Enterolobium Cyclocarpum: Wood Profile

enterolobium cyclocarpum wood profile

Enterolobium Cyclocarpum, commonly referred to as parota, guanacaste, elephant ear or caro caro, is a flowering species of the pea family (Fabaceae). A notable feature of Enterolobium Cyclocarpum is its elongated seedpods, influencing the name ‘elephant ear tree’ in North America.

Enterolobium Cyclocarpum is native to tropical zones in the Americas, growing in humid areas from Mexico to northern Brazil and Venezuela. The abundance of Enterolobium Cyclocarpum, particularly in Mexico and Costa Rica, is increasingly making this tree a popular choice in international design and wooden furniture.

It is also notable for its large size and ease of sustainably sourcing large wooden slabs; Enterolobium Cyclocarpum is a medium to large-sized tree, reaching 90–100 feet (30m) tall and 8–10 feet (3m) wide. Unusual for a tree of Enterolobium’s size, buttress roots are uncommon, creating more consistently in wood cuts.


Enterolobium Cyclocarpum: sustainability

The beauty of Enterolobium Cyclocarpum comes from its impressive crown, often widely spread and planted for its abundant shade. This creates a variety of choice in grain and shape when designing parota wooden furniture, with the possibility of intricate knot patterns and almost perfect circular live edges. The branch structures depend on the location of the Enterolobium Cyclocarpum, with singular trees typically growing vast horizontal branch structures starting low in the trunk, while forest-based Enterolobium Cyclocarpum develop tall, narrower trunks with branches occurring at a higher level.

Enterolobium Cyclocarpum is also noted for its ability to improve soil fertility via nitrogen fixation, making it ideal for reforestation projects. Enterolobium Cyclocarpum exhibits evergreen, or briefly deciduous, properties for one to two months in the dry season, when its leaves fall off and water consumption is drastically reduced.

Other factors that makes Enterolobium Cyclocarpum so sustainable is its high tolerance of a wide range of rainfall levels, temperatures and soil conditions, with the ability to thrive in even the most low-elevation tropical habitats. The Enterolobium Cyclocarpum tree is highly valued as ornamental, particularly for the shade it can provide even in sun-baked plains. It is widely grown for shelter for coffee plantations and forage cattle, where it also doubles as a cattle food source.


Enterolobium Cyclocarpum: Growth properties

Enterolobiums shed most of their slender oblong leaves in December, with growth spurts showing in February to develop a full crown again by around April. At the same time as leave renewal process, the appearance of delicate flowers (inflorescences) appear.

After the decline of Enterolobium Cyclocarpum’s blossom, small green pods begin to appear around 10 months later, high in the crown, by around December. After they reach full size in February and ripen by March to April, the seed pods turn brown and start to shed. As such, healthy trees are able to produce large crops on a yearly basis, with seedlings starting to germinate by June as rainy season sets in. This adds to the sustainability of Enterolobium Cyclocarpum.

The delayed fruit development on Enterolobium Cyclocarpums appears to be an adaptive behaviour so seed maturation coincides with the start of rainy season, as germination occurs only after puncturing the shell via water or animalas, such as horse and cattle. It also gives seedlings as much time to grow before the subsequent dry season.

As the seeds are hard, almost like stones, animals or water are essential for breaking through the hard coat and germinating the seed. For this reason, Enterolobium Cyclocarpum grows particularly well in Mexico, thriving in Pacific slope habitats, where rainy season lasts for several months. Enterolobium Cyclocarpum, or parota, is found in USDA growth zones 10–12.


Enterolobium Cyclocarpum: Uses and benefits

Enterolobium Cyclocarpum’s bark is noted by its vertically cracked cortex and grey colouring. The wood is reddish brown with golden streaks and relatively lightweight for a hardwood, creating striking solid wood furniture. Its water-resistant quality also makes it common in doors, windows, furniture, cabinets and shipbuilding. Enterolobium Cyclocarpum develop deep, strong root structures, which also create unique structures for glass topped parota tables.

While the seed pods are still green, they are boiled or roasted and eaten in Mexico as a quality protein source. Healthy Enterolobium Cyclocarpum can generate massive, almost annual crops of seeds, which subsequently demonstrate a germination rate of nearly 100 percent. Enterolobium Cyclocarpum seedlings grow aggressively in their first year, often reaching taller than one meter in height. These reproductive characteristics have been noted for their potential in beneficial reforestation projects, and some regional governments around Mexico are beneficially explotating the tree’s reproductive characteristics.


Besides the unique beauty of Enterolobium Cyclocarpum wood, its sustainability and beneficial environmental qualities inspire PAROTAS to promote this natural resource. PAROTAS produces custom wooden furniture using certified and sustainably sourced Enterolobium Cyclocarpum from Mexico. Parotas provides a door-to-door service, communicating with contractors and designers at each step of the process to ensure the best quality and outcome for each wood design  project or furniture.

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    Photo credits (CC-Licence): Line1 via Wikimedia Commons (Enterolobium leaf); Avancari via Wikimedia Commons (Enterolobium Cyclocarpum tree); jayeshpatel912 (Enterolobium Cyclocarpum flower).

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