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Jequitibá (tree)

 Is one of the highest trees in Brazil, 

Jequitibá (tree)

Article available in: PT-BR

Last update: 14/02/2017

By: Semira Adler Vainsencher - N/I

The jequitibá – Cariniana legalis – is one of the highest trees in Brazil, including jatobá, asapucaia, angelim, jaterena, and jenipaparana, being the largest of the Atlantic Forest. It is generally thirty to thirty-five metres in height, but can reach up to sixty metres (the height of a twenty-storey building) able to be seen towering over the other trees when a full-grown adult tree is seen from afar. For this reason, the Indians called it the ‘forest giant’, in Tupi-Guarani.

The jequitibá has a cylindrical trunk, with a very thick and hard bark that is difficult to saw, and has deep grooves. When the wood is varnished it is a dark reddish-brown colour. Formed by a kind of capsule that contains its seeds, the fruit is called canudo-de-cachimbo [straw pipe], by its resemblance to the bowl of a pipe, where the tobacco is deposited. In the spring, the leaves have a reddish hue, and the flowers may be white, red or yellow. This tree is capable of living a few thousand years.

It should be noted that the Lecythidaceae family has twenty-four genera, with about four hundred and fifty species, among which several large trees with the name jequitibá stand out. In this sense, the botanists placed the denomination jequitibá and then some typical character of it, like the colour of its wood or its flower. Thus, there is the red jequitibá (Cariniana legalis); the white or large jequitibá (Cariniana estrellensis); the purple jequitibá (Cariniana domestica); and the jequitibá of Mato-Grosso – which produces a white wood, suitable for the manufacture of bins and folders for paper; and the jequitibá da manta – a very ornamental species of the Lecythidaceae family, which has a broad crown, rough bark, and is native to Rio de Janeiro; among others.

The five hundred years of colonisation and disorderly exploitation have exterminated the jequitibás in Northeast Brazil. The trees were turned into building materials and furniture, or simply felled to generate more space for the plantations. At present, jequitibás can be seen from Espírito Santo to São Paulo, Minas Gerais and Mato Grosso.

For more than fifty-five years, jequitibás have not been found in the state of Pernambuco. The last records are dated 1952 in the archives of the Agricultural Research Company of Pernambuco (IPA). In the first record, it was reported that the Italian botanist Adolpho Ducke (1876-1959) found a jequitibá at the Mussurepe Sugarcane Factory, in Paudalho, near the Aldeia Road, in the North Forest Zone of the State in a remnant forest; and in the second, that the Paraiba botanist Dárdano de Andrade Lima (1919-1981), who was curator of the IPA herbarium, found another at the Itaboraí Sugarcane Factory, in Paudalho/PE. According to these two researchers, there were many jequitibás in the area where today only two remain, but they were felled to expand the agricultural frontier, and joined the group of trees in the process of extinction. At present, they can be found only in the Southeast, and in some neighbouring states.

The jequitibá is part of Brazilian culture, having lent its name to streets, cities and parks. In one of TV Globo’s soap operas, to represent the strength of a farmer, the actor Antônio Fagundes buried a machete in a jequitibá sapling. In song, the tree was honoured in Saudade da Minha Terra [Longing for my Land], by country singers Goiá and Belmonte: ... I’m listening, the cattle baying, the thrush singing in the jequitibá ... And it was also sung about by José Ramos, from the Mangueira samba group and partner of Cartola, who composed the song Jequitibá in December 2001:

...Ô ô ô ô ô [...Oh oh oh oh oh]
O Jequitibá do samba chegou [The Samba Jequitibá arrived]
Mangueira é uma floresta de sambistas [Mangueira is a samba forest]
Onde o Jequitibá nasceu.... [ Where the Jequitibá was born ....]
The wood of the jequitibá, besides serving for construction and furniture, is used in the manufacture of paper, tow, and in the caulking of vessels. In popular remedies, the infusion of its bark is gargled for mouth and throat problems; and is also used as astringent in diarrhoea and angina.

In the State Park of Vassununga, in Santa Rita do Passa Quatro, São Paulo State, there is a huge pink jequitibá. Its age was estimated at 3,050 years and it still bears fruit. At the time of the construction of the Park, the tree was not felled only because no tool could be obtained to do it.

The plastic artist Alvaro Apocalipse designed the flag of Minas Gerais and placed a jequitibá in the centre of it, inside a triangle. The pink jequitibá, in turn, is the symbolic tree of the State of São Paulo. This tree was inserted in the emblem of the Paulista Republican Party, in the historical Republican Convention of Itu, in 1878; and also represents the São Paulo Medical School. According to Law No. 6,146 on 8 February 2000, the 21st of September began to be celebrated annually as the state day of the pink jequitibá. The jequitibá, by its beauty and magnificence, was even chosen as the symbolic tree of national fraternity.


Recife, 18 September 2008.
Translated by Peter Leamy, December 2016.

sources consulted

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CASOS de árvores. Disponível em: <>. Acesso em: 5 mar. 2008.

CORRÊA, Manuel Pio. Dicionário das plantas úteis do Brasil e das exóticas cultivadas. Rio de Janeiro: Imprensa Nacional, 1926-1978.

ESTAMOS no caminho certo. Disponível em: <>. Acesso em: 5 mar. 2008.

GRANDE Enciclopédia Barsa. 3. ed. São Paulo: Barsa Planeta Internacional, 2005. 

JEQUITIBÁ. Foto nesse texto: Disponível em: <>. Acesso em: 9 ago. 2016.                    

JEQUITIBÁ. Disponível em: <>. Acesso em: 5 mar. 2008. 

JEQUITIBÁ. Jornal do Commercio, Recife, 5 de mar. 2008. Caderno Cidades, p. 6.

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TEO, Diane; DUARTE, Rogério M. et al. Jequitibá: características físico-químicas de aguardentes envelhecidas em barris confeccionados com diferentes
madeiras. Carlos Pavani – Jaboticabal/FCAV – Unesp, v. 33, n. 2, p. 152-159, 2005.

how to quote this text

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