Ocotea is a genus of flowering plant
Flowering plant
The flowering plants , also known as Angiospermae or Magnoliophyta, are the most diverse group of land plants. Angiosperms are seed-producing plants like the gymnosperms and can be distinguished from the gymnosperms by a series of synapomorphies...

s belonging to the family Lauraceae
The Lauraceae or Laurel family comprises a group of flowering plants included in the order Laurales. The family contains about 55 genera and over 3500, perhaps as many as 4000, species world-wide, mostly from warm or tropical regions, especially Southeast Asia and South America...

. The genus includes over 200 species
In biology, a species is one of the basic units of biological classification and a taxonomic rank. A species is often defined as a group of organisms capable of interbreeding and producing fertile offspring. While in many cases this definition is adequate, more precise or differing measures are...

 of evergreen
In botany, an evergreen plant is a plant that has leaves in all seasons. This contrasts with deciduous plants, which completely lose their foliage during the winter or dry season.There are many different kinds of evergreen plants, both trees and shrubs...

 trees and shrubs, distributed mostly in tropical and subtropical regions of Central and South America, the West Indies, also with a few species in Africa and Madagascar
The Republic of Madagascar is an island country located in the Indian Ocean off the southeastern coast of Africa...

, and one, O. foetens
Ocotea foetens
Ocotea foetens is a species of tree up to 40 m tall in the Lauraceae family. It is a common constituent in the laurisilva forests of the archipelagoes of Macaronesia: Madeira and Azores , and Canaries . It is commonly called "Til", "Tilo", "Stinkwood", Garoé, Oreodaphne foetens or Rain tree of...

(Til or Tilo), native to the islands of Macaronesia
Macaronesia is a modern collective name for several groups of islands in the North Atlantic Ocean near Europe and North Africa belonging to three countries: Portugal, Spain, and Cape Verde...


There is no standard common name for the genus as a whole; some more or less ambiguous terms are used instead which all refer to Ocotea wood's aromatic, sometimes even nauseatingly pungent smell. Sweetwood is perhaps the best term, as it is hardly ever used for other plants. "Camphorwood" is usually Cinnamomum camphora (a close relative of Ocotea), whereas "rosewood
Rosewood refers to any of a number of richly hued timbers, often brownish with darker veining, but found in many different hues. All rosewoods are strong and heavy, taking an excellent polish, being suitable for guitars, marimbas, turnery , handles, furniture, luxury flooring, etc.In general,...

are normally Dalbergia
Dalbergia is a large genus of small to medium-size trees, shrubs and lianas in the pea family, Fabaceae, subfamily Faboideae. The genus has a wide distribution, native to the tropical regions of Central and South America, Africa, Madagascar and southern Asia...

or related Fabaceae
The Fabaceae or Leguminosae, commonly known as the legume, pea, or bean family, is a large and economically important family of flowering plants. The group is the third largest land plant family, behind only the Orchidaceae and Asteraceae, with 730 genera and over 19,400 species...

 (which are not closely related to Ocotea). "Stinkwood
Stinkwood is the common name for a number of trees or shrubs which have wood with an unpleasant odour, including:*Celtis africana – native to South Africa...

can refer to any number of quite unrelated trees with bad-smelling wood. Common names of some species refer to their similarity to other Lauraceae
The Lauraceae or Laurel family comprises a group of flowering plants included in the order Laurales. The family contains about 55 genera and over 3500, perhaps as many as 4000, species world-wide, mostly from warm or tropical regions, especially Southeast Asia and South America...

 such as laurel
Bay Laurel
The bay laurel , also known as sweet bay, bay tree, true laurel, Grecian laurel, laurel tree, or simply laurel, is an aromatic evergreen tree or large shrub with green, glossy leaves, native to the Mediterranean region. It is the source of the bay leaf used in cooking...

 or sassafras
Sassafras is a genus of three extant and one extinct species of deciduous trees in the family Lauraceae, native to eastern North America and eastern Asia.-Overview:...


Ecology and uses

Ocotea species are characteristic plants of many montane
In biogeography, montane is the highland area located below the subalpine zone. Montane regions generally have cooler temperatures and often have higher rainfall than the adjacent lowland regions, and are frequently home to distinct communities of plants and animals.The term "montane" means "of the...

 cloud forest
Cloud forest
A cloud forest, also called a fog forest, is a generally tropical or subtropical evergreen montane moist forest characterized by a persistent, frequent or seasonal low-level cloud cover, usually at the canopy level. Cloud forests often exhibit an abundance of mosses covering the ground and...

* Habitat , a place where a species lives and grows*Human habitat, a place where humans live, work or play** Space habitat, a space station intended as a permanent settlement...

s in the Tropics
The tropics is a region of the Earth surrounding the Equator. It is limited in latitude by the Tropic of Cancer in the northern hemisphere at approximately  N and the Tropic of Capricorn in the southern hemisphere at  S; these latitudes correspond to the axial tilt of the Earth...

. Climatically
Climate encompasses the statistics of temperature, humidity, atmospheric pressure, wind, rainfall, atmospheric particle count and other meteorological elemental measurements in a given region over long periods...

 they are generally subtropic rather than fully tropic, occurring in the warmest parts of the Earth preferentially at higher altitudes. They are characteristic members of ecological communities like many Afromontane
Afromontane is a term used to describe the Afrotropic subregion and its plant and animal species common to the mountains of Africa and the southern Arabian Peninsula...

Biomes are climatically and geographically defined as similar climatic conditions on the Earth, such as communities of plants, animals, and soil organisms, and are often referred to as ecosystems. Some parts of the earth have more or less the same kind of abiotic and biotic factors spread over a...

s, Araucaria moist forests
Araucaria moist forests
The Araucaria moist forests are a subtropical moist forest ecoregion of southern Brazil and northeastern Argentina.-Setting:The Araucaria moist forests cover an area of , encompassing a region of mountains and plateaus in the Brazilian states of São Paulo, Paraná, Santa Catarina, and Rio Grande do...

, Knysna-Amatole montane forests
Knysna-Amatole montane forests
The Knysna-Amatole montane forests ecoregion, of the Tropical and subtropical moist broadleaf forests Biome, is in South Africa. It covers an Afromontane area of in South Africa's Eastern Cape and Western Cape provinces.-Setting:...

, Laurisilva
Laurisilva or laurissilva is a subtropical forest, found in areas with high humidity and relatively stable and mild temperatures. They are characterised by evergreen, glossy-leaved tree species that look alike with leaves of lauroide type...

 and Talamancan montane forests
Talamancan montane forests
The Talamancan montane forests ecoregion, in the tropical moist broadleaf forest biome, are in montane Costa Rica and Panama in Central America.-Setting:...

, but also Madagascar lowland forests
Madagascar lowland forests
The Madagascar lowland forests are a tropical moist broadleaf forest ecoregion, found on the eastern coast of the island of Madagascar.-Setting:...


Caterpillars are the larval form of members of the order Lepidoptera . They are mostly herbivorous in food habit, although some species are insectivorous. Caterpillars are voracious feeders and many of them are considered to be pests in agriculture...

s of the enigmatic hawkmoth Adhemarius dariensis
Adhemarius dariensis
Adhemarius dariensis is a species of moth in the Sphingidae family. It is known from Costa Rica, Mexico, Nicaragua and Panama.The wingspan is 107-111 mm for males and 124 mm for females. Adults are probably on wing year round....

are suspected to feed on O. atirrensis, O. dendrodaphne and O. veraguensis. The chalcid wasp
Chalcid wasp
Chalcid wasps belong to the insect order Hymenoptera, and are one of the largest groups within the order, with some 22,000 known species, and an estimated total diversity of anywhere from 60,000 to more than 500,000 species, meaning the vast majority have yet to be discovered and described.Most of...

 Aprostocetus bahiensis is found on and about O. opoifera; it may be that its larva
A larva is a distinct juvenile form many animals undergo before metamorphosis into adults. Animals with indirect development such as insects, amphibians, or cnidarians typically have a larval phase of their life cycle...

e feed on the tree, but it is more likely that they are parasitoid
A parasitoid is an organism that spends a significant portion of its life history attached to or within a single host organism in a relationship that is in essence parasitic; unlike a true parasite, however, it ultimately sterilises or kills, and sometimes consumes, the host...

s of some undetermined pest of the tree.

Use by humans

Plants of the genus produce essential oil
Essential oil
An essential oil is a concentrated hydrophobic liquid containing volatile aroma compounds from plants. Essential oils are also known as volatile oils, ethereal oils or aetherolea, or simply as the "oil of" the plant from which they were extracted, such as oil of clove...

s, and Peruvian Rosewood (O. cernua), Brazilian Sassafras (O. odorifera) and East African Camphorwood (O. usambarensis) are traded internationally. Dried fruit cupule
The calybium and the cupule make up the accessory fruit of flowering plants in the family Fagaceae. These two parts derive from different flower components....

s of Ishpingo (O. quixos
Ocotea quixos
Otherwise known in Quechua as Ishpingo , Ocotea quixos is a species of tree found in Ecuador and Colombia...

) are used in Ecuador to flavor beverages, such as Colada Morada
Colada morada
Colada morada is a typical Ecuadorian beverage prepared with black corn flour and fruits such as naranjilla, babaco, pineapple, blackberries, strawberries, and blueberries...


These oils are rich in camphor
Camphor is a waxy, white or transparent solid with a strong, aromatic odor. It is a terpenoid with the chemical formula C10H16O. It is found in wood of the camphor laurel , a large evergreen tree found in Asia and also of Dryobalanops aromatica, a giant of the Bornean forests...

 and safrole
Safrole, also known as shikimol, is a phenylpropene. It is a colorless or slightly yellow oily liquid. It is typically extracted from the root-bark or the fruit of sassafras plants in the form of sassafras oil , or synthesized from other related methylenedioxy...

; a common trade name for South American produce is "Ocotea cymbarum oil", which has led to confusion whether that name is a junior synonym of Brazilian Sassafras or a distinct species with different properties. This oil is used as a source of safrole in the production of the party drug
Recreational drug use
Recreational drug use is the use of a drug, usually psychoactive, with the intention of creating or enhancing recreational experience. Such use is controversial, however, often being considered to be also drug abuse, and it is often illegal...

MDMA is an entactogenic drug of the phenethylamine and amphetamine class of drugs. In popular culture, MDMA has become widely known as "ecstasy" , usually referring to its street pill form, although this term may also include the presence of possible adulterants...


A few species are harvested for commercial timber
Timber may refer to:* Timber, a term common in the United Kingdom and Australia for wood materials * Timber, Oregon, an unincorporated community in the U.S...

, including O. puberula
Ocotea puberula
Ocotea puberula is a species of plant in the Lauraceae family. It is found in Argentina, Brazil, French Guiana, Guyana, Mexico, Peru, and Suriname.-References:* Pedralli, G. 1998. . Downloaded on 22 August 2007....

of Central and South America and Black Stinkwood or True Stinkwood (O. bullata) of South Africa.

Sweetwoods make useful honey plants. Most frequently Brazilian Sassafras and O. kuhlmanni are employed for this purpose.

Selected species

Delimitation to Nectandra
Nectandra is a genus of plant in family Lauraceae.-Overview:Plants from this genus have been used in the treatment of several clinical disorders in humans. It has been demonstrated that Nectandra plants have potential analgesic, antiinflammatory, febrifuge, energetic and hypotensive activities...

and other close relatives is problematic. Povedadaphne
Povedadaphne is a genus of plant in family Lauraceae. They are evergreen "lauroide" trees belonging to the tropical Laurel forest habitat, a type of Cloud forest in Costa Rica, in Central America.-Overview:...

may belong into the present genus.

Formerly placed here

  • Chlorocardium rodiei (Bibiru, "greenheart
    Greenheart is a common name for several different plants:*Chlorocardium rodiei , a tree native to Guyana in northern South America.*Colubrina arborescens , a shrub native to Florida and the Caribbean....

    "), as Ocotea rodiei
  • Nectandra coriacea, as O. catesbyana, O. coriacea, Lancewood

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.