241. Albarillo, Caribbean princewood
Exostema caribaeum (Jacq.) Roem. & Schult.
This shrub or small tree of dry areas is distinguished by: (1) slender spreading branches sometimes without a definite crown of foliage; (2) opposite, small, thin, elliptic or ovate leaves, long-or short-pointed with minute sharp point at apex and short-pointed at base, commonly curved upward on both sides of midrib; (3) large whitish or pale yellowish flowers 2-2½ inches long, with narrow corolla tube and 5 very narrow spreading lobes, borne singly at leaf bases; and (4) dark brown elliptic seed capsules 3/8 - 5/8 inch long.
Evergreen, 10-25 feet high and to 4 inches in trunk diameter. The bark is dark gray, smoothish with dots (lenticels), and thin, or becoming fissured. Inner bark is bitter and yellow, the cut surface turning orange. The slender gray twigs have leaves commonly crowded and a pair of pointed bristlelike scales (stipules) 1/8 inch long forming a ring at each node. The nodes are mostly close together and bear old fruit stalks as well as scale rings back of the leaves.
The leaves have slender petioles 1/8 - 3/8 inch long and blades l-3 inches long and ½-1¼ inches broad, the edges not toothed, green to dark green on upper surface, lighter green and slightly hairy beneath. Sometimes the leaves are yellow spotted, perhaps from disease.
The lateral flowers, which are slightly fragrant, have slender stalks about ¼ inch long and are as much as 3 inches long in the bud. The narrow tubular base (hypanthium) 3/16 inch long bears a cup-shaped calyx 1/16 inch long with 5 teeth; the white or pale yellow corolla is composed of a narrow tube 1¼-1½ inches long and 5 very narrow spreading lobes about 1¼ inches long; 5 stamens united at base and inserted at base of corolla tube and with very slender yellow anthers extending 1 inch beyond tube; and pistil with 2-celled inferior ovary and very long slender style about 2½ inches long.
The seed capsules split into 2 parts to release the many brown seeds, which are elliptic, 3/16 inch long, thin, and bordered by a narrow ring. Flowering and fruiting irregularly through the year.
The sapwood is yellow, and the heartwood is light brown with yellow streaks. The wood is hard, very heavy (specific gravity 1.0), and strong. A durable fencepost. Elsewhere the wood has been utilized in cabinetmaking, wood turning, such as for canes, and inlaid work. The wood
burns readily and has served for torches, as a few common names indicate.
Formerly the bitter bark was used for treatment of fevers and as a substitute for cinchona bark, the source of quinine, which is obtained from a closely related genus (Cinchona).
Common in open areas, clearings, thickets, and cutover dry forests near coasts and at lower and middle elevations in southern and western Puerto Rico. Also in Mona, Culebra, Vieques, Muertos, St. Croix, St. Thomas, St. John, Tortola, Virgin Gorda,and Anegada.
PUBLIC FORESTS. - Guajataca, Guánica, Maricao, Susúa.
RANGE. - Southern Florida including Florida Keys and through West Indies from Bahamas and Cuba to Grenada. Also from central Mexico to Costa Rica.
OTHER COMMON NAMES. - palo do Jazmín, teilla, cuero de sapo, quina, palo do quina (Puerto Rico); yellow-torch (Virgin Islands); piñí-piñí, quina criolla (Dominican Republic); cerillo, lirio santana, carey de costa (Cuba); copalche (Mexico); hesito (Nicaragua); Caribbean princewood, princewood (United States); princewood (Bahamas); Caribbee bark-tree, Jamaica Jesuit-bark (Jamaica); ironwood (Antigua); chandelle Anglaise, quinquina pays (Haiti); tendre en gomme, quinquina caraïbe, bois chandelle (Guadeloupe); quinquina piton (Martinique).
Two other species of this genus have been collected once in Puerto Rico, though present also on other islands. Plateado (Exostema ellipticum Griseb.), found in the mountain forest of the Central Cordillera near Villalba, has elliptic leaves 1¾-3¼ inches long and 1-1¾ inches wide, rounded or short-pointed at both ends, with petioles about ¼ inch long; clusters of few smaller flowers about 1-1¼ inches long, with corolla white, becoming rose; and cylindric seed capsules 5/8 - 1¼ inches long.
Exostema sanctae-luciae (Kentish) Britten, observed in the mountain forest near Maricao many years ago, has larger oblong to elliptic leaves 4-8½ inches long and about half as wide, short-pointed, shiny above, dull and with tufts of hairs in vein angles beneath, with petioles ½ inch long or less; flower clusters terminal, flowers 1-1½ inches long, with red corolla; and cylindric seed capsules 3/8 - ¾ inch long.