Advanced Search Filters

Plant Type
Hardiness Zone
Heat Zone
Sunset Zone
Function
Sun Exposure
Soil Moisture
Water Requirement

BURSERA simaruba

Image of Bursera simaruba

Carol Cloud Bailey

Family

Burseraceae

Botanical Name

BURSERA simaruba

Plant Common Name

Gumbo Limbo, Tourist Tree, Turpentine Tree

Special Notice

This entry has yet to be reviewed and approved by L2G editors.

General Description

Numerous, laugh-inspiring common names abound for the gumbo limbo, which has beautiful bark and lustrous bright green leaves. The smooth, swollen limbs and trunk base are the reason it's called red belly tree. The thin, peeling, reddish bark -- which looks like sunburned skin -- gives rise to the name tourist tree. The strong odor of gumbo limbo's wood is the reason for the name turpentine tree.

Gumbo limbo is native to the dry lowland thickets and woods across the Caribbean Basin, including southernmost Florida. The tree has a trunk with few branches that curl and bobble outward to create an irregular umbrella-like canopy. It is deciduous in prolonged droughts, but always drops leaves in spring before the lush, shade-casting new foliage finally appears at the start of summer.

The compound leaves are made up of multiple tapering oval leaflets. Branch tips bear spidery clusters of tiny ivory flowers any time of year temperatures are balmy. After pollination, grape-like clusters of tiny green fruits arise, later maturing to red. Parrots devour these fleshy seeded fruits.

Grow gumbo limbo in full to partial sun in any non-acidic, well-drained soil. It tolerates sand, heat, tropical storm winds and sea salt spray. Use it as a shade tree near the beach or along streets. Plant a grove to showcase the bark and branch silhouettes. Gumbo limbo works well in a water-conservation garden. Branches may be cut and stuck into the warm, moist soil to take root.

Characteristics

  • AHS Heat Zone

    12 - 10

  • USDA Hardiness Zone

    10 - 15

  • Sunset Zone

    H1, H2, 13, 22, 23, 24

  • Plant Type

    Tree

  • Sun Exposure

    Full Sun, Partial Sun

  • Height

    15'-70' / 4.6m - 21.3m (30)

  • Width

    25'-50' / 7.6m - 15.2m (20)

  • Bloom Time

    Summer, Indeterminate

  • Native To

    Southeastern United States, Caribbean, Central America

Growing Conditions

  • Soil pH

    Neutral, Alkaline

  • Soil Drainage

    Well Drained

  • Soil type

    Loam, Sand

  • Tolerances

    Drought, Salt

  • Growth Rate

    Fast

  • Water Requirements

    Xeric/Desert, Drought Tolerant, Average Water

  • Habit

    Twisted/Contorted

  • Seasonal Interest

    Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest

    Showy

  • Flower Color

    Ivory

  • Fruit Color

    Crimson, Copper

  • Foliage Color (Summer)

    Green, Dark Green

  • Foliage Color (Fall)

    Dark Green

  • Foliage Color (Winter)

    Dark Green

  • Bark Color

    Red, Salmon, Dark Salmon, Copper

  • Fragrant Flowers

    No

  • Fragrant Fruit

    No

  • Fragrant Foliage

    Yes

  • Bark or Stem Fragrant

    Yes

  • Flower Petal Number

    Single

  • Repeat Bloomer

    Yes

  • Showy Fruit

    Yes

  • Edible Fruit

    No

  • Showy Foliage

    Yes

  • Foliage Texture

    Medium

  • Foliage Sheen

    Glossy

  • Evergreen

    No

  • Showy Bark

    Yes

Special Characteristics

  • Bark Texture

    Exfoliating

  • Usage

    Feature Plant, Shade Trees, Street Trees, Tropical

  • Sharp or Has Thorns

    No

  • Invasive

    No

  • Attracts

    Birds

  • Self-Sowing

    Yes