Botanists working have described a new species of tree with commercial significance in Guyana. The discovery is published in Brittonia, a journal put out by the New York Botanical Garden.
The new species, Carapa akuri, had long been mistaken for Carapa guianensis, a tree widely dispersed across the Amazon and commonly logged for the furniture industry.
The find is significant because it is an important source of natural oil for Makushi Amerindians and the cosmetic market, according to Pierre-Michel Forget, lead author of the paper that describes the species and a researcher at the National Museum of Natural History in Paris.
Photo by Pierre-Michel Forget
“Akrui is an important source of sustainable development within the Iwokrama forest,” Forget told mongabay.com, referring to Guyana’s innovative forest reserve that has become the centerpiece for the country’s efforts to protect its forests through sustainable management.
Oil from Carapa’s large seeds are used for a variety of purposes, including treatment for dandruff and rashes, insect repellent, and as a moisturizer. When produced from Carapa guianensis the oil is known as Crabwood oil or Andiroba.
The species is also endemic to the region and may be at risk from logging, providing new impetus for protecting its diverse rainforest habitat.
“This single tree can save a forest,” said Forget.
Carapa akuri is named after the red-rumped agouti (Dasyprocta leporina) which is likely the main seed disperser of Carapa in Guyana. The indigenous Makushi named for the agouti is “akuri”.
Co-authors on the paper include Odile Poncy of the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (National Center for Scientific Research) in Paris, Rachel Thomas of Iwokrama, David Hammond of NWFS Consultancy, and David Kenfack of the Missouri Botanical Garden.
Forget, P.-M., Poncy, O., Thomas, R. S. Hammond, D. S. and Kenfack, D. A new species of Carapa (Meliaceae) from Central Guyana. Brittonia, 61 (4): 301-402. 2009.
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