Lignum Vitae Guaiacum spp.
Also know as: auyacan, palo santo, greenheart
Guaiacum is a genus of six species of trees native to Central America and the Caribbean. The genus includes G. officinale and G. sanctum, both small (7-10 m in height), slow-growing trees that produce the highly valued wood known as lignum vitae (“wood of life”). It is the densest and hardest wood known. Because the wood is self-oiling, lignum vitae was a popular choice for steamship bearings and for use in equipment like pulleys; composite materials eventually replaced it in marine construction and heavy machinery, and now the wood is mostly used in carvings.
Guaiacum’s woods and resins were also valuable for medicinal purposes, used for conditions ranging from gout to skin infections.
The trees are culturally symbolic in the Caribbean; G. sanctum is the national tree of the Bahamas, while the flower of G. officinale is the national flower of Jamaica.
All species of Guaiacum are listed on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), a listing that applies to all parts and derivatives except seeds and pollen; and finished products packaged and ready for retail trade.