Vanishing Acts: Pau Brasil

By Renee Hutchison

Pau Brasil
Pau Brasil

The Pau Brasil tree, Caesalpinia echinata, the namesake for Brazil, is native only to Brazil’s Atlantic coastal forest, and has strong cultural ties to Brazil’s social and economic history. This tropical or subtropical tree grows to a height of 40, with a trunk diameter of more than 2 feet. The trunk is the tree’s most valuable characteristic, and has led to its being listed as endangered, with only about 5% of old growth forests remaining on the coast. Deforestation for the Pau Brasil’s wood for dye, instrument making, timber, and more, is the main reason for its threatened status.
Its hard timber is used in the multi-million dollar instrument making industry, leading to its destruction. In the coastal forest ecosystem, the Pau Brasil has been an important habitat for orchids and other epiphytes, as well as a pivotal food source for insects. The remaining populations are protected on reserves, are part of reintroduction programs, and are on the official list of threatened Brazilian plants. Researchers are working to better understand the Pau Brasil and how to secure the future of the last remaining populations.

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Vanishing Acts: Trees Under Threat was developed and produced by The Morton Arboretum in association with the Global Trees Campaign, a partnership between Fauna and Flora International and Botanic Gardens Conservation International.

Funding for this exhibit comes from The Morton Arboretum and the U.S. Institute for Museum and Library Services, Museums for America Grant Program.

Support locally comes from LG&E and KU. Additional support provided by Shepherdsville/Bullitt County Tourism.

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