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Ipe (tree)

Ipe is a tree of the genus Tabebuia (formerly Tecoma), belonging to the Bignoniaceae family.

Ipe (tree)

Article available in: PT-BR

Last update: 13/02/2017

By: Semira Adler Vainsencher - N/I

Ipe is a tree of the genus Tabebuia (formerly Tecoma), belonging to the Bignoniaceae family, and can be found in its native state throughout Brazil. For many centuries, ipe – also called pau-d’arco in the North – has been appreciated both for the excellent quality of its wood and for its ornamental, decorative, and even medicinal effects.
The ipe tree is tall, well-crowned, and in the period of flowering it has a peculiarity: it is totally devoid of leaves. These give way to the flowers – yellow-gold, white or purple – that paint beautiful colourful spots in the country’s landscapes. The ipe flowers from July to September and bears fruit in September and October. Its wood is beautiful, olive-brown or reddish brown and with darker resinous veins. The leaves appear after the flowering period with 5 to 7 leaflets. However in winter, the tree is totally stripped of leaves and flowers.

Ipe wood is highly valued. Due to its strength, hardness and flexibility, it has always been considered a hardwood. Another advantage that it has is that it can withstand moisture. In this way, its wood is used in civil and naval constructions (keel production), in bridge construction, in the manufacture of posts and sleepers, floorboards, girders, beams, walking sticks and many others. Ipe is also planted in parks and gardens, providing urban forestation.

The various varieties of ipe are named according to the colours of their flowers or wood. It is worth highlighting that bignoniaceae are generally distributed among 120 genera with about 800 species. The most noteworthy, however, are the following:

1. yellow or common ipe (tecoma longiflora) – can reach 25 metres in height, common to Minas Gerais, Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Mato Grosso and Goiás;

2. white or cassioca ipe (tecoma Alba) – found in the States of Minas Gerais, Rio de Janeiro and Paraná;

3. tobacco ipe (tecoma insignis) – the tree is shorter than the others, but with plenty of branches;

4. contra-a-sarna [anti-scabies] ipe (tecoma impetiginosa);

5. purple or pink ipe (tecoma heptaphylla) – is found from Piauí to Minas Gerais, São Paulo and Goiás;

6. swamp ipe (tecoma umbellata) – is more common in wetlands and mangroves of the rivers of Minas Gerais and São Paulo.

The ipe bark, wood and leaf have medicinal properties and are used in the treatment of amyloidosis, stomatitis, renal infections, dermatitis, varicose veins and certain eye diseases. They are also considered as antidiarrhoeal, anti-inflammatory, anti-infective, anti-tumour, febrile and scar removing.

However, not everyone knows that among the country’s vast universe of native plants, the ipe has always been considered Brazil’s national tree. So on 7 December 1978, Law No. 6507 declared that Brazilwood (caesalpinia echinata) would be the National Tree, and that the ipe flower would be the national flower. It also established that 3 May would henceforth be Brazilwood Day.

Recife, 26 July 2004.
(Updated on 31 January 2008).
Translated by Peter Leamy, December 2016.

sources consulted

CRUZ, G. L. Livro verde das plantas medicinais e industriais do Brasil. Belo Horizonte: Velloso, 1965. v. 2.

ENCICLOPÉDIA Barsa. Rio de Janeiro: Enciclopédia Britânica do Brasil, 1995. v. 9.

ENCICLOPÉDIA Brasileira Mérito. São Paulo: Mérito, 1959. v. 11.

ENCICLOPÉDIA Mirador Internacional. São Paulo: Enciclopédia Britânia do Brasil, 1995. v. 4.

FRANCA, Rubem. Monumentos do Recife. Recife: Secretaria de Educação e Cultura, 1977.

GRANDE Enciclopédia Larousse Cultural. São Paulo: Nova Cultural, 1998. v. 13.

LUZ, Juliana da. Ipê – a flor símbolo do Brasil. Disponível em: <>. Acesso em: 19 jul. 2004.

RIBEIRO, Christiane. Árvores floríferas no Brasil. Disponível em: <>. Acesso em: 19 jul. 2004.

how to quote this text

Source: VAINSENCHER, Semira Adler. Ipê (árvore). Pesquisa Escolar Online, Fundação Joaquim Nabuco, Recife. Disponível em: <>. Acesso em: dia  mês ano. Ex: 6 ago. 2009.