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Woody > Copaifera > Copaifera langsdorffii > Copaifera langsdorffii

Copaifera langsdorffii

Copaiba, Langsdorf's copaifera, Diesel Tree

Origin:  Copaiba is a native tree from Latin America and West Africa, originated from the Rainforest. The higher concentration of this tree can be found in Latin America in the following countries: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil and Paraguay.
            Mike's Opinion

this is Mike


Copaiba is a large tree when grown in its natural habitat, the Rainforest. Although its foliage and inflorescence are not so attractive, it has a great economic value to Brazil. You can find beauty in the orange seeds, as well in its dark brown trunk and reddish wood, where its greatest treasure is found: its oil, which is sold inside the country and exported over the world. Slow growing but with easy propagation, it was introduced to landscaping and now it can be found in parks from large cities such as Sao Paulo. - Carolina Zaina

Michael Pascoe, NDP., ODH., CLT., MSc. (Plant Conservation)


Tree (deciduous), Tree (evergreen)
USDA Hardiness Zone
10 - 12
Canadian Hardiness Zone
11 - 13
RHS Hardiness Zone
Temperature (°C)
Temperature (°F)
18 - 35 m
50 cm - 4m
Description and Growing Information
Flowering Period
General Description
Copaiba is usually an evergreen tree with a dense and round crown. This species is found as a shrub or tree. It will depend on the region, the species and where it is planted as it can be found in the forest, or used for landscape design. In the forests Copaiba can grow to 35 m high, and when planted for landscape purposes it grows up to 18 m high. It is found in South America and it’s one of the most important medicinal plants in Brazil, living until 400 years old.
It was brought to the Atlantic Forest with a landscaping purpose and started to be cultivated in parks. However, in this scenario the tree cannot grow as high, achieving only 15-18 m instead of 50 m, and it is used for street afforestation.
Although some research shows that this tree can be cultivated in a sandy, loamy or clay soil, this tree prefers a well-drained soil. It will usually be on the shore of lakes and streams, where there is high humidity and a minimum temperature that does not fall much below 13 C. It is suitable for acid, neutral and alkaline soils, tolerating a pH in the range 4 – 7. It can grow in full or semi-shade and can tolerate drought.
The shape is usually an evergreen tree with a dense and round crown. It is wide but with little foliage, difficult to be confused in the natural environment due to the red tone that it reaches in spring. Its leaves measure from 2-5 cm in length and 1-2 cm width.
ID Characteristic
Although it is not difficult to be seen, some literature says its botanical identification is not easy. It is performed most of the time by the characteristics of the flowers, which are small, white with pink spots and arranged in panicles. Also, its fruit, which contains an ovoid seed surrounded by an abundant and orange aril. When young the plant has light pink foliage. The tree shows pinnate composite leaves, with eight 6 cm leaflets.
During the rainy period, termites and galling insects can be found in this tree, but it is not something common.
Copaiba is commonly found, in a higher concentration, in Latin America in the following countries: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, and Paraguay. According to the book Index Kewensis from the University of Oxford (USA), the Copaifera genus has 72 species belonging to the Fabaceae family, of which 16 species are found in Brazil, mainly in Amazon Forest and Midwest.
Bark/Stem Description
The trunk has a diameter from 50 cm - 4 m. The evergreen crown may be straight or tortuous, and the rhytidome is usually rough, scaly, and dark brown. The young branches are usually angular and have longitudinal striations, which can be glabrous or pubescent.
Leaf Description
Composite, alternate, paripinnate, with six pairs of leaflets. They measure up to 5 cm in length and 2 cm in width. The new, light pink foliage is very decorative and important for identification and becomes green through time.
Flower Description
The flowers have absent petals, sessile or subsessile and white. The cup is a tetramer forming a short tube, which merges with a small disk, the sepals varying in width. There are 10 stamens and a laterally compressed ovary with a filiform stylet. The flowers are small, white with pink spots and arranged in a panicle. Copaiba blooms especially during the rainy season, from January to April. Bees are the pollinators, transporting pollen between trees.
Fruit Description
The fruit contains the ovoid seed surrounded by an abundant and colourful aril with only one seed. The seeds are dispersed by birds such as the tucanuçu, gralha-do-campo, and sabia. Its canopy offers shelter for several animals such as mono-charcoal monkeys and small rodents. It fruits from May to September.
Colour Description
The leaves do not change their colour in the seasons, the only important consideration is that the new foliage is light pink, turning to green in most adult trees. The flowers are small, white with pink spots and its fruit contains an ovoid seed surrounded by an abundant and orange aril. The bark is not so attractive, however, the wood has a beautiful reddish colour.
Texture Description
The leaves present medium texture and do not change their texture or shape.
Notable Specimens
It is possible to see this important tree in many cities and parks in Brazil, mainly in Sao Paulo, which is a large and important economical city in Brazil.
Propagation is done by seed. The germination takes 35 days to occur and most of the seeds are sown just after they are harvested, while a few are sown 30 days after. Although this timeline is mentioned in some studies, there are other studies emphasizing that the propagation can be improved, mainly for the trees used for landscape purposes. For landscape purposes, studies show that the best alternative to achieve better rates of propagation is dipping the seeds in sulfuric acid reducing agent. This alternative might reduce at least 7 days from the propagation time and guarantee a significant increase in germination rates.
Ethnobotanical Uses (Disclaimer)
Discovered by indigenous, Copaiba is known as “the forest antibiotic” and is one of the most important medicinal plants found in Amazonia, Brazil. The resin is an aromatic, stimulant herb with a bitter, burning taste. The resin and the bark are anodyne, antacid, antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, astringent, cytostatic, demulcent, digestive, disinfectant, diuretic, expectorant, mildly laxative, vermifuge and vulnerary. The resin obtained from the trunk contains several medically active constituents including 30% to 90% essential oils and unusual condensed tannins. In the United States of America, the resin is used as a fragrance component in perfumes and cosmetics. Finally, the wood is also used to produce furniture and general construction.