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Classification System: APG IV

Superregnum: Eukaryota
Regnum: Plantae
Cladus: Angiosperms
Cladus: Eudicots
Cladus: Core eudicots
Cladus: Rosids
Cladus: Eurosids I
Ordo: Fabales

Familia: Fabaceae
Subfamilia: Faboideae
Tribus: Sophoreae
Genus: Myroxylon
Species: M. balsamum – M. peruiferum

Myroxylon L. f. (1781)

Myroxylon J.R.Forst. & G.Forst. = Xylosma G.Forst.


Toluifera L. (1742)

Native distribution areas:

Continental: Mexico to S. Tropical America
Argentina Northwest, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil North, Brazil Northeast, Brazil South, Brazil Southeast, Brazil West-Central, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Mexico Central, Mexico Gulf, Mexico Northeast, Mexico Northwest, Mexico Southeast, Mexico Southwest, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Venezuela
Introduced into:
Cuba, Dominican Republic, Florida, Gabon, Ghana, India, Jawa, Puerto Rico, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Trinidad-Tobago, Uganda, Zaïre

References: Brummitt, R.K. 2001. TDWG – World Geographical Scheme for Recording Plant Distributions, 2nd Edition
Primary references

Linnaeus, C. (filius) 1782 ["1781"]. Supplementum Plantarum systematis vegetabilium editionis decimae tertiae, generum plantarum editionis sextae, et specierum plantarum editionis secundae. [XVI]+468 pp. Impensis Orphanotrophei, Brunsvigae [Braunschweig]. BHL Reference page. : 34


Govaerts, R. et al. 2021. Myroxylon in Kew Science Plants of the World online. The Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Published on the internet. Accessed: 2021 Jun!02 {{{3}}}. Reference page.
International Plant Names Index. 2021. Myroxylon. Published online. Accessed: Jun 02 2021. 2021. Myroxylon. Missouri Botanical Garden. Published on the internet. Accessed: 2021 Jun 02.
Hassler, M. 2021. Myroxylon. World Plants: Synonymic Checklists of the Vascular Plants of the World In: Roskovh, Y., Abucay, L., Orrell, T., Nicolson, D., Bailly, N., Kirk, P., Bourgoin, T., DeWalt, R.E., Decock, W., De Wever, A., Nieukerken, E. van, Zarucchi, J. & Penev, L., eds. 2021. Species 2000 & ITIS Catalogue of Life. Published on the internet. Accessed: 2021 Jun 02. Reference page.
Hassler, M. 2021. World Plants. Synonymic Checklist and Distribution of the World Flora. . Myroxylon. Accessed: 02 Jun 2021.

Vernacular names
Deutsch: Balsambäume
English: Balsam/balm (tree)
español: Bálsamo del Perú
français: Baumier du Pérou

Myroxylon is a genus of Fabaceae native to Latin America.


The first described species in this genus was M. balsamum. It was originally described in 1753 by Linnaeus as Toluifera balsamum, based on a specimen collected in the province of Cartagena (at the time Tolú was located in the province of Cartagena). The genus Myroxylon was first established by Linnaeus filius in 1781, when he described M. peruiferum based on a specimen collected by Mutis in South America. Although Toluifera is prior in term of publication time, Myroxylon is chosen as the conserved name and Toluifera is rejected.[1] The name derives from Greek μύρρα (myrrha, "myrrh") and ξύλον (xylon, "wood").

Some authors recognize infra-specific taxa based, mainly, in their balsam phytochemistry; while other authors do not recognize such categories. There are reports of differences in composition of balsams obtained from M. balsamum var. balsamum (Tolu balsam treee), M. balsamum var. pereirae (Peru balsam tree), and M. peruiferum (quina).[1]

It is in the flowering plant family Fabaceae (Leguminosae). There are two species:

Image Bark Scientific name Common Name Distribution Elevation (m)
Myroxylum balsamum 1zz.jpg Myroxylon balsamum 0zz.jpg Myroxylon balsamum Santos Mahogany, Cabreuva Southern Mexico and Central and South America 200–690 m
M. peruiferum.jpg Myroxylon peruiferum tronco.jpg Myroxylon peruiferum Quina Southern Mexico and Central and South America 540–2000 m


Myroxylon species grow in Central America (primarily in El Salvador) and South America.[2]

Myroxylon balsamum occurs in Central America, and northern and western South America, it is fairly common in tropical forest at 200–690 m altitude. In Peru and Brazil this species is mostly associated with rivers, and sometimes grows on lateritic soil. It is found in remnants of mesophillous forest. At present it is considered as being of least concern (LC) according to CITES classification.[1] Myroxylon peruiferum is disjunctly distributed in the Americas, from Mexico to northern Argentina and southern Brazil, though it has a wide distribution, it is not abundant within its area of occurrence. It is found in remnants of mesophillous forest and dry habitats at 540–2000 m elevation. It is considered to be Near Threatened (NT), according to CITES classification.[1]

The tree
Myroxylon peruiferum

The trees are large, growing to 40 metres (130 ft) tall, with evergreen pinnate leaves 15 centimetres (5.9 in) long, with 5–13 leaflets. The flowers are white with yellow stamens, produced in racemes. The fruit is a pod 7–11 centimetres (2.8–4.3 in) long, containing a single seed.[3] The tree is often called Quina or Balsamo, Tolu in Colombia, Quina quina in Argentina, and sometimes Santos Mahogany or Cabreuva in the lumber trade.

Members of this genus produce hydroxypipecolic acids in their leaves.[4]

The wood is dark brown, with a deep red heartwood. Natural oils grant it excellent decay resistance. In fact, it is also resistant to preservative treatment. Its specific gravity is 0.74–0.81.

With regard to woodworking, the tree is moderately difficult to work but can be finished with a high natural polish; it tends to cause some tool dulling.

Invasive species

The balsam tree can become a highly invasive species when introduced into tropical countries where it is not native. In Sri Lanka, it has overgrown several hectares of the Udawatta Kele Sanctuary and is rapidly spreading there.[5] In this Sri Lankan rain forest, Myroxylon seeds sprout in very high numbers due to tolerating more diverse light conditions than native species and due to the absence of natural enemies such as diseases and insects. This has given rise to dense stands of young trees where no other vegetation can grow, causing severe ecological disruption, i.e., the disappearance of local, native plant species and consequently of the animals and insects that feed on these.[6]

The tree has also been introduced to several Pacific islands such as Fiji and to Indonesia, and is a potential ecological threat there.[3]


Bagnatori Sartori, Ângela Lúcia; Lewis, Gwilym P.; Mansano, Vidal de Freitas; Tozzi, Ana Maria Goulart de Azevedo (November 6, 2015). "A revision of the genus Myroxylon (Leguminosae: Papilionoideae)". Kew Bulletin. 70 (4): 48. doi:10.1007/s12225-015-9604-7. S2CID 26434950.
Alexander A. Fisher (2008). Fisher's Contact Dermatitis. PMPH-USA. ISBN 9781550093780. Retrieved March 5, 2014.
"Pacific Island Ecosystems at Risk: Myroxylon balsamum". PIER. Retrieved March 15, 2010.
Kite GC, Cardoso D, Lewis GP, Zartman CE, de Queiroz LP, Veitch NC (2015). "Monomethyl ethers of 4,5-dihydroxypipecolic acid from Petaladenium urceoliferum: Enigmatic chemistry of an enigmatic legume". Phytochemistry. 116: 198–202. doi:10.1016/j.phytochem.2015.02.026. PMID 25817832.
"'W. De Costa, H. Hitanayake and I. Dharmawardena, "A Physiological Investigation into the Invasive Behaviour of Some Plant Species in a Mid-Country Forest Reserve in Sri Lanka"" (PDF). JNSFSL, 2001, 29 (1 & 2):35–50. Archived from the original (PDF) on July 22, 2011. Retrieved March 15, 2010.
"H. P. Wedathanthri and H.M.G.S.B. Hitinayake, "Invasive Behaviour of Myroxylon balsamum at Udawattakele Forest Reserve"". Forestry and Environment Symposium 1999, Sri Lanka. Retrieved March 15, 2010.

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