwater. It is remarkable for the direction of its fibres, each layer of which crosses the previous diagonally. The most important as well as the most exacting use for it is for bearing or bushing blocks lining the stern tubes of propeller shafts of steamships. Other uses are mallets, pulley sheaves, caster wheels, bowling balls, masthead trucks, stencil and chisel blocks, cable dressers, and turned novelties; it is employed to a limited extent for brush backs. Steel and tube mills are made using lignum-vitae in increasing amounts to replace brass and babbit metal for bearings in roller mills and pumps, as the initial cost is less than metal, the life is several times longer, and lubrication is unnecessary. When rubbed and heated it gives off a faint, disagreeable aromatic odour, its taste is pungent and aromatic.

Medicine:  Apothecaries use shavings and raspings of the wood for medicinal purposes, in the same way the bark is employed for medicine. Resin is applied to the tooth for a toothache, and applied externally for rheumatism. For gout, blood pressure and arteriosclerosis resin is taken orally.

Gum or resin:  The most important product of G. officinale is resin obtained from the wood and bark, and used in powder, pill and tincture. It is an acrid stimulant and has been found efficient against various diseases, for example it is an ingredient of 

Ornamental:  G. officinale is distinctly ornamental on a lawn and is popular in Ghana and India.