Sunday, April 22, 2007
Pau Brasil (Caesalpinia echinata)
April 22 is a good date to post a blog about a very special tree here in Brazil. Pau-brasil, alias Pernambuco tree, is the tree from which the country gets its name. It's native of the Mata Atlântica, not the Amazon. Readers may know that this forest used to be about the same size as the Amazon but over the last 500 years it's been reduced to less than 5% of its original area. To a certain extent the cutting of the pau-brasil trees contributed to the destruction of the Mata Atlântica. It's estimated that around 75 million of these trees were cut for exportation to Europe, where the wood was used in making red dye for the fabric industry. By the time synthetic dyes were introduced in the late 1800s, the tree was all but extinct. I have two pau-brasil trees planted at the Bosque. The older one seen in the image was given to me by Mr. Barrosa at SUDAM in July of 2000. It was part of a shipment of seedlings the federal government sent to all schools in Brazil to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the discovery of Brazil by the Portuguese explorer, Pedro Cabral. The date of Cabral´s arrival in Bahia was April 22, 1500. The second pau-brasil at Bosque Santa Lucia was donated by Sr. Dagaberto in October of 2001.