Lignum Vitae-Guaiacum officinale
National Tree of the Bahamas

"The Tree of Life"

Common Names: Ironwood, Greenheart

Description: Lignum vitae is a tree with very heavy wood and small blue flowers. Due to its strength, durability, and density, this tree has made very valuable trade wood throughout the ages.

Structure: can grow to be 40 feet tall, generally has twirled stem and has oval shaped compound leaves

Special characteristics: Easily sinks in water due to density, resists rot caused by insects and moisture.

Lignum Vitae is native to the Caribbean Islands, South America, Central America, and the southern region of Florida. This plant has a preference for damp soil and partial shade.

This tree tends to branch out early and have multiple trunks, which form a large canopy with it's bright green leaves. The tree blooms around late spring and early summer, and it's small blue flowers later develop into bright orange fruits.

lignum vitae trunk.jpg
1. Lignum vitae trunk
2. Orange fruit with seed
Guaiacum sanctum form.jpg
3. Canopy of the tree

Uses of the tree:
  • Lignum Vitae bark has been used as a medicine in relieving the symptoms of fish poisoning
  • in United States courtrooms, the judge's gavel was traditionally made from the wood
  • Tea made from the flowers and leaves is used as a homemade energy drink
  • wood was used in the past to make ball bearings because its extremely high resin content makes it self-lubricating

Interesting Fun Fact:
When the resin from this tree is mixed with any alcoholic solution the color of the resin changes to blue when exposed to blood. Lignum vitae is valuable for the police and investigators who use the sap to detect bloodstains.


The "Tree of Life" has inspired people of the Bahamas to bring a more positive life to their culture. The influential and diverse tree has become the foundation for a volunteer non-profit organization to promote positive and effective social change in the Bahamas.The Lignum Vitae Centre of Hope


Government of the Bahamas. "The Bahamas." Red Cross/Red Crescent Climate Centre (RC/RCCC), n.d. Web. 27 Nov. 2012.

Independent Guide to the Island of the Bahamas. "Bahamas Weather and Climate." Bahamas Weather and Climate. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Nov. 2012. <>.

The Island of the Bahamas. "Our Weather/Climate." Weather/Climate. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Nov. 2012. <>.

"Lignum Vitae." ROLLING HARBOUR ABACO. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Nov. 2012. <>.

University of Florida. "Lignum Vitae." University of Florida IFAS Extension. N.p., n.d. Web. 2 Dec. 2012.