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H. G. Richter and M. J. Dallwitz

Brosimum guianense (Aubl.) Huber (Schlangenholz, snakewood)

Nomenclature etc. MORACEAE. Syn.: Brosimum tessmannii Mildbr., Piratinera guianensis Aubl. Trade and local names: Schlangenholz, Zauberbaum, Buchstabenholz (DE), amourette, lettre mouchete (FR, GF), letterhout (NL, SR), snakewood (GB), palo de oro (VE), belokoro, poevinga, peni-paia (SR), barrueh, muirapinima (BR), waira caspi, cashiba playa (PE). Not protected under CITES regulations.

Tree. Geographic distribution: tropical South America.

General. Heartwood basically brown to red, with streaks (black). Sapwood colour distinct from heartwood colour. Density 1.05–1.25 g/cm³. The name snakewood is derived from the very peculiar surface figure which resembles the pattern of snake hides.

Vessels. Wood diffuse-porous. Vessels in multiples, commonly short (2–3 vessels) radial rows. Average tangential vessel diameter 70–100–115 µm. Average number of vessels/mm² 5–12. Perforation plates simple. Intervessel pits alternate, average diameter (vertical) 4–6 µm. Vessel-ray pits with distinct borders, similar to intervessel pits. Tyloses in vessels present, thinwalled or sclerotic. Other deposits in heartwood vessels present (yellowish to dark brown, also in tyloses).

Tracheids and fibres. Fibres very thick-walled. Fibre pits mainly restricted to radial walls, simple to minutely bordered.

Axial parenchyma. Axial parenchyma paratracheal. Paratracheal axial parenchyma aliform and confluent. Aliform parenchyma winged. Axial parenchyma as strands. Average number of cells per axial parenchyma strand 2–4.

Rays. Rays 6–10 per tangential mm, multiseriate (also if only few), 2 cells wide. Rays with multiseriate portions as wide as uniseriate portions present. Rays composed of two or more cell types (heterocellular). Heterocellular rays with square and upright cells restricted to marginal rows, mostly 1 marginal row of upright or square cells or mostly 2–4 marginal rows of upright or square cells.

Secretory structures. Laticifers or tanniniferous tubes lacticifers, few present, or absent.

Mineral inclusions. Crystals present, prismatic, located in ray cells. Crystal-containing ray cells upright and/or square or procumbent (rarely), upright and/or square ray cells chambered and not chambered. Crystals in procumbent ray cells in radial alignment (occasionally). Number of crystals per cell or chamber one. Silica not observed.

Illustrations. • Transverse section. Brosimum guianense. Inset: winged aliform axial parenchyma. • Tangential section. Brosimum guianense. Note: sclerified marginal ray cells. • Radial section. Brosimum guianense. Note: sclerified tyloses; prismatic crystals in marginal ray cells. • Crystals. Brosimum guianense. Prismatic crystals in tyloses (left) and in marginal ray cells (right).


The interactive key allows access to the character list, illustrations, full and partial descriptions, diagnostic descriptions, differences and similarities between taxa, lists of taxa exhibiting specified attributes, summaries of attributes within groups of taxa, and geographical distribution.

Cite this publication as: ‘Richter, H.G., and Dallwitz, M.J. 2000 onwards. Commercial timbers: descriptions, illustrations, identification, and information retrieval. In English, French, German, Portuguese, and Spanish. Version: 25th June 2009. http://delta-intkey.com’.

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