Last Updated: Feb 21, 2012
The Guanacaste tree (Enterolobium cyclocarpum) is best known for its massive hemispheric crown – a cascade of greenery wider than the tree is tall. Declared the national tree on August 31, 1959, the Guanacaste is native to Costa Rica and is a member of the legume family. It is found along the coasts of Central America, in Cuba and in the lowlands of the Antilles.
Its height varies from 82 to 164 feet, while the trunk is usually six to seven feet in diameter. The term Guanacaste means ear tree, as the species has curled seedpods that resemble ears. The tree is an unmistakable addition to the landscape, especially in the hot and sunny province of Guanacaste: its wide, green canopy resembles a portobello mushroom cap.
The Guanacaste tree is an important part of Costa Rican culture. Its water-resistant wood is easy to work with and commonly used for making handicrafts as well as oxcart wheels and furniture. As a medicinal plant, the tree has been used to treat lung infections and colds; an extract from the bark is also used as a soap substitute.
The Guanacaste tree is said to represent universal equilibrium and sacred creation, the renewal of faith, the power of Mother Nature, and the transient condition of human life. It is a symbol of stability and growth, and its strong and firm roots represent the attachment to life. Its hard trunk expresses human will and its branches are the protectors of creative peace. The tree’s canopy is associated with spiritual consciousness.