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(English) : black olive
(French) : Bois gris-gris, Bois margot
(Spanish) : gregre, Jścaro, oxhorn bucida, ucar
Bucida buceras is an erect tree, 8-27 m tall, with tiered and often thorny branches, initially horizontal, later drooping in habit. Wild trees are usually variable in form. Flowers small, borne in spikes, greenish-white; may be staminate or perfect. Fruit a one-seeded drupe. An unidentified mite is responsible for the horn-shaped gal that inspired the Latin name Bucida bucerus, meaning ox-horn.
Ecology and distributionHistory of cultivation
B. buceras is native to the Yucatan peninsula and along the coast of Mexico, Central America and northern South America to Guiana, the Bahamas, and the Greater and Lesser Antilles as far as Guadeloupe. It was widely planted for shade and ornamental use in the 1930s in Florida and the West Indies but has since been found to have many drawbacks. It is grown for timber in Puerto Rico.
B. buceras is usually found along intermittent streams in dry foothills, coastal areas, at the margins and on hummocks of Pterocarpus officinalis and mangrove swamps. It is salt-tolerant and grows well in coastal swamps, wet inland woods and on riverbanks; it tolerates dry limestone areas. It is a component of the climax community of dry forest and grows as a sub climax tree in excessively drained areas of the moist forest. In the thorn forests of southern Mexico, it is associated with Eugenia lundellii, Coccoloba cozumelensis and Croton reflexifolius. The tree tolerates air pollution and salt spray, and grows well in various soils, including fill dirt.
Native : Bahamas, Cuba, Guadeloupe, Haiti, Jamaica, Puerto Rico
Exotic : Guinea, Mexico, United States of America
Biophysical limitsAltitude: 0-450 m Mean annual temperature: 24-28 deg C Mean annual rainfall: 750-2 000 mm Soil type: B. buceras grows best on deep, medium-textured; moist but well drained nutrient rich soils. It also tolerates saline soils, limestone outcrops and sand hills.
Flowering occurs throughout the year in Puerto Rico and in Florida it takes place in spring. Flowers may be staminate or perfect. Fruits mature in about 3 months, are light, easily blown away by strong winds and float on water.
Propagation and managementPropagation methodsPropagation from seeds is unpredictable because the seeds are prone to insect damage and the seedlings are difficult to transplant. Seed germination is slow and low (6%) and begins 12-17 days after sowing. B. buceras can also be raised using cuttings and air layering. Terminal softwood cuttings root under mist and air layering has given good results. B. buceras is prone to produce suckers at the base.
Spacing of 3 m x 3 m is recommended where the crown closes in 10-20 years. Thinning is necessary otherwise the larger trees suppress smaller ones. Ultimate spacing of 12-15 m between trees is desirable for timber production. The main branches bend down, making the tree top-heavy and there is a need for regular pruning to retain a compact habit and protect trees from storm damage. The tree coppices until it reaches saw log size (30 cm dbh). The tree is resistant to hurricane damage, a light demander and should be protected from fire. B. buceras should not be used for shade where cars will be parked regularly because the tree exudes a dark, sticky substance.
There are about 38 000 seeds/kg. Seeds are recalcitrant.
Functional usesProductsApiculture: B. buceras is listed as a honey tree. Fuel: It is a good fuelwood and makes excellent charcoal. Timber: B. buceras wood is heavy (750-930 kg/m³ when oven dried) and seasons fairly well. However it is difficult to work due to a high silica content. It has an attractive dark yellow-brown to greenish-brown colour with mottled grain and finishes well. It is used for high quality flooring, furniture, interior trim, railroad sleepers, bridge and ship timbers, decking, pilings, posts and pallets. It is resistant to the West Indian dry wood termite, Cryptotermes brevis and subterranean termites. Tannin or dyestuff: Bark, galls and leaves are high in tannin that stains pavements, vehicles, white roofs and other surfaces. Medicine: In Haiti, bark and leaf decoction is taken for fever.
Erosion control: B. buceras develops an extensive fibrous root system which holds the soil and prevents erosion. Shade or shelter: The tree is popular for shade in urban areas; it is ideal for planting as a windbreak. Ornamental: Its small, round leaves and semi pendulous branches make it appealing for landscaping.
Pests and diseasesThe species is susceptible to several pests and over 24 disease organisms. Scale insects (Philaphedra sp.) can cause complete defoliation and the mite Eriophyes buceras prevents normal fruit development by inducing long bean-like galls. Basal fire scars are the chief entry points for butt and heart rot. A white fly, Aleurodicus dispersus attacks ornamental trees. A buprestid, Chrysobothris tranquebarica has been recorded from the British Virgin Islands on B. buceras.
BibliographyCrane E, Walker P. 1984. Pollination directory for world crops. International Bee Research Association, London, UK.
Francis JK. 1989. Bucida bucerus L. SO-ITF-SM-18. Rio Piedras, Institute of Tropical Forestry.
Ivie MA and Miller RS. 1984. Buprestidae (Coleoptera) of the Virgin Islands. Florida Entomologist. 67(2): 288-300.
Morton JF. 1993. The black olive (Bucida buceras L.), a tropical timber tree, has many faults as an ornamental. Proceedings of the Florida State Horticultural Society. 106: 338-343.
Timyan J. 1996. Bwa Yo: important trees of Haiti. South-East Consortium for International Development. Washington D.C.
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