Copaifera langsdorfii Desf.
Source: James A. Duke. 1983. Handbook of Energy Crops. unpublished.
- Folk Medicine
- Yields and Economics
- Biotic Factors
That the oleoresin called copaiba could be obtained by incising the trunk was
first reported in England in 1625, in a work published by Purchas, "...a single
tree is said to yield about 40 litres." (Grieve, 1931, reprinted 1974).
Quoting nobel-laureate Calvin, Maugh says (1979), "Natives ... drill a 5
centimeter hole into the 1-meter thick trunk and put a bung into it. Every 6
months or so, they remove the bung and collect 15 to 20 liters of the
hydrocarbon. Since there are few Rabbit diesels in the jungle, the natives use
the hydrocarbon as an emollient and for other nonenergy-related purposes. But
tests have shown, he says, that the liquid can be placed directly in the fuel
tank of a diesel-powered car." (Maugh, 1976). The copal is used in lacquers,
massage preparations, medicines, and paints. Wood and resin can be used for
fuel. The wood is used in carpentry (Burkart, 1943).
According to Hartwell (1967-1971), balsam of one species is used in folk
remedies as a fomentation, for tumors of the prostate gland. Grieve (1931)
describes the balsam as stimulant, diuretic, carminative, laxative; in large
doses purgative, causing nausea, vomiting, strangury, bloody urine, and fever.
A good remedy for chronic catarrh and bronchitis, as it assists expectoration
and is antiseptic; given with advantage in leucorrhoea, chronic cystitis,
diarrhea, and hemorrhoids. It is chiefly used in gonorrhea (though not
advocated for chronic cases), often combined with cubebs and sandal. It has
also been recommended externally for chilblains. Both the volatile oil and
resin are greatly altered when expelled in the urine, and when precipitated by
nitric acid might be mistaken for albumen; it is considered a valuable
hydragogue diuretic in obstinate dropsy. It creates an irritant action the
whole mucous membrane, imparts a peculiar odor to the urine and breath, causes
an eruption resembling measles attended with irritation and tingling; it is the
resin, not the oleoresin, that is used as diuretic. Duke and Wain (1981) note
that this species is a folk remedy for dermatosis, eczema, and gonorrhea. In
Panama, Yaviza negros mix cabismo resin with honey and give it to the newborne,
to impart knowledge and ward off hexes. The gum is also used for treating
venereal diseases, for massage, and for hair oil (Duke, 1972, under "cabismo").
In what could as well apply to other species, Hager's Handbuch lists
delta-elemene, copaene, alpha- and beta-cubebene, cyperene, alpha-bergamoten,
beta- and gamma-elemene, beta-farnesene, alloaromadendrene, alpha- and
beta-humulene, beta-bisabolene, alpha- and beta-selinene, delta- and
gamma-cadinene, ar-curcumene, calamenene. From the wood, Langenheim (1981)
reports the following diterpenoids: polyalthic acid; (-)-jkaur-16-en-19-oic
acid, (-) 16 betakauren- 19-oic acid and eperu-8(20)-en-15,18-dioic acid. In
1980, Calvin published the chromatogram of products obtained from Copaiba
Langenheim (1981) compares the sesquiterpenes of Hymenaea, shall
we call it the "kerosene tree," and Copaifera, Calvin's "diesel tree."
*probably present Langenheim (1981)
Evergreen tree to 35 m tall, to 1 m in diameter, otherwise rather resembling
Copaifera officinalis, which see. In Argentina (Territorio de Misiones)
it is 6-12 m tall, with paripinnate glabrous, subcoriaceous leaves 5-10 cm
long; leaflets 2-4 pairs, opposite or semialternate petiolulate, elliptic
ovoid, 2-6 cm long, 1.2-2.5 cm broad with finely pinnate reticulate nervation,
glandular-punctate. Flowers in terminal racemes to compound panicles with
numerous, subsessile whitish flowers. Sepals 4 lanceolate, concave, firm,
glabrous outside, pubescent inside. Petals absent. Stamens free, (8-)10, the
anthers elliptic, versatile. Ovary hirsute; briefly stipitate; fruit ovoid,
compressed, ca 2 x 3 cm, coriaceous, with one large seed partially covered with
a thick aril (Burkart, 1943). There is some question about the distinctness of
the species. This species, called "Copaiba" in Brazil, is called "Cabismo" in
Venezuela, a name applied in Darien Panama to what was identified by Duke
(1972) as Copaifera officinalis, but has since been relegated to
another species. Duke describes "cabismo" as one of the finest timbers in
Darien. Calvin (1980) mentions another similar species, Copaifera
Reported from the Middle and/or South America Center of Diversity, the diesel
tree, or cvs thereof, is reported to tolerate some waterlogging. Seedlings
germinate well in dense shade. In his lecture at Beltsville, Calvin states
that he has obtained somatic fusion of Copaifera and
Euphorbia. Perhaps he has changed his mind since then.
(2n = 2)
Because of the taxonomic obscurity of the species, I cite only northern and
Amazonian South America.
Probably ranging from Subtropical Dry to Wet through Tropical Dry to Wet Forest
Life Zones, this copaiba probably tolerates annual precipitation of 10 to 40
dm, annual temperature of 20 to 27°C (with no frost), and pH of 4.5 to 7.5.
Early USDA publications suggest that most copaiba comes from regions with
annual precipitation of 3500 mm or more and annual temperature ca 27°C.
A cross section of the trunk shows that the hydrocarbons collect in thin
capillaries that may extend the full 30-meter height of the tree. A
holedrilled into the tree probably collects hydrocarbons from capillaries
ruptured by the drilling, Calvin speculates, so that it may be possible to
increase the yield by drilling additional holes. An acre of 100 mature trees
might thus be able to produce 25 barrels of fuel per year. Unfortunately, in
the United States the tree would probably grow only in Southern Florida. The
Brazilian government has already established experimental plantations. Calvin
concedes that copaifera will probably never represent a significant source of
diesel fuel for the U.S. It is of interest chiefly as an example of the great
diversity of materials produced by plants (Maugh, 1979). Old USDA information
summaries give a slightly different harvesting story. "The wood of the tree is
honeycombed with a network of connected cavities in which the oleoresin forms.
To tap the tree, a drainage reservoir is hollowed out near its base by cutting
inward and downward into the center of the trunk. The cavities containing the
oleoresin gradually drain into these hollowed-out wells. This process is
repeated several times during the season. When first obtained, copaiba is thin
and clear but on aging becomes thicker and acquires a yellowish tinge."
USDA once reported per tree yields as high as 53 liters (14 gallons). A tree
yields 53 liters of "diesel" and diesel sells for $1.00 per liter, it would pay
the natives to gather the material. Apparently this is not happening to any
great extent. Back in 1938, the U.S. imported from Brazil nearly 100 tons
worth only ca $30,000 then, 106 tons worth ca $34,000 in 1939, and 102 tons
worth ca $36,000 in 1940.
Although not specifically recommended as a firewood, the balsamiferouswood,
with density of 700-900 kg/m3, should burn readily, perhaps even
when green. Calvin (1980) reports yields of 40 liters of hydrocarbon per tree
per year, which can be "used directly by a diesel-powered car." Calvin sent a
sample to Mobil Corporation to obtain a cracking pattern. "It produces the
same kind of mixture in general as the oil from the E. lathyris [mostly
aromatics (50%), LPG (25%), and low-molecular-weight fuel gas (3 to 4%) and
coke]." (Calvin, 1980). In his seminar at Beltsville, Calvin (1982) seems to
favor the terpenes of Copaifera to those of Euphorbia and hopes,
by somatic hybridization to develop a Euphorbia, suitable for our
climates, which will produce the sesquiterpenes. Apparently N-fixation has not
been reported for this species.
No data available.
|Sesquiterpene Hydrocarbons ||Hymenaea || Copaifera |
|Allo-arodendrene ||-- ||wood |
|alpha-Bergamotene ||-- ||wood |
|beta-Bisabolene ||wood ||wood |
|delta-Cadinene ||leaf-pod-stem cortex ||wood, leaf |
|gamma-Cadinene ||leaf-stem cortex ||leaf |
|Calamenene ||-- ||wood |
|Calarene ||pod ||-- |
|Caryophyllene ||leaf, pod-stem cortex ||wood, leaf |
|alpha-Copaene ||leaf-stem cortex ||wood, leaf |
|beta-Copaene ||leaf-stem cortex ||wood*, leaf* |
|alpha-Cubebene ||leaf-stem cortex ||wood, leaf* |
|beta-Cubebene ||-- ||wood |
|Curcumene ||-- ||wood |
|Cyclosativene ||pod ||-- |
|Cyperene ||leaf ||wood, leaf |
|beta, delta, and gamma-Elemene ||-- ||wood |
|beta-Farnesene ||-- ||wood |
|alpha-Himachalene ||pod ||-- |
|beta-Humulene ||leaf-stem cortex ||leaf* |
|alpha-Muurolene ||pod ||-- |
|beta-Muurolene ||-- ||wood |
|gamma-Muurolene ||leaf-stem cortex ||wood, leaf* |
|alpha-Selinene ||leaf-stem cortex ||wood, leaf* |
|beta-Selinene ||leaf-stem cortex ||wood, leaf* |
|Selina-4(14), 7(1l)-diene ||pod ||-- |
|Selina-4(14), 7-diene ||pod ||-- |
Complete list of references for Duke, Handbook of Energy Crops
Burkart, A. 1943. Las leguminosas Argentinas. Acme Agency. Buenos Aires.
Calvin, M. 1980. Hydrocarbons from plants: Analytical methods and observations.
Calvin, M. 1982. Oil from plants. Lecture at Beltsville, MD., September 8,
Duke, J.A. 1972. Isthmian ethnobotanical dictionary. Publ. by the author.
Harrod & Co., Baltimore.
Duke, J.A. and Wain, K.K. 1981. Medicinal plants of the world. Computer index
with more than 85,000 entries. 3 vols.
Grieve, M. 1931. A modern herbal. Reprint 1974. Hafner Press, New York.
Hartwell, J.L. 1967-1971. Plants used against cancer. A survey. Lloydia 30-34.
Langenheim, J.H. 1981. Terpenoids in the Leguminosae. p. 627-655. In: R.M.
Polhill and P.H. Raven (eds.), Advances in legume systematics. 2 vols. Royal
Botanic Gardens, Kew.
Maugh, T.H., II. 1979. Unlike money, diesel fuel grows on trees. Science
last update July 8, 1996