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Couma macrocarpa - Barb.Rodr.

Common Name Barca, Milk Tree, Couba, Sorva, Sorva grande
Family Apocynaceae
USDA hardiness 10-12
Known Hazards Handling plant may cause skin irritation or allergic reaction
Habitats Low wet mixed forest, or often seen in cleared pastures, at or a little above sea level[ 331 ]. A climax tree of the rainforest, found mainly on well-drained sites in upland areas of the Amazon[ 625 ].
Range S. America - Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana; C. America - Panama to Guatemala.
Edibility Rating    (4 of 5)
Other Uses    (3 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (2 of 5)
Care (info)
Tender Moist Soil Semi-shade Full sun
Couma macrocarpa Barca, Milk Tree, Couba, Sorva, Sorva grande

Candre.A wikimedia.org
Couma macrocarpa Barca, Milk Tree, Couba, Sorva, Sorva grande
Vojtech Zavadil wikimedia.org


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Other common names are Milk Tree, Couba, Sorva, Sorva Grande, Leche Caspi, Leche Huayo, Aso, Fransoco, and Wansoka. Native to Central and South America, Barca or Couma macrocarpa is a large tropical tree up to 40 m tall with oval leaves in groups of three. The flowers are small. The bark is thick and dark-coloured. The stem yields edible and sweet latex which can also be used in the treatment of amoebiasis and in making chewing gum. The globose, yellow-green fruit is eaten raw. It has sweet and succulent pulp. Infusion of leaves is used as a beverage. The latex is known as glutta-percha and has a wide range of uses like as insulating material for electricity wiring, or moulded into ornate furniture, pistol grips, etc. Further, it is used as the core of golf ball and in modern dentistry. The wood is used for interior millwork, general construction, furniture components, fibreboard, boxes, and crates. Amazon, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Caribbean, Central America, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, Guianas, Guyana, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, South America, Suriname, Venezuela. Also known as: Leche caspi, Leche huayo, Aso, Fransoco, Wansoka, sorva, cow tree.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of cone
Couma macrocarpa is an evergreen Tree growing to 25 m (82ft) by 25 m (82ft) at a medium rate.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 10.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist soil.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Couma capiron Pittier Couma caurensis Pittier Couma guatemalensis Standl. Couma sapida Pittier


Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Fruit  Leaves  Sap
Edible Uses: Drink  Gum  Milk  Tea

When the bark is cut or broken, there issues from it a rich creamy latex that is sweet and palatable[ 331 , 625 ]. It is not very sticky and may be drunk like cow's milk[ 331 ]. A latex obtained from the trunk can be used to make chewing gum[ 46 ]. Fruit - raw[ 625 ]. The succulent pulp is sweet and extremely glutinous[ 625 ]. It contains latex[ 625 ]. The globose, yellow-green fruit is about 6cm in diameter, containing a few seeds[ 625 ]. An infusion of the leaves is used as a beverage[ 331 ].

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.

A latex in the stems can be used in the treatment of amoebiasis, including amoebic dysentery[ 739 ].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses

Containers  Furniture  Gum  Insulation  Latex  Teeth  Waterproofing  Wood

Other Uses: A latex exudes from the cut or broken bark. When boiled in water it gives a product similar to gutta-percha that can be used for caulking canoes[ 331 ]. Gutta-percha is a natural latex obtained from the sap of the tree. Allowing this fluid to evaporate and coagulate in the sun produces a hard and durable latex that can be made flexible again with hot water, but which does not become brittle. Prior to the advent of synthetic materials, gutta-percha had a wide range of uses - most particularly as an insulating material for electricity wiring and for underwater telegraph wires, a purpose for which it is very well suited since it is bio-inert and so is not attacked by marine plants or animals. Gutta-percha can be moulded into any shape and has been used to make items such as ornate furniture, pistol grips, acid-resistant receptacles and 'mourning' jewellery, where its dark colour was an advantage. It has been widely used as the core of golf balls and is still used in modern dentistry where its bio-inertness makes it ideal as a temporary filling for teeth and as a filling material inside tooth fillings[ 46 , 418 ]. The heartwood is cream-coloured or pale brown, often with a pinkish tinge; there is no sharp demarcation from the sapwood. The texture is medium; the grain fairly straight to inter- locked; lustre rather low to medium; odour and taste not distinctive. The wood is light in weight; moderately hard; natural durability is low and the wood is prone to attacks by blue-stain fungi. It is easy to both air dry and kiln dry, with little or no degradation due to warping or checking. The wood is easy to work with all tools, however, there is some difficulty to generate smooth surfaces on quarter-sawn stock due to the interlocked grain; it is easy to nail and screw, and generally finishes well. The wood is used for interior millwork, general construction, furniture components, veneer for plywood, particleboard and fiberboard, boxes and crates[ 316 , 331 , 625 ].

Special Uses

Carbon Farming  Coppice  Food Forest

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

Experimental Crop  Industrial Crop: Hydrocarbon  Management: Coppice

A tree of the lowland humid tropics. Prefers a shady position. A popular fruit.

Carbon Farming

  • Experimental Crop  Plant breeders are testing these plants to see if they could be domesticated for cultivation, but they are still in an experimental phase. Examples include milkweed and leafy spurge.
  • Industrial Crop: Hydrocarbon  Materials, chemicals and energy include bioplastics, rubber, biomass products gasoline, jet fuel, diesel, butane, propane, biogas. Plants are usually resprouting plants and saps.
  • Management: Coppice  Cut to the ground repeatedly - resprouting vigorously. Non-destructive management systems maintaining the soil organic carbon.

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

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Seed - of short viability, it should be sown as soon as it is ripe in a shady position in a nursery seedbed or in individual containers[ 625 ]. A germination rate in excess of 70% can be expected, with the seeds sprouting within 25 - 35 days[ 625 ].

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Other common names are Milk Tree, Couba, Sorva, Sorva Grande, Leche Caspi, Leche Huayo, Aso, Fransoco, and Wansoka. Also known as: cow tree.

Native Plant Search

Search over 900 plants ideal for food forests and permaculture gardens. Filter to search native plants to your area. The plants selected are the plants in our book 'Plants For Your Food Forest: 500 Plants for Temperate Food Forests and Permaculture Gardens, as well as plants chosen for our forthcoming related books for Tropical/Hot Wet Climates and Mediterranean/Hot Dry Climates. Native Plant Search

Found In

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

Amazon, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Caribbean, Central America, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, Guianas, Guyana, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, South America, Suriname, Venezuela.

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.

None Known

Conservation Status

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

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther
Couma utilisSorva, Milk TreeTree12.0 10-12 MLMSNM422

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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