The Character of the Gift
Botanical name: Sterculia apetala (Sterculiaceae)
The Panama tree gives a majestic impression. The word “panama” is from the Indian language, meaning abundance of butterflies and fish. The gigantic Panama tree is related to the cacao-tree. The Panama tree can grow 40 m (131 ft) tall and have a trunk diameter of 2 m (6.5 ft). The crown is beautiful, wide and round-shaped. Thanks to the support pillars growing on the lower part of the trunk, the Panama tree can be identified from far away. The surface of the trunk seems to be smooth, but feels like sandpaper when touched. The trunk is used to make canoes. The yellowish-red wood, being beautiful, lasting and hard, is in great demand as a construction material.
THE CUTE FLOWERS, THE PRETTY HEART-SHAPED FRUITS
The Panama tree blooms from November to March and bears fruit from January to April. The flowers are lovely, small and bell-shaped with a dark red centre, growing in clusters. The seeds inside the fruits are called chestnuts and are edible boiled or roasted. The taste is pleasant, resembling peanuts. The beautifully shaped fruit shell is hard and can be used as an ornament. The fruits grow in clusters and when opening, look like giant clovers. Each “clover leaf” is shaped like a heart.
THE TREE HEALS, REPAIRS AND SPICES UP
The Panama tree has delightful ingredients for the natural medicine cabinet. Tea made of the leaves relieves an irritating cough and helps alleviate insomnia. The leaf tea is said to help rheumatism, chronic cough and asthma. Decoction made from the leaves is used to prevent hair loss. The fruits also have medical use. A potion made of minced leaves is a natural, bracing refreshment. Seeds are also used to spice up chocolate. If the bark is damaged, it smells strongly. The bark has been used as a malaria medicine.