By Lucía Rodríguez Sánchez, Director of Research, Finca Leola S.A.
Common name: laurel
Commercial name: laurel blanco wood
The timber of laurel (Cordia alliodora) is highly valued and used extensively throughout its natural range. Specific gravity varies from 0.38 to 0.73, and its specific basic average weight of 0.53 classifies it as moderately heavy wood. However, physical properties could vary according to the wood origin, being moderately light over very wet habitats. The wood usually is straight-grained, except when timber comes from highly sloped zones. The texture is fine and quite homogeneous. The luster is average, but it has high luster on its radial surfaces and the figure shows vertical stripes. The sapwood is light yellowish brown, and the heartwood shows a dark grayish brown color with dark brown or blackish veins. Drying is fast to moderate, and the wood does not show visible defects. The dimensional stability is excellent. The wood is easily worked, easy to preserve, and has high natural durability (Boshier, 20031) .
Cordia alliodora is widely used for internal and external construction, general carpentry, furniture, railroads, bridge structures, veneers, boats, and beveled board, and it is very good for pulp paper production.
The mechanical properties of this timber are similar to those of coaba (mahogany, Swietenia macropylla). Its specific gravity is similar to that of coaba and caobilla, and because of these similarities, laurel can be substituted for either of them (Flores y Obando, 20032).
C. alliodora is the most widespread species of this genus. It grows naturally from Mexico, throughout all Central America and South America to Paraguay, southern Brazil and the north of Argentina. In Costa Rica, this species is widespread over the Central Volcanic Range, the Pacific coast, the northern zone and the Caribbean side. The tree grows under a wide variety of ecological conditions and soils, as well as from sea level to 1200 m (3937 feet) close to the Central Valley. However, the species reaches better growth over altitudes lower than 800 m (2625 feet), where the temperature is about 24ºC (75 ºF) and the terrains are rolling hills, lightly undulating, or flat.
It is a tree that can grow up to 40 m (131 feet) in height. It has a cylindrical trunk. The bark is grayish white to grayish brown. This is a typical species of rainforests of both slopes in Costa Rica that have an annual precipitation above 1500 mm (60 inches). In the Atlantic zone Cordia alliodora usually reaches a great height and is a thin tree with a narrow, open crown and cylindrical, whitish-gray stem; whereas on the Pacific side the trunk is twisted and branching, with blackish rough-texture bark. Blooming has been observed from October to March, and fruits from November to April. Seeds should be gathered from the crown of the tree.
After some drawbacks with laurel tree plantations, people realized that the species does not tolerate poor soils and is very picky about site conditions, so growth as pure plantations has been somewhat disappointing, because it seems to require more management and maintenance. But with full overhead light on fertile sites, vigorous trees capable of rapid early growth can be produced, especially in agroforestry systems.
1Boshier, D.H., Cordia alliodora (Ruiz & Pav.) Oken, in Tropical Trees Seed Manual, USDA Forest Service, Agriculture Handbook 721, October 2002. 411-413.
2Flores, E. y Obando, G. Árboles del Trópico húmedo: Importancia socioeconómica. Editorial Tecnológica de CR. 2003. 922p.de file="footer.shtml"-->