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Couma utilis - (Mart.) M?ll.Arg.

Common Name Sorva, Milk Tree
Family Apocynaceae
USDA hardiness 10-12
Known Hazards None known
Habitats Dense forest of virgin bushes, on flooded or dry land[ 418 ]. Often grows in dry non-flood zones, in or near fields and grasslands[ 377 ].
Range S. America - lowland Amazonia in Brazil, Colombia and Venezuela.
Edibility Rating    (4 of 5)
Other Uses    (2 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (2 of 5)
Care (info)
Tender Moist Soil Semi-shade Full sun
Couma utilis Sorva, Milk Tree

Couma utilis Sorva, Milk Tree


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Sorva, Couma utilis, is a medium-sized tropical tree in South America that reaches up to 17 m in height with trunk diameter of up to 20 cm upon maturity. The leaves are simple and opposite or alternate in arrangement. The latex from the tree is used in the treatment of diarrhoea, worms, parasites, and skin irritations. It is also used to flavour drinks, caulking boats, and for varnishes, ceramics, glues, etc. The fruit is eaten raw. It is small, round, and has a fleshy sweet pulp. The wood is used in making cabinets, in carpentry and general construction. It is also grown as an ornamental. Also known as: Sorvinha, Sorva-miuda, Sorva-pequena, Cuma, Sowa, Sorva, Couba.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of cone
Couma utilis is an evergreen Tree growing to 12 m (39ft) by 10 m (32ft) at a medium rate.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 10.
Suitable for: light (sandy) and medium (loamy) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils and can grow in very acid soils.
It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist soil.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Collophora utilis Mart. Couma dulcis Spruce ex M?ll.Arg. Couma multinervis Monach.

Plant Habitats

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Fruit  Sap
Edible Uses: Drink  Gum  Sweetener

Fruit - raw[ 317 ]. Small and round, looking somewhat like a guava, with an edible sweet, fleshy pulp[ 377 , 420 ]. The flavour is like a mangaba (Hancornia speciosa) with a hint of sapodilla (Manilkara zapota)[ 418 ]. The brown, globose fruit is about 4cm in diameter[ 420 ]. The latex obtained from the tree has a sweet flavour[ 418 ]. It is used as a chewing gum and also to flavour drinks[ 377 ].

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.
Anthelmintic  Antidiarrhoeal  Antiseptic  Skin

The latex obtained from the tree is anthelmintic and antiseptic[ 418 ]. It is eaten to treat diarrhoea, worms and parasites[ 377 , 418 , 739 ]. The latex is applied externally to treat skin irritations[ 418 ].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses

Adhesive  Furniture  Gum  Latex  Straw  Varnish  Waterproofing  Wood

Other Uses: A latex is obtained from tapping the tree[ 317 , 377 ]. Used traditionally for caulking boats[ 317 ]. It is used for a variety of industrial purposes, including varnishes, for ceramics, glues etc[ 317 , 377 ]. The wood is fine-textured, straight-grained, moderately heavy, with moderate mechanical properties and of very low durability. It is used in cabinet-making, carpentry and general construction[ 420 ].

Special Uses

Carbon Farming  Food Forest

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

Industrial Crop: Hydrocarbon  Management: Hay  Regional Crop

A tree of the moist, tropical lowlands where it is found at elevations up to 500 metres[[ 418 ]. It grows best in areas where the temperature ranges from 20 - 30°c, but is able to tolerate a range from 15 - 35°c[ 418 ]. It prefers a mean annual rainfall of 2,000 - 4,000mm, but tolerates from 1,500 - 5,000mm, and is found in areas with a distinct dry season as well as areas of all year round rainfall[ 418 ]. Succeeds in full sun or dappled shade[ 420 ]. Grows wild on white sand soils[ 418 ]. Prefers a pH in the range 4.5 - 6, tolerating from 4 - 6.5[ 418 ]. Established plants are drought tolerant[ 420 ]. Trees have a moderate rate of growth[ 420 ].

Carbon Farming

  • 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: Hay  Cut to the ground and harvested annually. Non-destructive management systems maintaining the soil organic carbon.
  • Regional Crop  These crops have been domesticated and cultivated regionally but have not been adopted elsewhere and are typically not traded globally, Examples in this broad category include perennial cottons and many nuts and staple fruits.

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

Temperature Converter

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Plant Propagation

Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in a lightly shaded position in a nursery seedbed[[ 420 ]. A high germination rate can be expected, with the seeds sprouting within 20 - 40 days[ 420 ]. Transplant the seedlings into individual containers when 4 - 6cm tall, and plant out 5 - 6 months later[ 420 ].

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Other common names are milk tree and couma. Also known as: Sorvinha, Sorva-miuda, Sorva-pequena, Cuma, Sowa, Sorva, Couba.

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Found In

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

Amazon, Brazil, Colombia, Peru, South America, 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 macrocarpaBarca, Milk Tree, Couba, Sorva, Sorva grandeTree25.0 10-12 MLMHSNM423

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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(Mart.) M?ll.Arg.

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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