Geographic Setting

The range of the guayacán real extends across, and is limited to, the Caribbean Basin: the Antilles or Caribbean Islands, southern Florida in the United States, some areas of Mexico and Central America, and the northern part of South America.

Guaiacum sanctum vs. guaiacum officinale

The guayacán real is known in other parts of its range as lignum vitae, or tree of life, the name under which its wood is commercially traded.  Interestingly, both the common name and the trade name actually refer equally to two different species: the guaiacum sanctum and the guaiacum officinale. These two sister species belong to the same family: Zygophyllaceae.  Readmore... »

Sinking Roots in History

Getting into history a bit, we find that the indigenous taínos, present in the Caribbean islands for many centuries, knew of the benefits of lignum vitae and of the medicinal qualities of guayacol, the natural oil derived from the tree.  The guayacán real was a central part of the taíno culture.Readmore... »

Extraordinary Qualities

Lignum vitae is a very special wood.  Its properties combine to set it apart from other woods:Readmore... »

Uses and Applications

Due to its qualities, guayacan came to be considered the ideal material for a wide range of uses and applications.Readmore... »

Current World Status

Due to over exploitation of the guayacán real over the past five centuries, in 1975 the species was effectively added to Appendix II of CITES, the “Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora”. Refer to ( »

Information Sources

We have cited various sources in previous sub-chapters, including Web pages of reputable international organizations, which the reader may freely consult.Readmore... »

Status in Costa Rica

In Costa Rica, the guayacán real is classified as a species at risk of extinction, as well as one of the tree species with the most depleted population of adult specimens.

According to the National Biodiversity Institute (INBio), located in Costa Rica, the 1990 inventory of adult guayacán real in the country was around 100 specimensReadmore... »

Renewable vs. Non-renewable Natural Resources

The growth rate of the guayacán real is so slow that a tree that has reached around 40-50 cm in diameter, barely 50-60% of its terminal size, has already been growing for several – one could easily say ‘many’ – centuries.  Therefore, the species is essentially a non-renewable resource, for all practical purposes, in the sense that renewal takes place over many human generations.  A generation that cuts a guayacán real cannot hope to renew, or replace, this resource with a similar resource over any practical time span.Leer mas... »

Its Role at San Lorenzo

Guided by the concepts of environmental restoration, biodiversity and extinction prevention, as noted at the beginning of this chapter, priority at San Lorenzo was given to the planting of guayacán real (Guaiacum sanctum).  This is the emblematic species of the dry tropical forest, and the symbol of Bahía Salinas and the surrounding area.Readmore... »

Planting Guayacán Real at San Lorenzo

At San Lorenzo, we have seen how the shade of adult trees and diverse species can stimulate the growth of guayacán real saplings.Readmore... »


Our experience in San Lorenzo has proven that it is not necessary to wait hundreds of years to enjoy the benefits of planting guayacán real.Readmore... »


In the San Lorenzo reforestation project, priority was given to the guayacán real (Guaiacum sanctum) for various reasons, including:Readmore... »