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Byrsonima_crassifolia - (L.) Kunth

Common Name Golden Spoon, Nance, Nancy Tree
Family Malpighiaceae
USDA hardiness 9-12
Known Hazards The leaves and stems, if put in water, can stupefy fish[ 303 ]. This possibly means they contain saponins[ K ]. Although poisonous, saponins are poorly absorbed by the human body and so most pass through without harm. Saponins are quite bitter and can be found in many common foods such as some beans. They can be removed by carefully leaching in running water. Thorough cooking, and perhaps changing the cooking water once, will also normally remove most of them. However, it is not advisable to eat large quantities of food that contain saponins. Saponins are much more toxic to some creatures, such as fish, and hunting tribes have traditionally put large quantities of them in streams, lakes etc in order to stupefy or kill the fish[ K ].
Habitats Open pine forests and grassy savannahs, sometimes in extensive stands[ 303 ]. Lowland moist or dry thickets and woodland[ 307 ].
Range Northern S. America - Brazil and Peru, north to Mexico.
Edibility Rating    (4 of 5)
Other Uses    (3 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (2 of 5)
Care (info)
Half Hardy Well drained soil Moist Soil Full sun
Byrsonima_crassifolia Golden Spoon, Nance, Nancy Tree

Byrsonima_crassifolia Golden Spoon, Nance, Nancy Tree
Hermann Luyken wikimedia.org


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Golden Spoon, Byrsonima crassifolia, is a large shrub or tree that grows up to 10 m with a bole diameter of 15 to 25 cm. It is slow-growing, drought-tolerant, and deciduous. It is cultivated in Northern South America. The bark is rich in tannins and is used as a treatment for gastrointestinal problems, pulmonary concerns, snakebites, fevers, leucorrhoea, and to promote menstruation. It is also applied externally to wounds, ulcers, and skin infections. The leaves are also used against ulcers and high blood pressure. The orange-yellow round fruit of Golden Spoon is consumed raw/fresh or cooked as dessert. It can be fermented to yield 'chicha', a refreshing drink famous in Panama. Unripe fruits, on the other hand, are used in dyeing. The bark is a source of fibre. The wood is heavy, hard, tough, and moderately durable. It yields a pleasant odour when burned.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of cone
Byrsonima_crassifolia is an evergreen Tree growing to 12 m (39ft) by 10 m (32ft) at a slow rate.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 9 and is frost tender. The flowers are pollinated by Bees, Birds.
It is noted for attracting wildlife.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils, prefers well-drained soil and can grow in nutritionally poor soil. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils and can grow in very alkaline and saline soils.
It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers dry or moist soil and can tolerate drought. The plant can tolerates strong winds but not maritime exposure.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Byrsonima coriacea (Sw.) DC. Byrsonima cotinifolia Kunth Byrsonima cubensis A.Juss. Byrsonima cuming

Plant Habitats

Edible Uses

Fruit - raw or cooked. Thin-skinned and peculiarly odorous, with a white, juicy, oily pulp that varies in flavour from insipid to sweet, acid or cheese-like[ 303 ]. A very popular fruit, it is usually eaten out of hand, and is also cooked as a dessert, used in jams, soups, sherbets etc[ 301 , 307 ]. A refreshing drink, known as 'chicha', is obtained from the fermented fruits - it is very much relished by most Panamanians[ 551 ]. The orange-yellow round fruit is up to 5cm in diameter with a single, fairly large stone, containing 1-3 white seeds[ 303 , 307 ]. An edible fat is extracted from the fruit with boiling water[ 301 , 303 ].

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.

The bark (probably the inner bark[ K ] is rich in tannins and has been used medicinally by many local peoples[ 303 ]. It is antidote, antiinflammatory, astringent, emmenagogue, febrifuge and purgative[ 303 , 348 ]. It has been used to treat gastrointestinal disorders, including indigestion, diarrhoea and dysentery; pulmonary complaints; snakebites; fevers; cases of leucorrhoea; and to promote menstruation[ 303 , 348 ]. The bark has been used externally as a wash or poultice to treat wounds, skin infections, ulcers etc[ 303 , 348 ]. As a mouthwash it has been used to tighten the teeth where gums are diseased[ 303 ]. An infusion of the leaves is used to treat high blood pressure[ 348 ]. The leaves are used as a wash to clean and soothe ulcers[ 348 ]. The brown powder from the under surface of the leaf is applied onto the cut end of the umbilical cord to prevent infection[ 348 ]. The sap from the bark and leaves is inserted into the orifice of the penis as a treatment for gonorrhoea[ 348 ]. The leaves contain various flavonoids, saponins and terpenes[ 348 ].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses

Other uses rating: Medium (3/5). Small flowering tree, backyard tree, Accent, Large planter, Small street tree, Xerophytic. Agroforestry Uses: The tree is well suited for the restoration of infertile and burned-over land[ 303 ]. It has a heavy leaf fall which helps to restore soil fertility[ 303 ]. Other Uses The bark contains 17-28 % tannin and 3 % oxalic acid. It is employed in tanning[ 303 , 307 ]. The fruit is high in tannin, especially when unripe and is sometimes used in dyeing. The fruit skin imparts a light-brown hue to cotton cloth[ 303 , 307 ]. An ink can be made from the bitter green fruit[ 307 ]. The bark yields a strong fibre[ 303 ]. The heartwood is a reddish or pinkish-brown; the thin band of sapwood is greyish. It is coarse-textured; close and cross-grained. The wood is heavy, hard, tough, strong, brittle, and only moderately durable. It takes a good polish. The wood is usually available only in small sizes; it is highly prized for boat ribs, and is used for tool handles, turnery, cabinetwork, furniture and small-scale construction[ 303 , 551 ]. In Brazil, the wood is chosen for the hot fire over which people smoke the stimulant paste of guaran' (Paullinia cupana) because the burning wood has a pleasant odour. In some areas, the wood is used for making a good quality charcoal[ 46 , 303 ]. This plant is attractive to bees, butterflies and birds.

Special Uses

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

Trees succeed in tropical and subtropical climates up to elevations of 1,000 metres[ 303 ]. They are tolerant of a wide range of environments, from humid tropical lowlands to semi-desert regions[ 303 ]. The tree is often found on rocky ground. It grows well on sandy and alkaline-sandy soils[ 303 ]. Although it succeeds in poor soils, better yields are achieved when a good supply of organic matter is added. Grows best in a fertile, well-drained soil[ 307 ]. Established plants are highly drought tolerant[ 303 , 307 ]. Plants are very tolerant of salt laden winds[ 307 ]. Very often, when the forest is cleared this tree is left and allowed to grow in a state of semi-wild cultivation[ 303 ]. A fire-resistant tree[ 303 ]. A very variable species with a wide distribution in tropical America[ 307 ]. It has sometimes been recognised as more than one species[ 307 ].

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

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Plant Propagation

Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in a partially shaded position in a nursery seedbed. A germination rate of less than 30% can be expected, with the seed sprouting within 25 - 35 days[ 625 ]. The seeds are collected from ripe fruit are the flesh removed by allowing them to partly decompose in a plastic bag. The pulp is removed under running water. Seeds need to be planted fresh. They are best in light shade.

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Golden Spoon, Byrsonima crassifolia. Other Names: Cereza, Chaparro, Craboo, Eheb, Indano, Lontoekasi, Manero, Manteco, Maricas, Marushi, Miga, Murei, Murici, Muriye, Muruci, Nanche, Nanci, Nancite, Perpleja, Sabanakwari, Yoco.

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Found In

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

Found In: Africa, Amazon, Argentina, Australia, Barbados, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Caribbean, Central America, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominica. Dominican Republic, El Salvador, French Guiana, Gambia, Guadeloupe, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Hawaii, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, North America, Pacific, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Puerto Rico, SE Asia, Sierra Leone, South America, Suriname, Trinidad-Tobago, USA, Venezuela, West Africa, 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.

None Known

Conservation Status

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

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther
Byrsonima crassifoliaGolden Spoon, Nance, Nancy TreeTree12.0 9-12 SLMHNDM423

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.


Expert comment


(L.) Kunth

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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