Introduction: Tabonuco

Introduction: Tabonuco

Dad told us not to act like one tree is better than the other when we write this, but, of course, my brother thinks rules are made for everyone but himself.

The tree I like is the tabonuco. My tree may grow more slowly, but at least when it becomes a full-grown tree, it stays around for maybe hundreds of years, not like SOME trees we know. (Alberto didn’t tell you that.) (He also said he was almost five feet. Well, I’m not even five feet, and I’m taller than he is, and I’m a year younger. Just so you know.) 

When the tabonuco is fully grown, it is very impressive. It can be more than 100 feet (30 m) high, and it is often the tallest tree in the forest. It has smooth bark and a huge oval puff of dark green leaves. 

Dad says that some of the earliest botanists in Puerto Rico considered this the most majestic tree on the island. I like majestic things, and that is a big reason why I like this tree. The leaves have five to seven leaflets and are around four inches (10 cm) long. When you crush them, they give off a nice smell. The tree’s fruits come from July to October, and they look like large, brown olives (according to Mom). 

Did you know that the name tabonuco is a Carib Indian word meaning "white barked"? It got that name because the bark has a distinctive whitish color. The tree also produces resin. This is an amber liquid inside the tree, but it becomes hard and white when it’s exposed to air. The Indians used the resin for candles and torches, incense, and medicines. In islands to the south, like Dominica, the tree is called gommier. 

The Indians there still carve out tabonuco trunks to make really long canoes that can carry dozens of people (in one canoe!). Because the wood looks like mahogany, tabonuco was once used a lot to make furniture, but it is not as resistant to termites as mahogany is (according to Mom). Scientists call this tree Dacryodes excelsa.