Imbuia

Ocotea porosa

Other Names: Brazilian walnut

Family: Lauraceae

Natural Range: Brazilian Atlantic forest

IUCN Conservation Status

Vulnerable (VU)

The imbuia tree is endemic to Brazil’s Atlantic Forest.  It is most strongly associated with Araucaria forest (a unique ecosystem within the Atlantic forest) where it is a dominant species together with the Paraná Pine (Araucaria angustifolia).

Imbuia produces a dark timber of high quality and has an aromatic scent of nutmeg and cinnamon.  Its timber is used to produce high-end furniture as well as flooring.  However, over-exploitation during the past century has led to a severe reduction in mature imbuia trees available for harvesting.

Many of the fragments where the imbuia was once found, and harvested from, have been replaced by crops and cattle. This process reduced the Araucaria forest to 0.8% of its original distribution in Paraná state.  The decline of many tree species, particularly the imbuia, has impacted on a number of animals, due to its importance as a source of food.

The species undergoes extremely slow growth, undermining the ability of wild populations to recover from exploitation.  Furthermore, little is known about its required propagation and growth conditions, limiting ex-situ efforts to conserve and restore the species. For example very few nurseries in Brazil produce seedlings of the imbuia tree to aid restoration efforts.

Through support of the Global Trees Campaign, Sociedade Chauá is investigating best practice for seed collection, propagation and seedling growth for the imbuia and over 20 other rare of threatened plants from the Araucaria forest.  In the long term, guidance on how to grow and plant these species will be shared with other tree planters, helping to restore this species to its former glory.

Did you know?

Roasted seeds from the Critically Endangered Paraná pine are a popular winter snack in Southern Brazil.