Balata

 
 

Balata is native to the Antilles, Panama and the northern half of South America. It reaches a height 100 feet, with a trunk 4 feet in diameter. The leaves are smooth and up to 10 inches long. Flowers are about three quarters of an inch long and appear in groups around the twigs. Fruits are about 1 inch long and have a very large seed. It flowers between May and August, and fruits fall mainly during winter. This was the most useful wood during the first centuries of colonization, when it was used for columns, beams, doors, ship masts, bridges, and other constructions. Many buildings in Old San Juan still have their balata beams. The generic name derives from the native name for India's Malabar Province. The species name means with two teeth, but it is not evident to which characteristic it refers.


The photographed tree is at the corner of the University Guard headquarters and is the only member of the species in the campus. It was planted by Carlos Figueroa and Miguel Vives between 1988 and 1990. This is a young individual which does not yet flower.

Manilkara bidentata (Sapotaceae)