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Cecropia peltata - L.

Common Name Trumpet Tree, Snakewood, Congo pump, Wild pawpaw, Pop-a-gun
Family Urticaceae
USDA hardiness 9-12
Known Hazards The branches and leaf petioles of Cecropia species are often hollow and can harbour stinging ants. The trees attract the ants by means of producing a honey-like sap and the ants respond by working to keep the tree free of leaf-eating pests - which can include humans[ 318 ].
Habitats Moist limestone, cleared land[ 307 ]. Chiefly in pastures or second-growth, often in thickets or modified forest, at 900 metres or less[ 331 ].
Range S. America - Brazil and Colombia, north through Central America to Mexico and the Caribbean.
Edibility Rating    (3 of 5)
Other Uses    (5 of 5)
Weed Potential Yes
Medicinal Rating    (3 of 5)
Care (info)
Half Hardy Moist Soil Full sun
Cecropia peltata Trumpet Tree, Snakewood, Congo pump, Wild pawpaw, Pop-a-gun

Jim Conrad wikimedia.org
Cecropia peltata Trumpet Tree, Snakewood, Congo pump, Wild pawpaw, Pop-a-gun
Jim Conrad wikimedia.org


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Found in South America, Cecropia peltata or otherwise known as Trumpet Tree is a fast-growing, evergreen tree with an open and thin crown. It reaches up to 20 m tall with trunk diameter of usually 10 - 30 cm. The fruit is eaten raw, with a sweet and jelly-like flesh. Medicinally, it is used against liver ailments, dropsy, hypertension, kidney infections, heart conditions, Bright's disease, back pain, ulcers, wounds, cuts, and asthma among others. Trumpet tree is named as such due to its hollow branches and leaf petioles which are cut and used as blow tubes or trumpets. The inner bark of young branches yields very tough fibre used for socks, ropes, and cordage. Latex from the trunk is used to make a crude type of rubber. The leaves, on the other hand, are used as a type of sandpaper because of its rough texture.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of cone
Cecropia peltata is an evergreen Tree growing to 20 m (65ft) by 18 m (59ft) at a fast rate.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 9. The plant is not self-fertile.
It is noted for attracting wildlife.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and can grow in nutritionally poor soil. Suitable pH: mildly acid and neutral soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers moist soil and can tolerate drought.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Ambaiba peltata (L.) Kuntze Ambaiba surinamensis (Miq.) Kuntze Cecropia amphichlora Standl. & L.O.Wi

Plant Habitats

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Flowers  Fruit  Leaves
Edible Uses:

The fruit is eaten raw, it has a sweet, jelly-like flesh[ 307 ]. The fleshy, finger-shaped fruit is 10 - 12cm long[ 200 ]. The young buds are occasionally eaten as a pot herb[ 46 , 301 ]. The report does not specify if it is the flower or the leaf buds[ K ]. The young leaves and flowers are used in broth.

References   More on Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.
Antiasthmatic  Anticoagulant  Antiinflammatory  Antitumor  Astringent  Cardiotonic  Diuretic  Dysentery  
Hypotensive  Kidney  Skin  Vasodilator

The bark and leaves are anticoagulant, antiinflammatory, antitumor, astringent, cardiotonic, diuretic, hypotensive and vasodilator[ 348 ]. A decoction of the young leaves is used to treat liver ailments and dropsy[ 46 ]. A tea or decoction of the dried leaves or inner stem-bark is used to treat hypertension, Bright's disease, blennorrhagia, albuminuria, kidney infections, heart conditions and nervous diseases, and to promote good kidney function[ 348 ]. A tea prepared from the dried leaves is used as a treatment for back pain[ 348 ]. An infusion of the leaves is sometimes injected vaginally after childbirth[ 348 ]. A hot poultice of the young shoots is used as a dressing for ulcers, abscesses, wounds, cuts and bush sores[ 348 ]. The dried leaves are smoked to alleviate asthma[ 307 ]. The juice of the plant is used as a caustic to remove warts[ 46 ]. The sap is used to treat fresh cuts[ 348 ]. A decoction of the inner bark is used in the treatment of dysentery[ 348 ].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses

Containers  Fibre  Friction sticks  Latex  Musical  Paper  Pioneer  Pipes  Sandpaper  Soil reclamation  String  Wood

Other uses rating: Very High (5/5). Small shade tree, Large planter, Specimen, Accent, Huimid shade garden, Courtyard, Large Conservatory. Agroforestry Uses: A pioneer species, it is one of the first trees to appear in a disturbed habitat, growing rapidly and providing the ground cover necessary for the survival of less-hardy plant species[ 510 ]. It is an ideal species to use in the initial stages of a land reclamation or reforestation program. These hardy trees grow quickly when young and they can grow in poor, eroded soils while still withstanding the full brunt of the tropical sun. They have a shallow rooting system and cast only a light shade, thus do not compete with the deeper-rooted young trees growing under their canopy. In time, they will help to provide the shade and organic material necessary to allow these other, less rugged species to survive[ 200 , 341 , 379 , 510 ]. The trees also benefit the local ecology, for they perpetually produce flowers and fruits that are staple foodstuffs to many bird and mammal species[ 510 ]. Other Uses The branches and leaf petioles are hollow. They can be cut and used as blow tubes or trumpets[ 307 ]. The Uaupe Indians of the Amazon convert the hollow stems of this tree into a very curious kind of musical instrument, a species of drum, they call 'Amboobas'[ 454 ]. A trunk, 10 - 12cm in diameter, is cut to about 1.2 metres long, removing the partitions and smoothing the inside by means of fire[ 454 ]. They then close up the lower end with leaves beaten down into a hard mass with a pestle, and cut two holes toward the top end so as to form a handle[ 454 ]. These rude instruments are commonly used in native dances, the performer, holding by the handle, beats the lower end upon the ground, and moves his feet in unison with the sounds thus produced[ 454 ]. A fibre is obtained from the inner bark of young branches[ 454 ]. Said to be very tough, it is used for sacks, strong ropes and cordage[ 454 ]. A latex obtained from the trunk can be used to make a crude type of rubber[ 307 ]. The spongy wood ignites easily and can be used as friction sticks to start a fire[ 46 , 307 , 341 , 447 ]. The leaves have a rough texture and are traditionally used as a type of sandpaper to smooth the surface of Calabash fruit shells (Cresentia cujete) that are being used to make containers etc[ 331 ]. Freshly cut, the wood is whitish or light-coloured, becoming pale brown or oatmeal coloured upon exposure[ 316 ]. Sapwood and heartwood are not differentiated[ 316 ]. The texture is coarse; the grain straight or fairly straight; fairly lustrous; without distinctive odour or taste[ 316 ]. The wood is very light and soft, tough and strong for its weight, but perishable[ 331 ]. When seasoned it is very easy to saw and machine compared with green wood[ 316 ]. Surfaces tend to tear and fuzz in shaping and turning but gives good results in planing and sanding; it nails readily and holds screws well; it is difficult to finish with varnish or lacquer[ 316 ]. It is used for making boxes, crates, paper pulp and matches[ 46 , 307 ]. It is combined with cement and made into insulation board[ 307 ]. The lightest grade of this timber should be a good substitute for the moderately heavy grades of balsa wood[ 341 ] The trunk is used as a trough to conduct water[ 46 ]. The soft, resilient wood of the roots resists splitting - it has been used to make tool handles[ 510 ].

Special Uses

Attracts Wildlife  Food Forest

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

A plant of moister regions of the tropics, in Puerto Rico it is found at low to medium elevations in areas where the mean annual rainfall can range from 990 - 3,990mm or more[ 379 ]. The mean annual temperatures can range from 12 - 24c[ 379 ]. Succeeds in any well-drained soil in a very sunny position or in light shade[ 200 , 307 ]. Succeeds in poor and eroded soils[ 510 ]. The tree has been introduced into many areas outside its native range. The seeds are spread by fruit-eating bats and birds, these germinate freely if in a sunny position and can invade native habitats[ 305 ]. It has proved to be invasive in some areas[ 305 ]. A fast-growing but short-lived tree, rarely living longer than 20 years[ 200 , 510 ]. The tree casts only a light shade, allowing other plants to be grown right up to its base[ 200 ]. Cecropia trees, actively colonizing a formerly primary forest region after a devastating storm, have been observed to reach 22cm in diameter and 13 metres in height less than 3.5 years after germination[ 510 ]. The trees grow rapidly, like weeds, and thrive best in cut-over or abandoned land[ 331 ]. Plants grow back quickly if cut[ 305 ]. Flowers intermittently all year round[ 307 ]. Plants are dioecious, both male and female forms must be grown if seed is required[ 307 ].

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

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Plant Propagation

Seed - best sown in a sunny seedbed as soon as it is ripe[ 419 ]. The seed usually starts to sprout within 25 - 40 days, though germination rates are low[ 419 ]. Pot the seedlings up into individual containers when they are 5 - 6cm tall[ 419 ]. Greenwood cuttings in a frame[ 200 ].

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Cecropia peltata or otherwise known as Trumpet Tree. Other common names of Cecropia peltata are Snakewood, Congo pump, Wild pawpaw. Other Names: congo pump; pop-a-gun; snakewood tree; trumpet wood; wild paw paw. Spanish: guarumo; yagrumo hembra. French: bois cannon; faux ricin; parasolier; pisse-roux. Brazil: embauba. France: papyrus gŽant. Germany: Trompetenbaum. Italy: legno trombetta.

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Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

Found In: Antilles, Argentina, Asia, Australia, Barbados, Belize, Brazil, Caribbean, Central America, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Guadeloupe, Guatemala, Guiana, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Martinique, Mexico, Nicaragua, North America, Pacific, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Puerto Rico, SE Asia, Singapore, South America, Suriname, Trinidad & Tobago, Venezuela, West Indies.

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Listed as one of the 100 'World's Worst' invaders on the Global Invasive Species Database. It has become invasive where introduced, notably in parts of West Africa and the Pacific. It is weedy in its native range.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status : This taxon has not yet been assessed.

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


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Botanical References

Links / References

For a list of references used on this page please go here
A special thanks to Ken Fern for some of the information used on this page.

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