Flora of Barro Colorado Island

Anacardium excelsum

(Bertero & Balb.) Skeels, U.S.D.A. Bur. Pl. Industr. Bull. 242:36.1912

Espavé, Wild cashew

Tree, 15-37 m tall; trunk often to 160 cm dbh, somewhat buttressed at base; outer bark coarse, deeply fissured, sometimes flaking loose in large patches, even younger bark (on trees 60 cm diam) with many narrow vertical fissures; inner bark pale pinkish-orange, forming minute close droplets of      rust-colored sap soon after slash. Leaves simple, alternate, glabrous; petioles 1-2 cm long, pul­vinate at base; blades long-obovate, rounded and some­times emarginate at apex, tapering, obtuse and decur­rent at base, 15-31 cm long, 6.5-10.5 cm wide, broadly undulate; veins lighter than surface. Panicles terminal, sparsely to densely pubescent all over, 15-35 cm long; pedicels 1-6 mm long; flowers bisexual, 5-parted, with strong, sweet, clovelike aroma; calyx lobes ovate, ± fleshy, densely ferruginous-pubescent; petals oblong­-linear, ca 6 mm long, ± adnate to staminal tube, re­curved at anthesis, cream-colored or green, ferruginous­-pubescent; stamens usually 10, 4 much longer, exserted to 4 mm; filaments villous nearly full length; ovary minute; style 1, narrow, simple, equaling length of ovary. Nuts reniform, 3-4 cm long, glabrous, green at maturity, borne on a twisted or recurled green hypocarp ca 3 cm long and 5 mm wide. Croat 7757, 8518.

Abundant in the forest and along the lakeshore. Flowers for 6-8 weeks from February to April (some­times to May). The fruits mature mostly from March to May. Leaves fall in the early dry season and grow in again within 2 or 3 days or sometimes even before the old ones fall.

Nuts contain anacardic acid and a caustic oil called cardol. They are poisonous before they are roasted (Blohm, 1962). Fruits are eaten by white-faced and how­ler monkeys (Hladik & Hladik, 1969) and by the bat Micronycteris hirsuta (Wilson, 1971).

Costa Rica to Ecuador and Venezuela. In Panama, a characteristic tree species in tropical moist forest (Tosi, 1971; Holdridge & Budowski, 1956); known also from tropical dry forest in Coclé and from premontane moist forest in Veraguas and Panama (Panama City). Reported from tropical wet forest in Costa Rica (Holdridge et al., 1971).

See Figs. 326 and 327.

Photos from STRI Digital Archive

  • Anacardium excelsum aborted-fruit
  • Anacardium excelsum flower-bud plant
  • Anacardium excelsum flower
  • Anacardium excelsum flower
  • Anacardium excelsum flower
  • Anacardium excelsum Inflorescence
  • Anacardium excelsum flower plant
  • Anacardium excelsum fruit
  • Anacardium excelsum immature-fruit