image description

Photo Credit: Molly Murphy

image description

Photo Credit: James Parker



  • FAMILY Burseraceae
  • CATEGORY Trees

Gumbo limbo, tourist tree, turpentine tree (Bursera simaruba)

Gumbolimbo thrives in Hawaii's tropical climate, especially the dry areas. Reportedly, stands are naturalizing in the Kailua-kona area on Hawaii Island. This fast growing tree absorbs and holds a lot of water, causing the branches to become heavy and break under the weight. Besides that, the strong roots lift up sidewalks, crack roads and are a tripping hazard. New recruits have a light advantage over native plants, enabling gumbolimbo to form monotypic stands-even in shade. Dispersed by birds and mammals, gumbolimbo also spreads by vegetative parts. A fallen limb readily grows into a full sized tree. Turpentine like resin produced by gumbo limbo creates a fire hazard in the dry areas it inhabits. Native to Florida and Central America, B. simaruba is commonly called gumbolimbo. The unusual red bark peeling from the trunk earned gumbo limbo the nickname 'tourist tree', invoking the image of sunburnt tourists peeling skin.

  • Medium sized, deciduous tree with an irregular crown
  • Persisting red bark peels from trunk
  • Turpentine order is emitted when leaves are crushed
  • Leaves are alternately arranged, consisting of 7 to 9 shiny green leaflets
  • Inconspicuous flowers are born in panicles
  • Dark purple fruits are drupes, held in clusters, each containing 3 seeds


  • Branches break easily
  • Fire promoter with combustible turpentine resin
  • Shade tolerant and forms monotypic stands
  • Thrives in tropical climates
  • Harbors croton scale (Phalacrococcus howertoni), rugose spiraling whitefly (Aleurodicus rugioperculatus) and sooty mold.