Guaiacum sanctum L.
  • Sp. Pl. : 382 (1753)
  • Lignum Vitae

Cite taxon page as 'WFO (2023): Guaiacum sanctum L. Published on the Internet; Accessed on: 30 Jan 2023'

General Information

Trees, 2.5–10 m; trunk sometimes to 1 m diam.; bark scaly; branches many, spreading, smooth; crown dense, rounded. Leaves opposite, (4–)6–10 cm, not folded at night; stipules usually deciduous, ovate, 3 mm, apex acuminate, usually mucronulate, hairy; petiole shorter than leaflets; leaflets (4–)6–8(–10), green, elliptic to obliquely oblong or obovate, 20–35 × 8–15 mm, apex rounded, subcoriaceous. Pedicels glabrous. Flowers appearing terminal, solitary to several in axils of upper leaves, 2–3 cm diam.; sepals 4–5, obovate, 5–7 mm, outer smaller; petals 4–5, blue, obovate, 7–11 × 5–7 mm, base clawed, apex rounded to lobed; stamens 8–10, ± as long as petals; filaments subulate to base slightly winged; ovary 4–5-lobed, 4–5-locular, obovoid, glabrous; style subulate. Capsules becoming greenish yellow to bright orange, obovoid, 14–20 × 12–14 mm, 4–5-lobed, 4–5-winged, apex pointed, smooth, glabrous. Seeds brown or black, ellipsoid, 10–11 mm.

  • Provided by: [F].Flora of North America @
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    1. Guaiacum sanctum L., Sp. Pl. 382 (1753). Lectotipo (designado por Wijnands, 1983): Herb. Linn. 532.2 (LINN). Ilustr.: Burger, Fieldiana, Bot. n.s. 28: 38, t. 8 (1991). N.v.: Palo santo, Y; guayacán, Y, C, Q, G.

    Por M.J. Stafford.

    Guaiacum guatemalense Planch. ex Rydb.

    Arbustos grandes o más comúnmente árboles pequeños de hasta 12 m o rara vez más altos, con una copa densa, extendida; corteza gris clara; ramitas diminutamente antrorso-puberulentas, pronto glabrescentes. Hojas hasta 7 cm, oblongo-obovadas en contorno, con (2)3-5(6) pares de folíolos; raquis diminutamente puberulento o glabro, profundamente sulcado adaxialmente; folíolos 1-3.5(-4.2) × 0.4-1.8 cm, oblongos u oblongo-elípticos hasta oblongo-obovados, los de la parte media o los terminales son los de mayor tamaño, coriáceos, con 3 nervaduras principales desde la base, glabros o rara vez finamente adpreso-pelosos, la base asimétrica, los márgenes algunas veces diminutamente ciliados cerca de la base, el ápice agudo a obtuso, algunas veces apiculado; estípulas 2-3 mm, triangulares, agudas u obtusas, adpreso-pelosas, gruesas, pálidas, persistentes. Inflorescencias con 5-7(-12) flores; pedúnculos 1-3 cm, delgados en la antesis, rectos, esparcidamente puberulentos; sépalos 5-6 mm, oblongos a oblongo-ovados, delgados, subglabros exteriormente, finamente adpreso-pelosos internamente, escarioso-marginados, diminutamente ciliados especialmente en el ápice, obtusos; pétalos 8-14 × 5-10 mm, glabros; estambres con filamentos 4.5-7 mm, blancos, las anteras c. 2 mm, amarillas. Cápsulas 1.2-1.6 × 1.2-2 cm, anchamente obovoides, rostradas en el ápice, glabras, marcadamente 5-lobadas, 1 o más lobos tornándose gruesos y redondeados, amarillas o anaranjadas al madurar; semillas 0.9-1.1 × 0.5-0.6 cm, negras, con arilo rojo. Floración dic.-mar. Selvas estacionalmente caducifolias, laderas rocosas secas, en ocasiones cultivada. Ch (Reyes-García y Hampshire 1960, BM); Y (Gaumer 669, MO); C (Peña-Chocarro et al. 455, BM); QR (Téllez y Cabrera 1554, BM); G (Harmon y Dwyer 2876, MO); H (Molina R. y Molina 25598, MO); ES (Montalvo et al. 6321, MO); N (Grijalva et al. 2180, MO); CR (Chavarría 215, MO); P (Porter, 1969: 2). 0-800 m. (Estados Unidos [S. Florida], E. México, Mesoamérica, Antillas.)

    En Mesoamérica, ocasionalmente se plantan dos especies más como ornamentales o por su madera:

  • Provided by: [E].Flora Mesoamericana
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    Guaiacum sanctum L., Sp. Pl. 382. 1753; G. guatemalense Planch. ex Rydb.

    Arbustos o árboles hasta 10 m de alto, de copa densa y redondeada, corteza gris, escamosa, presentando parches amarillos al caer las escamas. Hojas 2.5–7.5 cm de largo; folíolos (3–) 4 pares, angostamente oblongos a obovados, 2–3 cm de largo. Flores vistosas y abundantes, azules o moradas; pedúnculos en las axilas de brácteas axilares diminutas que se encuentran entre las estípulas, pocos a muchos juntos; sépalos 5, deciduos; pétalos 5, unguiculados, retorcidos basalmente dando a las flores apariencia zigomorfa, obovados, 7–12 mm de largo. Fruto obovoide, ca 1 cm de alto y 1.5 cm de ancho, amarillo a anaranjado cuando maduro; semillas 5 mm de largo, negras, rodeadas por un arilo rojo brillante, por lo general 1 ó 2 madurando en cada fruto.

    Común, en bosques secos, zona pacífica; 0–540 m; fl durante todo el año, fr may–ene; Porter 1221, Stevens 9684; Estados Unidos (Florida) a Costa Rica y en las Antillas. Un género con 4 ó 5 especies distribuidas en América tropical. El género fue originalmente publicado como Guajacum. "Guayacán".

  • Provided by: [G].Flora de Nicaragua
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    Guaiacum sanctum grows as a small shrub to medium size tree up to 10 meters in height. The trunk can be to 1 meter in diameter but usually much smaller and branching at its base. The leaves are arranged oppositely and have six to 10 opposite leaflets that are apiculate and have stipules at their leaflet bases.The complete, perfect, actinomorphic flowers are arranged solitarily in leaf axils. The calyx has 5 unfused, green sepals. The corolla has 5 unfused petals that are bluish purple in color. There are 10 unfused stamens. The ovary has 5 locules each with an ovule. The fruit is a winged capsule that turns orange at maturity. The seeds are dark colored with a bright red aril.

  • Provided by: [D].Leon Levy Native Plant Preserve
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    Guaiacum sanctum grows in limestone based Dry Broadleaf Evergreen Formations (coppice) in both coastal and interior habitats.

  • Provided by: [D].Leon Levy Native Plant Preserve
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    Guaiacum sanctum occurs on all island groups in the Lucayan Archipelago as well as south Florida, the Caribbean, and Central and South America.

  • Provided by: [D].Leon Levy Native Plant Preserve
    • Source: [
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    Guaiacum sanctum has many medicinal, cultural, and economic uses. Sap and other plant derivatives has been used to treat syphilis, fevers, general pain, gout, arthritis, rheumatism, tonsillitis, skin ailments, constipation, fish poisoning and as a component of strengthening teas. Boiling leaves produces a tea that has been used as an abortefactant.Guaiacum sanctum wood is extremely dense and hard and has been used to produce ball bearings, bowling balls, and fish bats. Today it is a sought after wood for wood-carvings. It is also the National Tree of the Bahamas and has protected status. It is also now used in the horticultural trade because of its beautiful flowers although it is very slow growing.There is a closely related species, G. officinale, that can be differentiated by its fruits that are two winged rather than five winged (in G. sanctum).

  • Provided by: [D].Leon Levy Native Plant Preserve
    • Source: [
    • 5
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    Nationally Preferred Names

    Lignum VitaeEnglishBS

    Other Local Names

    Holywood lignum vitae

     Information From

    MBG Floras Images
    Flora images. Missouri Botanical Garden. Accessed on Jun. 2018.
    • A Missouri Botanical Garden
    • B Missouri Botanical Garden
    Leon Levy Native Plant Preserve
    Leon Levy Native Plant Preserve. 2020. Flora by Common Name and by Scientific Name. Bahamas National Trust. Available at Accessed on (2020/07/09).
    • C Ethan Freid All rights Preserved
    • D Leon Levy Native Plant Preserve. All rights Preserved
    Flora Mesoamericana
    Gerrit Davidse, Mario Sousa Sánchez, A. O. Chater, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México. Instituto de Biología, Missouri Botanical Garden, Natural History Museum (London, England) UNAM, 1994
    • E Missouri Botanical Garden
    Flora of North America @
    'Flora of North America @ eFloras (2008). Published on the Internet [accessed August 2016]' Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO & Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, MA.
    • F Flora of North America Association
    Flora de Nicaragua
    W. D. Stevens, C. Ulloa Ulloa, A. Pool & O. M. Montiel. 2001–. Flora de Nicaragua, Tropicos Project. Loaded from Tropicos Project: October 2017
    • G Missouri Botanical Garden
    World Flora Online Consortium
    World Flora Online Data. 2017.
    • H CC0 1.0 Universal (CC0 1.0).
    Global Tree Search
    BGCI. 2022. GlobalTreeSearch online database (version 1.6). Botanic Gardens Conservation International. Richmond, UK. DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.2.34206.61761 Available at Accessed on (15/06/2022).
    • I Botanic Gardens Conservation International
    World Flora Online Data. 2021.
    • J CC0 1.0 Universal (CC0 1.0).