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PlantFiles: Gumbo Limbo, Tourist Tree, Torchwood, Dysentery Bark
Bursera simaruba

Family: Burseraceae
Genus: Bursera (ber-SER-uh) (Info)
Species: simaruba

9 members have or want this plant for trade.


20-30 ft. (6-9 m)
30-40 ft. (9-12 m)
over 40 ft. (12 m)

20-30 ft. (6-9 m)

USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 C (30 F)
USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 C (35 F)
USDA Zone 11: above 4.5 C (40 F)

Sun Exposure:
Full Sun
Sun to Partial Shade


Bloom Color:
Pale Green

Bloom Time:
Mid Spring
Late Spring/Early Summer


Other details:
This plant is attractive to bees, butterflies and/or birds
Drought-tolerant; suitable for xeriscaping

Soil pH requirements:
Unknown - Tell us

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:
From woody stem cuttings

Seed Collecting:
Allow unblemished fruit to ripen; clean and dry seeds

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By TamiMcNally
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By NativePlantFan9
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9 positives
No neutrals
No negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

Positive kimanjo On May 4, 2014, kimanjo from Southgate, FL wrote:

Moved to Sarasota, FL from Key West in 2001 and brought 2 small gumbo limbo branches with me to my new home. Stuck the branches in the dirt behind my house, in the barren backyard, and within 5 years they were each 15 foot trees. The trees were planted about 20 feet from a "lake" which I am sure made them happy. Growth rate was phenomenal and it was very fulfilling to see these trees succeed when local plant specialists told me it was impossible. The gumbo limbos survived below 32 (one winter it hit 29) and never dropped leaves. Unfortunately I had to remove the trees in 2012 (about a decade after I planted them) because they had grown to 25' and the roots had traveled towards my pool, creating a bit of minor damage. Nonetheless these are attractive l trees, well-liked by birds, and if I had a larger yard I would continue to grow them.
I am now going to attempt to grow a Lignum Vitae. "They" say it can't be done here, but I've proved "them" wrong before.

Positive lisa33027 On Aug 15, 2011, lisa33027 from Hollywood, FL wrote:

I started with 4 of these trees, each of them 3 feet tall. Within a few months we had a storm and one of trees lost a large branch. I decided to test the story that they root easily, so I planted the branch. Lo and Behold - it started growing. I was told they are "living fenceposts" in the islands (cut some branches to make a fence and they all start growing). The trees grow fast but took about 3 years to start really filling out. One was beautiful immediatly. For a while 2 looked like gangly teenagers - all skinny and not much shape. One was actually unattractive, like the runt of a litter of dogs. Now, 4 years later - wow!!! They are all full, have WONDERFUL shapes, the bark is red and peeling, and a few started bearing fruit in the Spring. I can't wait until the birds start using them for nests and eat the fruit. I now have 7 trees. I highly recommend this tree!

Positive Roatanman On Sep 24, 2006, Roatanman from Roatan
Honduras wrote:

I have many of these trees on and around my property on Roatan Honduras. By central American standrds they are considered a weak tree and do not hold up well to high winds. They are also know as an "Indio desnudo" or Naked Indian tree.

Positive Chris_Lorry On Jan 10, 2006, Chris_Lorry from Vero Beach, FL (Zone 9b) wrote:

This is a fantastically tough and fast growing tree. In summer 2004 I planted one from a seven gallon container. With minimal care it grew quickly. Three months later Hurricane Frances came along and dropped my neighbor's tin shed directly on top of it. It was flattened to the ground, had every limb broken off, sustained multiple deep wounds to the trunk and was now three feet shorter. I figured it was beyond saving, but I decided I had nothing to lose by giving it a chance to recover. A year and half later it has tripled in size and is going strong. It has also survived a frost and temps as low as 26 F with no visible damage.

Positive DerrickintheKey On Jun 21, 2005, DerrickintheKey from Marathon, FL (Zone 11) wrote:

I live in a new development that has these great trees as our main landscaping item. I have 3 mature trees, with one being very large. It is about 50 feet tall and has a pretty good girth for her trunk. In the spring (late April, early May) the sea sparrows come down and perch in the trees often. This is about the same time that the trees go through the "shedding" stage where they will mimic the trees up north by dropping all their leaves. Don't worry though, this only lasts about a month and then they come back stronger than ever!

They provide welcome relief from the summer sun and provide some great shade. They are great climbing trees too. My neighbor's son comes over and has a ball!

I highly recommend this tree.

Positive MotherNature4 On Jul 29, 2004, MotherNature4 from Bartow, FL (Zone 9a) wrote:

It is called the "tourist tree" because the red bark appears to be sunburned and is peeling.

Positive NativePlantFan9 On Jul 28, 2004, NativePlantFan9 from Boca Raton, FL (Zone 10a) wrote:

Gumbo Limbo is an unusual and excellent tree native to the tropical hardwood hammocks of coastal central and southern Florida, including throughout the Keys. It provides shelter for wildlife, and is an excellent wind-resistant tree. It is readily available in my zone 10 area (grows naturally from zones 9 southward) and one of friends across the street has it in her front yard. She hangs birdfeeders from it which attracts lots of doves, pigeons and some small groups of parakeets. I'd highly recommend this tree for its easy-to-grow habit, unusualness and wildlife benefits.

UPDATE/MORE FACTS - These trees are very easy to grow from cuttings, even of large branches. These trees are also found in the Caribbean and are used to make fences that do not rot easily on many islands in the Caribbean.

Positive TamiMcNally On Jun 13, 2004, TamiMcNally from Lake Placid, FL (Zone 9b) wrote:

One of the most wind-resistant trees in Florida

Fast growth rate

Positive forager1 On Dec 8, 2003, forager1 from Lutz, FL wrote:

Bark and roots good for an ailing stomach and light menstrual cramps. Also known as the living fence-post, a fresh-cut limb planted as a fence-post will grow into another tree.


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Big Pine Key, Florida
Boca Raton, Florida (2 reports)
Dunnellon, Florida
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Hollywood, Florida (3 reports)
Key Largo, Florida
Key West, Florida (2 reports)
Marathon, Florida
Miami, Florida
Naples, Florida
Oldsmar, Florida
Palm Bay, Florida
Pompano Beach, Florida (2 reports)
Port Charlotte, Florida
Saint Petersburg, Florida
Sarasota, Florida (2 reports)
Stuart, Florida
Summerland Key, Florida
Tavernier, Florida
Vero Beach, Florida

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