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Caesalpinia echinata - Lam.

Common Name Pau Brasil, Brazil Wood, Indian Savin
Family Fabaceae
USDA hardiness 10-12
Known Hazards Plant has spines or sharp edges; use extreme caution when handling
Habitats Arid limestone thickets[ 307 ]. Littoral forest and woodland, generally on sandy or sand-clay soils that are well drained, preferring open less dense forest, frequently in dry high, escarpments[ 349 ].
Range S. America - eastern and northeastern Brazil.
Edibility Rating    (0 of 5)
Other Uses    (4 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (2 of 5)
Care (info)
Tender Moist Soil Semi-shade Full sun
Caesalpinia echinata Pau Brasil, Brazil Wood, Indian Savin
Caesalpinia echinata Pau Brasil, Brazil Wood, Indian Savin


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Pau Brasil, Caesalpinia echinata, is a slow-growing small tree up to 12 m high found in South America. It has a large rounded crown and the branches, leaves, and fruits are thorned. When fully established, it is drought-tolerant. Bark is powdered and used as treatment for diarrhoea in children. Pods and wood are sources of black dye and red dye (brazilin), respectively. The wood is heavy, tough, hard, and durable and is used for turnery, building ship and making musical instruments like bows for violins. Other common names include Brazil Wood and Pernambuco tree. Common names: Brazilwood, Pernambuco tree. Portuguese: Pau-Brasil, Pau de Pernambuco; Tupi Ibirapitanga.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of cone
Caesalpinia echinata is an evergreen Tree growing to 12 m (39ft) by 12 m (39ft) at a medium rate.
It is hardy to zone (UK) 10 and is frost tender. The flowers are pollinated by Bees.
It can fix Nitrogen.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: neutral and basic (alkaline) soils and can grow in very alkaline and saline soils.
It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist soil and can tolerate drought. The plant can tolerates strong winds but not maritime exposure.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Guilandina echinata (Lam.) Spreng.


Edible Uses

None known


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 charcoal made from the powdered bark is infused and used to treat diarrhoea in children[ 307 ]. The wood is odontalgic and tonic[ 739 ].


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Other Uses

Other uses rating: High (4/5). Seaside, Small flowering Tree, Accent, Screening, Barrier, Large planter, Xerophytic. Agroforestry Uses: Plants can be trimmed to keep them small and dense[ 307 ]. This gives them potential for use as barrier plants[ 307 ]. Other Uses An infusion of the pods, mixed with iron sulphate, yields a permanent black dye[ 307 ]. A red dye is obtained from the wood[ 46 ]. It becomes purplish when mixed with alkalis and yellow if mixed with acids[ 46 ]. A fiery red colour, the dye was a very important item of trade until virtually replaced with synthetic dyes[ 349 ]. The heartwood is red-brown to dark brown; it is clearly differentiated from the thin layer of sapwood. The wood is fine-grained, very tough, hard, heavy and very durable[ 46 , 307 , 419 ]. Very dense, it sinks in water, is easy to split and to polish[ 46 ]. Of high value, the wood is used for turnery, ship building and making musical instruments[ 46 , 307 ]. It is particularly valued for making bows for violins[ 349 ].

Special Uses


Cultivation details

Prefers a well-drained, alkaline soil and a position in full sun[ 307 ]. Established plants are very drought tolerant[ 307 ]. Plants are fairly tolerant of salt-laden winds[ 307 ]. A moderately fast-growing tree, reaching a height of up to 2 metres within 2 years from seed[ 419 ]. Plants begin to flower when around 3 - 4 years of age[ 349 ]. The development of heartwood in plantation trees is considerably faster than in the wild; the DBH of a 17 year old plantation tree compares with a 70 year old tree in the wild[ 349 ]. The quality of wood from plantations is, apparently, not suitable for making violin bows and consequently there is a lack of interest in growing the species in plantation[ 349 ]. The flowers are very attractive to bees[ 307 ]. Trees in the wild are frequently covered with orchids and other epiphytes[ 349 ]. Plants in this genus are notably resistant to honey fungus[ 200 ]. This species has a symbiotic relationship with certain soil bacteria, these bacteria form nodules on the roots and fix atmospheric nitrogen. Some of this nitrogen is utilized by the growing plant but some can also be used by other plants growing nearby[ 200 ].


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Seed - pre-soak for 12 - 24 hours in warm water prior to sowing. Sow the seed in a partially shaded position in individual containers. A germination rate in excess of 60% can be expected, with the seed sprouting within 8 - 15 days[ 419 ]. When the seedlings are 4 - 6cm tall, pot them up into individual containers and they should be ready to plant out 4 - 5 months later[ 419 ]. Seeds must be sown fresh, they fail to germinate after storage for 30 days[ 349 ]. Softwood cuttings in sand in a frame[ 200 ]. This plant may be considered a protected species; check before digging or gathering seeds.

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Pau Brasil, Caesalpinia echinata. Other common names include Brazil Wood and Pernambuco tree. Common names: Brazilwood, Pernambuco tree. Portuguese: Pau-Brasil, Pau de Pernambuco; Tupi Ibirapitanga.

Found In

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

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 : Status: Endangered A1acd.

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther
Caesalpinia decapetalaMysore Thorn, ShooflyShrub3.0 7-10  LMHNM022
Caesalpinia digynaTeri pods, UdakiryakaShrub10.0 10-12 FLMHNM022
Caesalpinia gilliesiiBird Of Paradise, Bird-of-paradise shrubShrub5.0 7-10  LMHNM01 
Caesalpinia sappanSappanwood. Rainbow woodTree7.0 10-12 FLMHNDM123
Caesalpinia spinosaSpiny Holdback, TaraTree6.0 9-11 FLMHSNM224

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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A special thanks to Ken Fern for some of the information used on this page.

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