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Carapa guianensis Aubl.

Ref. Aubl., Hist. Pl. Guiane 2 (Suppl): 32 (t. 387). 1775.


French Guiana, exact locality not specified, Aublet s.n.

Tree and leaves

Trees are medium to large, between 10 and 30 m  and up to 40 m tall, with diameter comprised between 15 and 30 up to 40 cm. Bole  are branched at low level, and the trunk has with low buttresses. The bark is smooth, with lenticel, shallowly fissured, greyish green, and thick with pink slash. In the crown, branches are spreading or arching. The leaves length is between 23 and 70 cm long, with petiole length between 10 and  25 cm x 0.3—0.7 cm in diamter. The leaf base is swollen, and generally with 2 nectaries. The rachis is long and between 12—45 cm long, glabrous. There are between 4-to-6 and 8-9 pair of leaflets per leaf.  Petiolule  length  is between 0.5 and 1.2 cm. (Photo: Rorota Mount, French Guiana © Pierre-Michel Forget).

Leaflet are glabrous beneath, elliptic to elliptic-lanceolate, with an acute apex or broadly acuminate, and rarely rounded, mucronulate, the base cuneate, variously assymetrical. The midrib is prominent beneath, glabrous, with secondary 7—17 pairs of veins that are tertiary dense and flat. (Photo: Waini river, Guyana © Pierre-Michel Forget).

Inflorescence and flowers

Inflorescence in axil of persistent subulate bracts, (10—)20—50 cm long, erect, variously branched, peduncle (2—)5—12 cm long, lowermost branches up to 18 cm long. Flowers 4(5)-merous, sessile or subsessile, pedicel 0.2—1(—1.5) mm long, glabrous to lenticellate. Calyx pale green, glabrous, lobes 0.7—1.3 mm long. Petals 3.5—5.5 x 2.5—4 mm, pale green, glabrous, with a gland near the apex. Staminal tube 2—3.5 mm long, 8-lobed, lobes 0.6—1.7 mm long. Anthers 0.5—0.8 x 0.4—0.7 mm; antherodes 0.4—0.5 x 0.3—0.5 mm. Disk 0.5—1.2 mm high, 1.7—3 mm diameter, white. Ovary 1.2—2.5 x 1—2 mm, ridged  in carpellate flowers; 0.5—1.6 x 0.5—1.5 mm,  in staminate flowers; locules 4-ovulate; style 0.2—0.8 mm long in carpellate flowers, 0.7—1.7 mm long in staminate flowers; stigma 1—1.5 mm in diameter. (Photo: Waini river, Guyana © Pierre-Michel Forget).

Fruit and seeds

Fruit are globose, 8 to 10 cm in diameter, brown, with each valve  having a median rib. They are lacking warty excrescences, and their surface is with few nectaries. There are up to 4 quadrangluar seeds about 3 to 4 cm  in length with an hilum 1.5—3.3 x 0.3—1.7 mm. Testa is dark brown and  transversely fissured. Waini River, Guyana (© Pierre-Michel Forget)



Note : Flowering and fruiting occurs all year round, but is different between localities.


Trees are widespread in South America, and occurs  in Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Peru, Suriname, Venezuela. In the Caribbean, they grow at Cuba, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Guadeloupe, Grenada, Martinique, Trinidad And Tobago. they are also present in Central America  and along the Caribbean coast of Belize, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama. They grow in riparian woodlands, seasonally flooded forests, as well as on tierra firme. They are generally found from sea level to 300 m altitude, but has also  been reported at 400 and 500 m altitude respectively in the Dominican Republic and Venezuela.

Rorota Mount, French Guiana (© Pierre-Michel Forget)


C. guianensisis is by far the most widespread species of the genus. Within its distribution range, there is apparently correlated variation in habitat and habit. In the north of Guiana, C. guianensis is a small basally branched tree to 10 m high and grows in a forest that is subjected tidal inundation. In Peru and in the Brazilian Amazon C. guianensis grows on terra firme and is said to be a large tree to 40 m tall with straight bole that produces good timber. There is variation in leaflet shape and size associated with this ecological variation. However, the distinctive seeds with their sharp angles and long hilum are constant throughout the range of this species.

(Photo: Waini river, Guyana © Pierre-Michel Forget).


Kenfack, D. (2011) A synoptic revision of Carapa (Meliaceae). Harvard Papers in Botany 16 (2): 171-231.