Characteristics of Habillo Trees (Hura polyandra) in the Wild

Hura polyandra
Habillo (Hura polyandra) is a species of tree that belongs to the Euphorbiaceae family. Its distribution stretches from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, and Costa Rica.

WARNING: The latex and seeds are highly toxic and can cause death. Especially the seeds contain substances that have strong laxative properties.

 
Habillo is a tree that grows in semi-deciduous or deciduous forests, in areas where there is a pronounced and long period of drought.

This tree is also often referred to by its local names such as Habillo, Jabilla, Haba de San Ingacio, Ovillo, Vila Palo, and K’an tulal.

In some areas habillo wood has been used for construction because of its good quality. However, it is not widely liked by carpenters because the sawdust it produces causes discomfort to the respiratory tract and eyes.

 

Characteristics of Habillo Leaf

Hura polyandra Leaf
Source: inaturalist.org/conabio-pj010

The leaves are alternately simple, arranged in a spiral, and leathery. Leaf-blade measuring 9 x 9.5 to 17 x 16 cm, ovate to orbicular width, toothed edge, pointed tip, heart-shaped base, leaf color yellowish green on both sides, glabrous with two large glands at the leaf base, parallel venation, prominent at the bottom, the petiole 7-17 cm long, glabrous.

 

Characteristics of Habillo Flower

Hura polyandra Flower
Source: inaturalist.org/lyrae

Habillo is monoecious, it has male axillary spines, 12-16 cm long, with a hollow and glabrous axis, their flowers are actinomorphic 1-1.5 cm long, consisting of a conical narrow axis with numerous white anthers, sessile. Solitary female flowers, axillary on 1.5 cm peduncle, zygomorphic, 6- cm long, rudimentary annular perianth, superovarian, multilocular, glabrous uniovular locules, ending in a thick, fleshy hollow style above, with numerous radial stigmas fleshy. Male inflorescences and female flowers are produced in the same armpit, and female flowers open first.

 

Characteristics of Habillo Fruit

Hura polyandra Fruit
Source: inaturalist.org/juancarlosgarciamorales1

The fruit is capsule, 5 x 10 cm diameter, compressed, multivalve, lignified when ripe, brown, covered by numerous circular lenticels, erect, pale. When exposed to drying in the sun, it cracks violently, and breaks into multiples, corresponding to each lobe.

 

Characteristics of Habillo Tree

Hura polyandra Tree
Source: inaturalist.org/patriciasamperio

Habillo can grow into a tree as high as 20 meters with a diameter of up to 70 cm. The stem is straight, when young it has many very sharp spines coming out of circular bearings, a broad crown with thick horizontal branches, and hanging twigs with pendulous leaves. The bark is smooth with many spines when young, when old it becomes very scaly and cracked, often detaches into splints, brownish-gray in color. The inner wood is cream-colored, with abundant cream exudate. Young branches have abundant, prominent lenticels and numerous linear scars.

This tree is not cultivated because it is poisonous, it’s just that sometimes it is planted as a living hedge tree to limit land boundaries.

 

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