July’s Tree of the Month: Byrsonima Crassifolia

Nance in bloom ©Edwina von Gal
Nance in bloom ©Edwina von Gal

Nance season is here! Nance trees are common to see on the pacific side of Panama, where the tree flowers and fruits from March to October. Native to the Americas, this tree can be found from Mexico to Brazil. Here in Azuero, the fruits are often most abundant in August. The flowers are a beautiful golden yellow, and turn orange as they age. Because of similar flowers and fruits, Nance is sometimes confused with Byrsonima spicata, or nancito, which is a larger tree with smaller leaves. The yellow fruits are small 1-2 cm globes and are full of antioxidents, including Vitamins A and C. If you’ve traveled in Panama, you may have tasted these fruits in sweets such as pesada de nance, a thick fruit dessert, or chicha de nance, a blended fruit juice. Nance is one of those fruits people have strong feelings about- either you love it or you hate it!

You can collect the little yellow fruits both from the tree and the ground, and the pulp from the fruits can be extracted by hand. When you look for it in the market, the fruits will be packed in water to keep them fresh. The tree also has medicinal properties, as some use the bark boiled in tea to cure diarrhea and for inflammation of the bladder. The wood is used for flooring and carpentry, as well as firewood.

Nance in bottles  © Anthony L. Mapp  Biomuseo.org
Nance in bottles
© Anthony L. Mapp
Biomuseo.org

The tree itself grows between 5 a 15 meters high, in low elevations in dry tropical forests. The bark is dark grey and fissured. This species is deciduous, with leaves that turn red before they fall off in the dry season. The Nance tree is somewhat unique in that it can thrive in poor soil. The seedlings grow quickly, reaching 40-50 cm in just three months. However, the seeds are difficult germinate, with only 7% germination rate without treatment. One method to better germination is dry the seeds for 15-20 days and then bathe them in first hot, then cold water. An alternative might be to collect naturally germinated plants near a tree’s base and transplant them to grow in a greenhouse.

To find out more, check out the links below, and before the season is over, be on the lookout for these beautiful trees and their tasty fruits in restaurants and markets in Panama.

Nance Flower © Edwina von Gal
Nance Flower © Edwina von Gal

Works Consulted:

Carrasquilla R., Luis G., Árboles y Arbustos de Panamá, University of Panama, 2006.

Roman, Francisco et. al, Guia para Propagacion de 120 especies de arboles nativos de Panama y el Neotropico, Environmental Leadership and Training Initiative, 2012.

Ventocilla, Jorge, Luna de Nance, August 13, 2013, Biomuseo.org http://www.biomuseopanama.org/es/blog/luna-de-nance

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