Feb 23
Photo of pau brasil fruits

Pau brasil (Caesalpinia echinata)

Species: Pau brasil (Caesalpinia echinata)

Status: Endangered (EN)

Interesting Fact: The pau brasil is the national tree of Brazil, and is famous for giving the country its name.

The pau brasil holds an important place in the history and culture of Brazil. This rare tree reaches heights of up to 15 metres and has dark brown bark which flakes off in large patches to reveal a blood-red wood beneath. Its flowers are yellow and strongly perfumed, while its fruits are large, woody, oval-shaped pods. The branches, leaves and fruit of the pau brasil are covered in small thorns.

The pau brasil is found only in the diverse but highly threatened Atlantic forest of eastern Brazil. In the past, the pau brasil was an extremely important source of red dye, and by the time synthetic dyes became widespread in the 19th century this species’ population had been all but destroyed. The timber of this famous tree has been in demand for construction and for the manufacture of high quality violin bows, while its bark may have medicinal properties.

International trade in the pau brasil should be carefully controlled under its listing on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). Protected areas have been set up to preserve pau brasil populations, and there is a reintroduction programme in Linareas Reserve. Further conservation measures include education programmes and studies into the pau brasil’s distribution and conservation requirements. In future, this historic tree may act as a ‘flagship’ species for the conservation of the highly endangered Atlantic forest ecosystem.

Find out more about the Atlantic forest of Brazil.

Find out more about the pau brasil at Global Trees Campaign.

See more images of the pau brasil on ARKive.

Liz Shaw, ARKive Text Author