San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Plants at a Glance

Indian Almond(Almendro)Terminalia catappaCOMBRETACEAEGeo-distribution:Indian or tropical almondis a tree nativeto India that hasadapted well to thehotter regions of theNeotropics, particularly in coastal regionsalong beaches. It can also be found inlandto elevations approaching 600 meters(2,000 feet) above sea level. Favored for itsdense canopy, which provides cooling shade from the hot sun, this tree can be foundgrowing in yards, orchards and public plazas.Botanical Description: These trees can grow up to 24 meters (80 feet) in height, witha trunk diameter of 1 meter (3 feet); however, it is more common to observe trees 10-12 meters (30-36 feet) in height. The horizontal branches are formed in spreadingwhorls from the trunk, several meters apart, which is characteristic of terminalias. Theleaves, 10-30 cm (4-12 inches) long, are dark green on the upper side and pale greenbeneath. The white flowers are borne on spikes 5-15 cm (2-6 inches) long, and thealmond-like fruits (4-5 cm) are an excellent food source.Medicinal Uses: The leaves and bark are used in a boiled concoction to treat skin rashesand infections, hemorrhoids and breast sores. An infusion of the leaves and bark issaid to be effective in treating diarrhea and dysentery.Preparation: A handful of fresh leaves and bark from a small branch can be boiled in1 liter (4 cups) of water for 20 minutes, then cooled and applied as a skin wash. Ahandful of leaves can be prepared as an infusion by steeping them in 1 liter of water.Dosage: 3 cups per week.Notes: In hotter regions of the country, this tree is an excellent choice for the homelandscape. It provides shade for a hammock, delicious almonds and medicine. Theseeds are easily started in plastic nursery bags or planted directly in permanent sites.Be sure to provide protective fencing for young trees to prevent them from beingtrampled.For more information on medicinal plants and home gardening in the tropics, or contact us at

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