Fabaceae Lindl.

Hymenaea L.

This genus is accepted, and its native range is Mexico to Tropical America, Kenya to Mozambique, W. Indian Ocean.


Legumes of the World. Edited by G. Lewis, B. Schrire, B. MacKinder & M. Lock. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. (2005)


The Detarieae sens. lat. are pantropical in distribution, with c. 58% of the genera confined to Africa (incl. Madagascar), c. 20% to the Neotropics, and c. 12% to tropical Asia. Only Copaifera, Crudia and Cynometra are pantropical (and all possibly non monophyletic) and Afzelia, Guibourtia, Hymenaea, Intsia and Sindora are native to at least two of these regions. The apparent high level of diversity in the African tropics may in part be an artefact of the (relatively) greater taxonomic effort that has been invested in the study of the African taxa. Characteristic of African Detarieae taxonomy has been the splitting off of disparate elements as segregate genera, while this has often not been the case in the Neotropics. Both regions, however, currently contain large paraphyletic assemblages requiring detailed species-level analysis. Eighty-two genera and from (729) – 747 – (765) species are treated here in Detarieae sens. lat. (Fig. 21). Of the 132 (extant) species so far assessed for IUCN red data status, 97 have categories of threat. Of these 73 are assessed as vulnerable, 13 are endangered and 11 are critically endangered.

The remarkable range and complex patterns of floral modifications found in the Detarieae sens. lat. have proved a considerable challenge to the establishment of widely accepted and clearly circumscribed generic groupings. Based on the work of Léonard (1957) and Cowan & Polhill (1981a & b), ten informal groups of genera were proposed; the Cynometra, Hymenostegia, Hymenaea, Crudia, Detarium and Brownea groups in tribe Detarieae, and the Berlinia, Macrolobium, Amherstia and Brachystegia groups in tribe Amherstieae. Genera with imbricate bracteole aestivation were assigned to Detarieae whilst those with valvate bracteole aestivation were placed in Amherstieae. Polhill (1994) retained these generic groupings with a few additions to accommodate recently described genera, and merged the two tribes into a single broadly defined tribe, Detarieae sens. lat. Breteler (1995) proposed the recognition of two tribes within Detarieae sens. lat., separated according to the relative size and position of the paired bracteoles before anthesis. Essentially, this resulted in the reassignment of Cowan & Polhill’s Amherstia group genera (Amherstia, Tamarindus and Humboldtia) from Amherstieae to Detarieae with the remaining genera forming tribe Macrolobieae. In 1999, Breteler (pers. comm.) proposed a modified Breteler (1995) tribal system in which Macrolobieae was maintained, the circumscription of Detarieae was greatly narrowed and the genera newly excluded from Detarieae were together recognised as Cynometreae sens. strict.

The first comprehensive studies of phylogenetic relationships in tribe Detarieae sens. lat., were the analyses of Bruneau et al. (2000; 2001), based on nucleotide sequence data from the chloroplast trnL intron. They found that tribes Detarieae and Macrolobieae formed a well supported monophyletic group, which included all genera placed previously in Detarieae sens. lat., except Umtiza. Bruneau et al. (2000) examined 71 genera, with the African taxa most widely sampled. The key results of the analysis were that none of the generic groupings proposed by Cowan and Polhill (1981a & b) and Polhill (1994) were supported as strictly monophyletic, and the majority of the members of tribe Macrolobieae (although not Macrolobium) were placed as a monophyletic group derived within Detarieae sens. lat. These analyses also repeatedly recognised a second group of related genera made up entirely of resin-producing taxa, with the exception of some species of Guibourtia. The resins can be seen as translucent gland dots in the leaflets and (sometimes) other organs. Within the resin producing taxa, the genus Prioria and several members of Cowan & Polhill’s Crudia group were consistently placed together (see taxonomic notes under individual genera in main text). Another subclade within the resin-producing Detarieae comprising six members of Polhill’s Detarium group was repeatedly recognised (Bruneau et al., 2000; 2001; Fougère-Danezan et al., 2003). In addition, in the trnL intron analysis, the five sampled members of Cowan and Polhill’s Brownea group were consistently placed together with Macrolobium, although this grouping was not upheld in a more recent molecular and combined molecular-morphological analysis (Herendeen et al., 2003a). Within the exclusively African Macrolobieae of Bruneau et al. (2001), a well supported subclade of six genera was recognised by Gervais & Bruneau (2002) and as the ‘babjit’ clade sensu Wieringa & Gervais (2003). Bruneau et al. (2000; 2001) confirmed the view of Polhill (1994) that the two tribes Detarieae and Macrolobieae (sensu Breteler, 1995) are best considered a single entity. Evidence from ontogenetic studies by Tucker (2000, 2001, 2002a) challenged the validity of bracteole aestivation as a criterion for subdividing Detarieae sens. lat. and identified a set of character states associated with two modes of floral development (Circular and Omega) whose distribution amongst detarioid genera does not support Polhill’s groups.

The analyses of Herendeen et al. (2003a) united a morphological dataset with the chloroplast trnL intron dataset of Bruneau et al. (2001). The combined analysis provided mixed results within Detarieae sens. lat. compared with the molecular dataset alone. Near the base of the clade, and within some subclades, greater resolution was provided but as several groups were not well supported, it would be premature to emphasise the details of this greater resolution. Elsewhere the addition of morphological characters produced weaker resolution and a less robust phylogeny due either to conflicting phylogenetic signal or increased homoplasy in the morphological data or both. The order of taxa followed here (Fig. 21) represents a synthesis of the present understanding of putative relationships within this (perhaps most morphologically diverse) tribe in the Leguminosae. Unsampled genera in the combined analysis are inserted into this order where morphological evidence appears to suggest close relationships.

Whilst significant progress has been made since Polhill (1994), further studies (particularly including the non-African members of the larger and less well understood genera) are needed before a new comprehensive classification of the Detarieae sens. lat., based on a synthesis of all available data, can be established.

Moderately well supported as sister to Guibourtia by Herendeen et al. (2003a) although sampling incomplete; Poinar (1991) described a fossil species (H. protera Poinar), from the Dominican Republic which he considered closely resembled the African H. verrucosa Gaertn.
jatoba, courbaril, guapinol, algarrobo, Zanzibar copal, S American copal
Trees or shrubs
Tropical riverine and inundated forest to seasonally dry forest, woodland, thorn forest, bushland and thicket, often on slopes
tropical S America with centres in Amazonia and coastal Atlantic forest (c. 6 spp.) and dryland NE to SE Brazil (5 spp.; one of which extends to Paraguay and Argentina); 1 sp. widespread in the Neotropics (extending to C America, the Caribbean and Mexico); 1 sp. endemic to Cuba, allied to a single species in coastal E Africa, Madagascar and the Mascarene Islands


Leguminosae, R.K. Brummitt, A.C. Chikuni, J.M. Lock & R.M. Polhill. Flora Zambesiaca 3:2. 2007

Morphology General Habit
Trees, evergreen, unarmed.
Morphology Leaves
Leaves with a single pair of leaflets, with pellucid gland dots; petiolules short, twisted; stipules small, early caducous.
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers
Flowers in panicles, spirally arranged on the ultimate axes; bracts concave, caducous; bracteoles 2, enclosing the young bud, imbricate, caducous.
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Hypanthium
Hypanthium short.
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Calyx
Sepals 4, unequal (2 + 2), imbricate.
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Corolla
Petals 3 large and 2 minute; sometimes all 5 large.
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Androecium Stamens
Stamens 10; anthers dorsifixed, dehiscing by longitudinal slits.
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Gynoecium Pistil
Ovary stipitate; ovules usually 4; style elongated, filiform; stigma terminal, small.
Morphology Reproductive morphology Fruits
Pods ovoid or ellipsoidal, the epicarp hard with numerous prominent resin-filled vesicles, indehiscent; endocarp pithy-powdery.
Morphology Reproductive morphology Seeds
Seeds 1–3, without areole or aril.


Leguminosae, J. B. Gillett, R. M. Polhill & B. Verdcourt. Flora of Tropical East Africa. 1971

Morphology General Habit
Unarmed evergreen tree
Morphology Leaves
Leaves with a single pair of leaflets; stipules lateral, free, very small, very quickly falling off; leaflets opposite, with numerous pellucid gland-dots
Morphology Reproductive morphology Inflorescences
Inflorescence paniculate; flowers spirally arranged along the racemose ultimate branches; pedicels jointed at base; bracteoles large, well-developed, concavo-convex, ± completely concealing the very young flower-buds, one bracteole overlapping the other by its margins, both caducous before the flower opens
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Receptacle
Receptacle short
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Calyx
Sepals 4, imbricate (2 outer, 2 inner)
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Corolla
Petals 5: upper 3 large, clawed, lower 2 very small, or occasionally all 5 well-developed and subequal
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Androecium Stamens
Stamens 10, free
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Gynoecium Pistil
Ovary stipitate; ovules 4; style long; stigma small, capitate
Morphology Reproductive morphology Fruits
Pod indehiscent, thick, woody, ± resinous-warted, with a pithy endocarp, 1–3-seeded
Morphology Reproductive morphology Seeds
Seeds hard, ± ellipsoid.

Resin (referred to as S American or Zanzibar copal , depending on the species) is used for incense, glue, varnish, shellac and as traditional medicines; other uses include edible fruits, timber ( algarrobo, jatoba, courbaril, guapinol ) for construction, high quality furniture, cabinetry, veneers, joinery, panelling, turnery, musical instruments and boat building, the bark is used for canoes, and some species are cultivated as ornamentals

Native to:

Belize, Bolivia, Brazil North, Brazil Northeast, Brazil South, Brazil Southeast, Brazil West-Central, Colombia, Comoros, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Kenya, Leeward Is., Madagascar, Mauritius, Mexico Central, Mexico Gulf, Mexico Northwest, Mexico Southeast, Mexico Southwest, Mozambique, Nicaragua, Panamá, Paraguay, Peru, Puerto Rico, Réunion, Suriname, Tanzania, Trinidad-Tobago, Venezuela, Venezuelan Antilles, Windward Is.

Introduced into:

Benin, Borneo, China Southeast, Congo, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, India, Ivory Coast, Jawa, Malaya, Philippines, Senegal, Seychelles, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Uganda, Zimbabwe

Hymenaea L. appears in other Kew resources:

Date Reference Identified As Barcode Type Status Has image?
Feb 5, 2008 Tschá, M. [642], Pernambuco K000834252 Yes
Feb 5, 2008 Hora, M.J. [49], Pernambuco K000834251 Yes
Feb 5, 2008 Freire, E. [54], Pernambuco K000834250 Yes
Jan 1, 1998 Clarke, D. [4426], Guyana K000404329 Yes
Jan 1, 1988 Thomas, W. [5313], Brazil K000404320 Yes
Jan 1, 1985 Rabelo, B.V. [3052], Brazil K000404296 Yes
Dec 12, 1978 Philcox, D. [4116], Brazil K000404307 Yes
Jan 1, 1976 Ramos, J.F. [P22546], Brazil K000404308 Yes
Rico, L. [1480], Bolivia K000295368 No
Harley, R. [3702], Bahia K000834253 Yes
Schatz, G.E. [801], Brazil K000404310 Yes
Queiroz, L.P. [3447], Brazil K000404325 Yes
Arbo, M.M. [7482], Brazil K000404327 Yes
Jansen-Jacobs, M.J. [1365], Guyana K000404324 Yes
Balée, W.L. [880], Brazil K000404312 Yes
Silva, J.M. [5956], Minas Gerais K000834247 Yes
Heringer, E.P. [988], Brazil K000404298 Yes
Ferreira, C.A.C. [9492], Brazil K000404301 Yes
Guedes, M.L. [PCB 5425], Brazil K000404331 Yes
Saar, E. [PCD5318], Brazil K000404333 Yes
Figueirêdo, L. [253], Pernambuco K000834249 Yes
Hora, M.J. [52], Pernambuco K000834241 Yes
Arostegui V., A. [111], Peru K000404318 Yes
Hatschbach, G. [38970], Brazil K000404299 Yes
Ferreira, C.A.C.. [7712], Brazil K000404322 Yes
Vilhena, R. [1012], Brazil K000404319 Yes
Giulietti, A.M. [6074], Brazil K000404330 Yes
Milliken, W. [822], Brazil K000404124 Yes
Schatz, G.E. [846], Brazil K000404311 Yes
Silva, M.A. [3838], Brazil K000404328 Yes
Hunt, D.R. [5713], Brazil K000404313 Yes
Hatschbach, G. [38369], Brazil K000404303 Yes
Ferreira, L.V. [67], Brazil K000404300 Yes
Souza, V.C. [5378], Bahia K000834243 Yes
Freire, E. [60], Pernambuco K000834248 Yes
Rico, L. [1460], Bolivia K000295377 Yes
Ferreira, C.A.C. [7090], Brazil K000404321 Yes
Hunt, D.R. [5713], Brazil K000404314 Yes
Souza, V.C. [5378], Bahia K000834245 Yes
Vargas, A.A. [131], Peru K000404317 Yes
White, C.E. [s.n.], Amazonas K000834991 Yes
Souza, V.C. [5378], Bahia K000834244 Yes
Stannard, B. [5355], Brazil K000404326 Yes
Carvalho, A.M. [2087], Brazil K000404309 Yes
Cordeiro, J. [2730], Santa Catarina K000834246 Yes
Ezechias, P. [14064], Brazil K000404295 Yes
Hora, M.J. [52], Pernambuco K000834242 Yes
Carvalho, A.M. [3162], Brazil K000404315 Yes
Thomas, W. [9571], Brazil K000404316 Yes
Queiroz, L.P. [4128], Brazil K000404294 Yes
Passos, L. [PCD 4951], Brazil K000404332 Yes
Ferreira, C.A.C. [7946], Brazil K000404323 Yes
Bernardi, L. [18272], Paraguay K000404297 Yes
Hatschbach, G. [45959], Brazil K000404302 Yes

First published in Sp. Pl.: 1192 (1753)

Accepted by

  • Govaerts, R., Nic Lughadha, E., Black, N., Turner, R. & Paton, A. (2021). The World Checklist of Vascular Plants, a continuously updated resource for exploring global plant diversity. Scientific Data 8: 215.


Kew Bulletin

  • BFG (2015). Growing knowledge: an overview of Seed Plant diversity in Brazil. Rodriguesia 66(4): 1085 -1113.
  • Bruneau, A., Breteler, F.J, Klitgaard, B. B., Prenner, G., Fougere-Danezan, M. & Tucker, S. C. (2014). Floral evolution in the Detarieae (Leguminosae): Phylogenetic evidence for labile floral development in an early-diverging legume lineage. Int. J. Pl. Sci. 175(4): 392 - 417.
  • Bruneau, A., Breteler, F.J, Mercure, M., Lewis, G. P. & Herendeen, P. S. (2008). Phylogenetic patterns and diversification in the caesalpinioid legumes. Botany 86: 697 - 718.
  • Bruneau, A., Breteler, F.J., Wieringa, J.J., Gervais, G.Y.F. & Forest, F. (2000). Phylogenetic relationships in tribes Macrolobieae and Detarieae inferred from chloroplast trnL intron sequences. In: P. S. Herendeen & A. Bruneau (eds), Advances in legume systematics, part 9, pp. 121 - 149. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
  • Cardoso, D. B. O. S., Queiroz, L. P. & Lima, H. C. (2008). Three new species of Luetzelburgia (Leguminosae, Papilionoideae) from the caatinga of Bahia, Brazil and an identification key to all species of the genus. Kew Bull. 63: 289 - 300.
  • Carneiro-Torres, D. S., Cordeiro, I., Giulietti, A. M., Berry, P. E. & Riina, R. (2011). Three new species of Croton (Euphorbiaceae s.s.) from the Brazilian Caatinga. Brittonia 63: 122 - 132.
  • Clemente, M. E. A. (2007). Cangayo e Cangaceiros: Historias e Imagens Fotograficas do Tempo de Lampiao. Revista Hist. Estud. Cult. 4(4): 1 - 15.
  • Cordula, E., Queiroz, L. P. & Alves, M. (2008). Checklist da Flora de Mirandiba, Pernambuco: Leguminosae. Rodriguesia 59(3): 597 - 602.
  • Fougere-Danezan, M., Herendeen, P. S., Maumont, S. & Bruneau, A. (2010). Morphological evolution in the variable resin-producing Detarieae (Fabaceae): do morpho­logical characters retain a phylogenetic signal? Ann. Bot. 105: 311 - 325.
  • Fougere-Danezan, M., Maumont, S. & Bruneau, A. (2007). Relationships among resin producing Detarieae s.l. (Leguminosae) as inferred by molec­ular data. Syst. Bot. 32(4): 748 - 761.
  • Goto, B. T., Silva, G. A., Maia, L. C. & Oehl, F. (2010). Dentiscutata colliculosa,anewspeciesinthe Glomeromycetes from Northeastern Brazil with colliculate spore ornamentation. Nova Hedwigia 90: 383 - 393.
  • IUCN Standards and Petitions Subcommittee. (2016). GuidelinesforUsingtheIUCNRedListCategoriesandCriteria. Version 12. Prepared by the IUCN species survival commission. IUCN Council, Gland and Cambridge. Available from: 02 Aug. 2016).
  • LPWG (The Legume Phylogeny Working Group) (2013). Legume phylogeny and classification in the 21st century: Progress, prospects and lessons for other species-rich clades. Taxon 62: 217 - 248
  • LPWG, (2017). A new subfamily classification of the Leguminosae based on a taxonomically compre­hensive phylogeny. Taxon 66: 44 - 77.
  • Lee,Y.T.&Langenheim,J.H.(1975). Systematicsofthegenus Hymenaea L., Leguminosae, Caesalpinioideae, Detarieae. University of California Publications Press, Berkeley.
  • Linares-Palomino, R., Oliveira-Filho, A. T. & Pennington, R. T. (2011). Neotropical seasonally dry forests: diversity, endemism, and biogeography of woody plants. In: R.Dirzo,H.S.Young,H.A.Mooney & G. Ceballos (eds), Seasonally dry tropical forests: ecology and conservation, pp. 3 - 21. Island Press, Washington.
  • Moro, M. F., Lughadha, E. N., Filer, D. L., Araujo, F. S. & Martins, F. R. (2014). A catalogue of the vascular plants of the Caatinga Phytogeographic Domain: a synthesis of floristic and phytosociological survey. Phytotaxa 160(1): 001 - 118.
  • Olson, D. M., Dinerstein, E., Wikramanayake, E. D., Burgess,N.D.,Powell,G.V.N.,Underwood,E.C., D'Amico,J.A.,Itoua,I.,Strand,H.E.,Morrison,J.C., Loucks, C. J., Allnutt, T. F., Ricketts, T. H., Kura, Y., Lamoreux,J.F.,Wettengel,W.W.,Hedao,P.&Kassem, K. R. (2001). Terrestrial ecoregions ofthe world: a new map of life on Earth. BioScience 51: 933 - 938.
  • Pinto, R. B., Mansano, V. F. & Tozzi, A. M. G. A. (2015). Reestablishment of Hymenaea travassii (Leguminosae, Caesalpinioideae), a species endem­ic to the Bolivian Chaco. Phytotaxa 219(1): 96 - 100.
  • Polhill, R. M. (1994). Classification of the Leguminosae & complete synopsis oflegume genera. In: F. A. Bisby, Buckingham & J. B. Harborne (eds), Phytochemical dictionary of the Leguminosae. Vol. 1. Plants and their constituents ,pp.35- 57. Chapman & Hall, London.
  • Queiroz, L. P. (2009). Leguminosas da caatinga. Associayao Plantas do Nordeste, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
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  • Ribeiro, R. D., Cardoso, D. B. O. S. & Lima, H. C. (2015). A new species of Hymenaea (Leguminosae: Caesalpinioideae) with a revised identification key to the genus in the Brazilian Atlantic Forest. Syst. Bot. 40(1): 151 - 156.
  • Souza, I. M., Funch, L. S. & Queiroz, L. P. (2014). Morphological analyses suggest a new taxonomic circumscription for Hymenaea courbaril L. (Leguminosae, Caesalpinioideae). PhytoKeys 38: 101 - 118.
  • Taddei, V. A. & Lim, B. K. (2010). A new species of Chiroderma (Chiroptera, Phyllostomidae) from Northeastern Brazil. Brazil. J. Biol. 70(2): 381 - 386.
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Flora Zambesiaca

  • Gen. Pl., ed. 5: 499 (1754).
  • Lee & Langenheim in Univ. Calif. Publ. Bot. 69: 1–109 (1975).
  • Sp. Pl.: 1192 (1753)

  • Flora Zambesiaca

    Flora Zambesiaca

  • Flora of Tropical East Africa

    Flora of Tropical East Africa

  • Herbarium Catalogue Specimens

    Digital Image © Board of Trustees, RBG Kew

  • Kew Backbone Distributions

    The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families 2022. Published on the Internet at and
    © Copyright 2017 World Checklist of Selected Plant Families.

  • Kew Names and Taxonomic Backbone

    The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families 2022. Published on the Internet at and
    © Copyright 2017 International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families.

  • Legumes of the World Online