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Bursera simaruba

Bursera simaruba (L.) Sarg.

Gumbo Limbo, Gumbo-limbo

Burseraceae (Frankincense Family)

Synonym(s): Elaphrium simaruba, Pistacia simaruba


USDA Native Status: L48 (N), PR (N), VI (N)

The most characteristic and attractive feature of this 60 ft., deciduous tree is neither the flower nor the glossy, pinnate leaves but the smooth, lustrous coppery bark of the older stems. Crown spreading, rounded; branches large, crooked; trunk stout. On large trees, the bark often hangs in thin, papery strips. The trunk is topped by massive branches which spread out at side angles and have many stout branchlets.

The Gumbo Limbo is a member of the torchwood or bursera family (family Burseraceae) of trees and shrubs, many with smooth bark and aromatic resin. There are about 500 species in tropical regions, especially America and northeastern Africa. The Gumbo Limbo is one of only three native tree species in North America.


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Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Tree
Leaf Retention: Deciduous
Fruit Type: Drupe
Size Notes: Up to about 60 feet tall.

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: Green
Bloom Time: Jan , Feb , Mar , Apr
Bloom Notes: Flowers inconspicuous.


Native Distribution: S. & c. FL
Native Habitat: Coastal hammocks & shell mounds

Growing Conditions

Light Requirement: Sun
Soil Description: Sandy soils.
Conditions Comments: The dense, summertime foliage creates good shade.

Butterflies and Moths of North America (BAMONA)

Dingy Purplewing
(Eunica monima)

Larval Host
Learn more at BAMONA


Description: Propagation is easy. Branches of any size take root readily when stuck in the ground. Trees grown from seed usually have a better shape, and the growth rate of seedlings is rapid.
Commercially Avail: yes


Bibref 1186 - Field Guide to Moths of Eastern North America (2005) Covell, C.V., Jr.
Bibref 1185 - Field Guide to Western Butterflies (Peterson Field Guides) (1999) Opler, P.A. and A.B. Wright
Bibref 841 - Native Alternatives to Invasive Plants (2006) Burrell, C. C.

Search More Titles in Bibliography

Web Reference

Webref 57 - Atlas of Florida Plants (2020) Institute for Systematic Botany
Webref 23 - Southwest Environmental Information Network (2009) SEINet - Arizona Chapter

Additional resources

USDA: Find Bursera simaruba in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Bursera simaruba in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Bursera simaruba


Record Modified: 2023-04-26
Research By: TWC Staff

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