Reforesting in Azuero

The rainy season has begun in Azuero and with that, so has our reforestation season. This year 2018 between the months of July and August we have reforested 6 farms..

Fig. 1. day of reforestation of a farm in the surrounding areas of Venao with Soyuz Bilingual School, on August 17th.


Fig. 2. The image shows a Guanabana plant (Annona Muricata), which has been planted during the reforestation day in Nuario, 28 th august.
The reforestations

At the Azuero Earth Project, we specifically seek out hard-to-access areas for our reforestation projects, reforesting on steep slopes and marginal lands distant from roads and close to streams. These areas are often unsuitable for other uses but are very important for protecting watersheds and wildlife. Starting from as early as 7 am until 1 pm, many of the reforestations were undertaken under difficult conditions such as difficult access both regarding distance and significant obstacles, heavy rains, slippery ground, slopes and streams. These were some of the few challenges we encountered during this gratifying task for the preservation of the forest of the peninsula of Azuero.



Before the start of the reforestation season, a workshop was organized on March 21st in the AEP office and the ATP/CEFATI building to dialogue among key actors for successful implementation of this initiative. This workshop had the goal of clarifying questions about the 2016 forestry incentives law and Alliance for a Million Hectares, which was created to support potential reforesters with economic incentives. A panel of producers that had reforested with the Azuero Earth Project in 2017 discussed their experiences. Finally, the participants explored different techniques to establish forest conservation parcels on farms and met key reforestation actors such as farming associations, tree growers and other reforesters.


The results

Until this moment in 2018, we have planted approx. 1644 seedlings in the areas of Nuario, Venao and Bajo Corral. In doing so, we have benefitted 6 farmers in the area, preserved the ecosystems of unique species in Azuero like the spider monkey of Azuero (Ateles geoffroyi azuerensis), conserved the river basins, mitigated climate change, ensured productive sustainability, and diversified the production of the farms in the future with delicious fruits and other products stemming from the trees.

Fig. 3. Ruth Metzel supports a young student of the CADI Bilingual Academy in the shadow of a tree during the reforestation day in Nuario, 17 th august.


Our support

All of the reforestations were only possible thanks to the effort and the enthusiasm of diverse entities and institutions such as: Soyuz Bilingual School, Colegio María Manuel Tejada Roca, C.A.D.I Bilingual Academy, Peace Corps Panama ( Cuerpo de Paz ), MEDUCA Herrera, ATP, Colegio Plinio Moscoso, the municipality of Pedasí, Restaurant La Maestra, U.P.M.A. Tonosí, Manada de Capitanes Las Minas, volunteers and the communities of each of the different areas we have reforested. We thank Prince Bernhard Nature Fund, Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund and American Forests for their financial support of this project.


¿Are you interested in reforesting?
Fig. 4. The plant nursery coordinator, Jairo Batista, and reforester Edgar Medina transport seedlings to a reforestation site close to Venao, 25 th July.

If you want to learn more about the work of the Ecological Project Azuero you can follow us by searching for @proecoazuero in Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. For any consultation: 995-2995, or If you want to support our reforestation program you can contact us, visit our office in Pedasí or you can follow this link to make a donation:


Fig. 5. Participants in a reforestation day in La Miel organized by the Peace Corps, 28th July.

Local landowners explore visions of a reforested future for Azuero

On the morning of Friday June 2, the Azuero Earth Project kicked off their 2017 Watershed Restoration Program with a pre-reforestation event. Five of the seven participating landowners in the Los Santos region attended the event. The day’s agenda provided helpful information regarding plant and animal biodiversity, physical evidence of reforestation success, results of past programs, conversation space for program participants to talk with each other about their budding reforestation efforts, and Q&A about maintaining reforestation parcels in Azuero.

The program participants met the AEP staff for morning coffee and pastries at the Pedasi office, where they viewed a presentation on past reforestation efforts on the Azuero Peninsula, current national reforestation efforts, and toured AEP’s tree nursery. Before driving to an area of reforested land to witness the results in-person, this presentation established a solid foundation of understanding. Participants asked questions about topics ranging from the national Alliance for a Million Hectares, of which the Azuero Earth Project is a member, to specific tree species they found in the nursery, adjusting their reforestation plans to incorporate new and interesting species discovered at AEP.


After meeting at the office, the group reconvened at the nearby property of Vernon Scholey to tour his reforested lands. The tour was led through two distinct areas of land with different growth patterns. First, the group trekked up hills where horses grazed between young trees. Next, the program participants ventured down into an older plantation area, now thick with undergrowth, where the loud cries of monkeys could be heard from the trees.

Jairo Batista, AEP’s Organic Garden and Tree Nursery Coordinator, expertly outlined the changes resulting from reforestation and the accompanying regeneration of various plant species. The participants observed how native species can develop over time, witnessing how biodiversity adds to the value of a property. For the landowners, the tour of the planned land development kindled ideas and questions about the viability of implementation on their own properties.


Participants were able to voice their ideas, questions, and concerns in a meeting with Scholey, the landowner. Scholey has been dedicated to reforesting his land for many years, and was able to field questions and clarify processes for the interested participants. This question-and-answer session provided both a personal connection and informative resource for the prospective reforesters.

At the same meeting, participants shared their personal plans, reasons, and hopes for reforesting their land. Showing their commitment to the program and their engaged participation, these local landowners explained the species they hope to plant, the usefulness of new tree species on their farm, and their logistical concerns. Trees bearing edible fruit were particular favorites among the participants, and many expressed their wish to protect the environment and mitigate the disastrous effects of climate change and biodiversity by reforesting their land.

The event concluded with a lunch and permaculture tour at the nearby Eco Venao. The permaculture tour provided a look into the use of land to compost organic material and regrow native species for their productive capacity. Having observed the diverse benefits of reforestation and sustainable land management, the participants had much to consider as they returned home.


Friday’s event was a precursor to AEP’s exciting season of reforestation and regrowth that will plant around 5000 trees across Los Santos this rainy season. Hand in hand with collaborators such as current allies Prince Bernhard Nature Fund, Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund and American Forests, AEP continues to partner with community members who are interested in reforesting their land. If you would like to see more native fruit trees outside your window, are interested in sustainable land management, or are simply curious about compost, come visit AEP. Only you can make the decision to change the way we manage land on the peninsula. But never feel that you have to make that decision alone — AEP will help you take your next steps on your journey toward sustainable living!



Article and photos by Sarah Metzel







Join us to Reforest Azuero Watersheds!

Here at the Azuero Earth Project, we have been preparing for the planting season in June-July 2017. This year, we have the goal of planting 4500 native and fruit tree species to expand habitat for the Azuero spider monkey and many other local wildlife species. At the same time, reforesting our watersheds provides concrete benefits to local ranchers like avoiding erosion, improving soil and water quality, providing fruits, providing fodder and shade for cattle and complying with national environmental laws. This year, we have 7 program participants who will reforest more than 4 hectares, and we hope to expand this program in future years. As a member of Panama’s Alliance for the Million Hectares since December 2016, an initiative of Panama’s Environmental Ministry and group of allies to plant 1 million hectares in the coming 20 years, we hope to show how strategic reforestation of gallery forests with native and fruit species can serve to improve the lives of communities and wildlife on the peninsula. We thank Prince Bernhard Nature Fund, Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund and American Forests for their support of this project.

This initiative needs your help! Throughout the year, this program is supported by a host of corporate volunteer, student, association and individual volunteers, with the same of interest of making an environmental difference in Azuero. If you are interested in participating, whether it is as a participating landowners, donor or organizing a group of volunteers, please reach out to us at 995-2995 or for more information.


Por: Gricel Garcia

July’s Tree of the Month: Byrsonima Crassifolia

Nance in bloom ©Edwina von Gal
Nance in bloom ©Edwina von Gal

Nance season is here! Nance trees are common to see on the pacific side of Panama, where the tree flowers and fruits from March to October. Native to the Americas, this tree can be found from Mexico to Brazil. Here in Azuero, the fruits are often most abundant in August. The flowers are a beautiful golden yellow, and turn orange as they age. Because of similar flowers and fruits, Nance is sometimes confused with Byrsonima spicata, or nancito, which is a larger tree with smaller leaves. The yellow fruits are small 1-2 cm globes and are full of antioxidents, including Vitamins A and C. If you’ve traveled in Panama, you may have tasted these fruits in sweets such as pesada de nance, a thick fruit dessert, or chicha de nance, a blended fruit juice. Nance is one of those fruits people have strong feelings about- either you love it or you hate it!

You can collect the little yellow fruits both from the tree and the ground, and the pulp from the fruits can be extracted by hand. When you look for it in the market, the fruits will be packed in water to keep them fresh. The tree also has medicinal properties, as some use the bark boiled in tea to cure diarrhea and for inflammation of the bladder. The wood is used for flooring and carpentry, as well as firewood.

Nance in bottles  © Anthony L. Mapp
Nance in bottles
© Anthony L. Mapp

The tree itself grows between 5 a 15 meters high, in low elevations in dry tropical forests. The bark is dark grey and fissured. This species is deciduous, with leaves that turn red before they fall off in the dry season. The Nance tree is somewhat unique in that it can thrive in poor soil. The seedlings grow quickly, reaching 40-50 cm in just three months. However, the seeds are difficult germinate, with only 7% germination rate without treatment. One method to better germination is dry the seeds for 15-20 days and then bathe them in first hot, then cold water. An alternative might be to collect naturally germinated plants near a tree’s base and transplant them to grow in a greenhouse.

To find out more, check out the links below, and before the season is over, be on the lookout for these beautiful trees and their tasty fruits in restaurants and markets in Panama.

Nance Flower © Edwina von Gal
Nance Flower © Edwina von Gal

Works Consulted:

Carrasquilla R., Luis G., Árboles y Arbustos de Panamá, University of Panama, 2006.

Roman, Francisco et. al, Guia para Propagacion de 120 especies de arboles nativos de Panama y el Neotropico, Environmental Leadership and Training Initiative, 2012.

Ventocilla, Jorge, Luna de Nance, August 13, 2013,

March’s Tree of the Month: The Balsa (Ochroma Pyramidale)

March’s Tree of the Month is the balsa (Ochroma pyramidale), a pioneer species best known for its fast growth and lightweight wood.

Native to the Americas, the balsa is found throughout the region, ranging from Southern Brazil to Mexico. Today, the balsa is also found in several other tropical and sub-tropical regions of the world.  The balsa is a member of the Malvaceae family, which also includes the panamá (Sterculia apetala), the cuipo (Cavinillesia platanifolia), and the ceiba (Ceiba pentandra).

A pioneering balsa c. Guillermo Duran

The balsa is known for growing very quickly—the trees can reach heights of 30 meters in as little as 10-15 years. Because the tree grows so quickly, balsa wood is extremely lightweight, and is less dense even than cork. But despite its apparent lightness, balsa wood is relatively strong, and is considered a commercial hardwood.

Being highly buoyant (the density of balsa wood is one-fifth of the density of water), balsa wood is commonly used in the construction of boat decks and hulls. It is also frequently used in laminates, combined with other reinforced materials to build things like wind turbines, car floorboards, and ping-pong paddles. Balsa wood is popular for model building, and is often used to make popsicle sticks and other basic disposable goods. Today, 95% of commercial balsa wood is grown in Ecuador, much of it in dense plantations.

Leaves and flower of the balsa c. Edwina von Gal
Leaves and flower of the balsa c. Edwina von Gal

In Panama, the balsa tree generally flowers at the beginning of the dry season. The large yellow-white flowers of the balsa open during the night, revealing pools of nectar that can be more than an inch deep. A wide variety of animals feed on the nectar of the balsa flower, spreading pollen from tree to tree in the process. Bats, known to be nocturnal nectarivores, were once thought to be the principal pollinators of the balsa. But in recent years researchers have come to realize that bats may play a small role in comparison to more prolific nectar guzzlers that visit balsa trees throughout the tropics, such as capuchin monkeys, kinkajous, and olingos. For more on the flowering of the Ochroma and photos of the many pollinators invited to the feast, see this feature article from National Geographic.

The fruit of the Ochroma tree is a curved, striated pod up to 15 cm in length. The pod splits open to reveal a fluffy cotton-like material that surrounds several small seeds. Balsa seeds are primarily dispersed by wind. The pale, downy fibers catch the breeze and bear the seeds away to new locales.

balso seeds
Opened and unopened balsa fruits c. Edwina von Gal

With its large, palmately lobed leaves and its rapid growth, the balsa is an effective pioneer, often one of the first species to colonize treeless spaces. Its broad leaves provide shade for slower-growing species that eventually rise to dominance in mature sections of the forest. These late-successional species gradually overtake quick starters like the Ochromae, which tend to live only 30 or 40 years, a relatively short time in the world of trees.

Get out and see the balsa while its still in bloom!

December’s Tree of the Month: Podocarpus Guatemalensis

In many parts of the world, Christmas is not complete without the family Christmas tree, traditionally some type of pine, fir, or spruce. And so, in the spirit of the holidays, we have chosen for December’s Tree of the Month the Podocarpus guatemalensis, a conifer native to the neotropics, and one of the few species of conifer found in humid environments at low elevation.

A Podocarpus guatemalensis sapling c. INBio
A Podocarpus guatemalensis sapling c. INBio

The Podocarpus is commonly found throughout Central and South America, from as far south as Ecuador to as far north as the states of Oaxaca and Veracruz in Mexico. The tree is known to be abundant in certain locations on Isla Coiba, an island on the Pacific coast of Panamá.

Podocarpus guatemalensis thrives in a variety of different environments. It has been known to grow in savanna type vegetation at low elevations, being found alongside other species of pine such as Pinus caribeae. It is also found in tropical rainforest climes, where it is a successful canopy tree.

The trunk of the Podocarpus guatemalensis c. Rolando Pérez
The trunk of the Podocarpus guatemalensis c. Rolando Pérez

The Podocarpus guatemalensis can grow quite tall, reaching heights of 30 meters. Its trunk is reddish-brown in color, similar in appearance to that of the madroño (Calycophyllum candidissimum).

The leaves of the Podocarpus guatemalensis are simple and alternate in their arrangement, and lanceolate in shape (pointed at both ends). Leaves are long and thin, generally between 6 and 10 centimeters in length. Like all conifers, it is gymnosperm, producing its seeds in cones rather than in fruits. The seeds of the Podocarpus guatemalensis are small, no more than 1 centimeter in length, and elliptical in shape.

Leaves of the Podocarpus guatemalensis c. Reinaldo Aguilar

Podocarpus guatemalensis is found in many of Panama’s nine provinces, though in 2008 the tree was listed as endangered by ANAM, the National Environmental Authority. According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), threats to the species as a whole are relatively minimal. Like many other trees, The Podocarpus is declining in certain regions because of increased logging and agricultural expansion.

Happy Holidays!


November’s Tree of the Month: El Árbol Panamá

The national tree of Panama, Sterculia apetala, known simply as the Panama tree, is a tall, straight-growing tree noted for its smooth and upright trunk. There exist several theories regarding the origin of the name “Panama,” but most agree that the name comes from one or more of the indigenous languages spoken in the region during the 16th century. The Panama tree was officially recognized as the national tree of the Republic of Panama in 1969.

A Panama tree near Playa Venao c. Edwina von Gal

Once considered a member of the Sterculiaceae family, the Panama tree has recently been reclassified as a part of the family Malvaceae. Found throughout Central America and in the northern half of South America, the Panama tree is highly adaptable, growing both on roadsides and on cattle ranches, on steep hills and on flat lands, in dry zones and in areas with poor drainage. The trees reach their fullest potential when located along rivers, though they grow extremely well in dry zones as well. The Panama tree is also adaptable to a variety of different soil types, though it prefers deep red or black soils with substantial clay content.

Leaves of the Panama tree c. Edwina von Gal

Because of its adaptability, the Panama tree can be used effectively for reforestation projects, erosion control and for restoration of riparian and coastal zones. The tree provides excellent shade, and thus is effective as part of a live fence or as an ornamental tree in urban spaces. The Panama tree can also be useful species for landowners wishing to create windbreaks.

In the Azuero, the Panama tree flowers during the summer months (Dec-Apr). Its flowers, small and light yellow with purple or red borders, are considered important sources of raw material for honey. Bees visit frequently to collect nectar from the flowers, later converting it into honey.

Flowers of the Panama tree c. Carlos Navarro

Both the flowers and the fruits of the tree attract a wide variety of other animals besides bees, including squirrels, birds, and monkeys. The heart-shaped fruits of the Panama tree are mostly hollow, and they split open while still attached to the branches of the tree. Seeds are best collected just after the fruits split. Most seeds remain attached to the inside halves of the opened fruits, where they are easily visible. Insects will quickly devour seeds that fall to the ground.

The Panama tree can be propagated from seed or via the use of cuttings. However, low germination rates make propagation from seed difficult.

The seeds of the Panama tree have a wide variety of uses. The seed itself is edible, and can be eaten raw or cooked. When toasted, the seed has a nutty flavor. Ground Panama tree seeds are used as flavoring in chocolate.

The seeds and hollow fruits of the Panama tree c. Edwina von Gal

The seeds of the Panama tree have high oil and starch content, and oil from the seeds is used both as an ingredient in soap and as a lubricant for fine machinery.

Various parts of the Panama tree are important in traditional medicine. An infusion made from the leaves and bark is said to be useful in treating colds. Tea made from the flowers is used for coughs and insomnia, and tea made from the leaves is used to treat rheumatism.

The lightweight wood from the Panama tree, though not especially durable, is sometimes used for making furniture, packaging, and even canoes.

October’s Tree of the Month: Ceiba Pentandra

Known to English speakers as the Kapok tree and to Spanish speakers as the ceiba, or the bongo, the Ceiba pentandra is a tall, striking deciduous tree native to the Azuero peninsula.

Belonging to the Malvaceae family, the Ceiba pentandra can claim a number of other native Azuero tree species as family members, including the barrigón (Psuedobombax septenatum), the cuipo (Cavanillesia platanifolia), the cedro espino (Pachira quinata), and the balsa (Ochroma pyramidale).

The Ceiba is recognized for its considerable height and its buttressed base that provides extra support. Like its brother the cedro espino, the Ceiba oftentimes produces spikes on its trunk to discourage adventurous mammals from feeding on the bark or leaves of the tree. The leaves of the Ceiba are themselves distinctive, being alternate and palmately compound, with 5-8 leaflets radiating from a single point.

The buttress of the Ceiba helps support its sizable trunk c. National Parks of Singapore

When the Ceiba flowers, it is a major culinary event, and the menu attracts a diverse clientele. Each Ceiba can produce as much as 200 liters of nectar each season, and the flowers are visited day and night by a wide range of animals. Nocturnal diners include bats, monkeys, marsupials, butterflies, and moths, while the daytime hours are generally the domain of bees, wasps, and hummingbirds.

Though the flowers of the Ceiba are hermaphroditic, an internal security system prevents the tree from pollinating itself and producing offspring of poor genetic quality. As such, the trees rely on outside actors to transport pollen. Bats are particularly important pollinators for the Ceiba. Paternity studies of Ceiba trees on the banks of Amazon River have discovered considerable genetic mixing between trees on both sides of the wide and slow moving waterway. Scientists determined that bats were responsible for the long-distance pollination, with the flying mammals moving pollen more than 2 kilometers back and forth between riverbanks.

Flowers of the Ceiba pentandra c. Wikimedia Commons

In Panama, the Ceiba pentandra flowers between November and March, going on to form oblong green fruits on the end of its branches. Trees can produce anywhere between 500 and 4,000 fruits, which dry in the sun and burst open to reveal bunches of cotton-like fibers surrounding hundreds of individual seeds. With the first strong wind, the fluffy fibers take wing, bearing away the seeds to new locales. Thanks to its effective wind-dispersement system, the Ceiba is often one of the first trees to colonize the open areas of forests.

Downy fibers help Ceiba seeds catch a breeze c. Digital Musings

The Ceiba seeds’ high rate of germination (71% with untreated seeds) helps make the tree relatively simple to cultivate in nurseries. Protected seedlings grow quickly, with saplings growing to 40 centimeters in as little as 3 months. Mature Ceiba trees are usually some of the tallest in any forest, growing as many as 13 feet per year and reaching heights of 50 meters. One of the tallest living trees in Central America is a Ceiba found on the Osa Peninsula in Costa Rica that is over 80 meters tall.

The striking crown of the Ceiba pentandra c. Reinaldo Aguilar

The Ceiba pentandra grows in areas of low elevation in West Africa and throughout Central and South America, being found as far north as Mexico and as far south as Bolivia. It is a tree of great cultural significance for many different peoples in these regions.

For the Maya, the Ceiba pentandra is the tree of life. The Maya say that the roots of the Ceiba reach down into the chambers of the underworld and that the branches extend into the heavens.

Leaves of the Ceiba pentandra c. Carlos Navarro

In Trinidad and Tobago, “The Castle of the Devil” is a particular Ceiba pentandragrowing deep within the forest where it is said that the demon of death resides. Folkore tells of a carpenter who carved seven rooms inside the tree and tricked the demon Bazil into entering. Legend has it that Bazil resides in the tree to this day.

In South America, the Huaorani Indians say that the Amazon River was born from the water-filled trunk of a giant fallen Ceiba pentandra.

In West Africa, the Ceiba is known to the Senegalese as the “tree of words.” At one particular health clinic in Senegal, the sick often approach the roots of a nearby Ceiba to discuss their problems.


For more folkloric tales of the Ceiba pentandra and other neotropical trees, click here.

For high-resolution photos of the flower, fruits, seeds, and leaves of the Ceiba pentandra, click here.

September Tree of the Month: Cedro Espino

Welcome to the Azuero Earth Project’s Tree of the Month page! In an effort to share with you our passion for trees, we have decided to create a special page to showcase one of our many wonderful Azuero tree species. Every month we will choose a new tree species that has caught our eye and we will feature it here on our website. Be sure to check back monthly to find out which tree we have selected for our Tree of the Month!

September’s Tree of the Month: Cedro Espino (Pachira quinata)

Two mature cedro espino trees c. Carlos Navarro

The cedro espino is a tall, straight-growing tree with a modest buttress, often easy to identify because of the sharp spines commonly found covering its bark. The tree is widely recognized for its multitude of potential uses and its adaptation to different types of soil. It forms part of the Malvaceae family which also includes the Bongo (Ceiba pentandra) and the Baobab (Adansonia sp.), a tree of great cultural significance in Africa. In optimal conditions, the cedro espino can grow quickly, adding as much as 3 cm of trunk diameter per year. The tree produces an excellent and durable wood, ideal for use in window frames and doors and in other locations where sunlight might damage or warp a less stable wood.

Cedro espino plantation c. Jonathan Clay
Cedro espino is a species commonly used in reforestation projects, and it is also highly prized as a commercial timber. The cedro espino is also capable of asexual regeneration via vegetative sprouting, which makes it an ideal tree for use in live fences.
Leaves of the cedro espino c. Carlos Navarro
The leaves of the cedro espino are alternate and palmately compound, with five or seven serrated leaflets. As it is a deciduous tree, it loses its leaves completely during the dry season (January-April), when large white flowers are produced.

Reforestation and Genetic Diversity: Dr. Carlos Navarro Presents the Case of the Leucaena

Dr. Carlos Navarro

On July 27, Dr. Carlos Navarro, the Azuero Earth Project’s new Director of Agroecology and Forest Restoration, spoke to the Pedasí community about what he knows best: trees.

Dr. Navarro studied forestry in the Technological Institute of Costa Rica, completing his undergraduate thesis on floristic studies of secondary forest on the Peninsula de Nicoya. After working in CATIE he received a fellowship to study his master’s degree at the postgraduate school, preparing his dissertation on Bombacopsis quinata, a native species of Costa Rican and Panamanian dry forests. He has been involved in restoration of both forests and endangered species in several countries and has been a consulted authority for CITES, Bioversity International, CATIE, among others. He received his PhD in the University of Helsinki and his doctoral thesis explored the Genetic resources of Cedrela odorata L. and their efficient use in Mesoamerica.

Dr. Navarro’s talk focused on the best practices for reforestation projects, using the story of the Leucaena tree as a cautionary tale.

The Leucaena, a species native to Mesoamerica, was widely considered a “miracle” tree in the 1970s and 1980s. Leucaena grows quickly, produces many seeds, fixes nitrogen in the soil, and serves a good source of firewood and fodder for cattle. However, when the trees were introduced in Panama some 20 years ago, they had little success.

Dr. Navarro speaks about the different varieties of Leucaena

Dr. Navarro explained that a major reason for the trees’ lack of success in Panama and in other countries is a lack of genetic diversity. Seeds of Leucaena leucocephala, the principal subspecies chosen for propagation, were collected from a limited number of mother trees, and thus many of the new plantings shared similar genes. People soon discovered that Leucaeana was susceptible to cold and drought, and that it also tends to form dense stands not useful for timber.

Only later did researchers realize that the Leucaena family contains a much wider variety of species with rather distinct traits. Creating healthier Leucaena populations could involve spreading seeds from these other species and thus increasing the genetic diversity of pioneer Leucaena populations.

Dr. Navarro told attendees that when collecting seeds for a reforestation project, one should aim to collect seeds from a minimum of 20-30 mother trees in different locations in order to ensure healthy genetic diversity among new plantings. Trees, like humans, can experience problems with consanguinity. Seeds produced by closely related parent trees will do poorly.

I didn’t realize how much we need to work on diversity with regards to planting trees,” said Derek Mazerolle. “That makes our job a bit more difficult but also more exciting.”

Dr. Navarro’s Powerpoint Presentation (Spanish)

Bioversity Video about the Leucaena tree