What Exactly is a Huanacaxtle?

Landon Hollander - InsideLaCruz
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May 31, 2013


Huanacaxtle is one of the region's larger and more impressive trees. A large cross of its wood once stood at the entrance of the town of La Cruz de Huanacaxtle in Riviera Nayarit, Mexico.

Known here in Mexico as both Huanacaxtle, in pre-hispanic Nahuatl language, and Parota, the species Enterolobium cyclocarpum, is also commonly known throughout the tropical Americas as Guanacaste, Caro Caro, Elephant Ear Tree, Devil's Ear, or Orejón.

It is a species of flowering tree in the pea family, Fabaceae, that is native to tropical regions of the Americas, from central Mexico south to northern Brazil and Venezuela.

The massive tree is known for its large proportions, its expansive, often spherical crown, and its curiously shaped seedpods.

The Guanacaste is among the most majestic and esthetically pleasing of tree species in its native range. Tolerant of a wide range of rainfall levels, temperatures and soil conditions, they can thrive in most low-elevation, tropical habitats.

Guanacaste trees are highly valued as ornamentals and the shade they provide creates many an oasis on the searing and sun-baked plains in its Pacific slope habitat.

Uses

It is widely grown as a shade tree to shelter coffee plantations and for shade and forage for cattle; it also improves soil fertility by nitrogen fixation.

The wood is reddish-brown, lightweight and water-resistant; it is used to make items such as doors, windows, furniture, cabinets, and for shipbuilding.

Healthy Huanacaxtle trees generate massive, nearly annual crops of seeds. While the seed pods are still green, they are harvested and the seeds eaten boiled in Mexico. The attractive seeds are used in Costa Rica to make jewelry... keep an eye out for their use in jewelry as you browse through the La Cruz Sunday Market which returns after the summer months.

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