Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide


Lawsonia inermis
(Egyptian privet)



Lawsonia inermis (Egyptian privet)


  • Last modified
  • 18 September 2018
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Host Plant
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Lawsonia inermis
  • Preferred Common Name
  • Egyptian privet
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Plantae
  •     Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •       Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •         Class: Dicotyledonae
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • L. inermis is a shrub or small tree widely cultivated as an ornamental and hedge plant and for the commercial production of henna, a dye extracted from its leaves (Oyen, 1991...

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Copyright©A.R. Pittaway
Inflorescence©A.R. Pittaway
1. lower (to left) and upper (to right) part of flowering branch
2. flower
3. fruit
TitleLine artwork
Caption1. lower (to left) and upper (to right) part of flowering branch 2. flower 3. fruit
CopyrightPROSEA Foundation
1. lower (to left) and upper (to right) part of flowering branch
2. flower
3. fruit
Line artwork1. lower (to left) and upper (to right) part of flowering branch 2. flower 3. fruitPROSEA Foundation


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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Lawsonia inermis L.

Preferred Common Name

  • Egyptian privet

Other Scientific Names

  • Alcanna spinosa (L.) Gaertn.
  • Casearia multiflora Spreng.
  • Lawsonia alba Lam.
  • Lawsonia purpurea Lam.
  • Lawsonia speciosa L.
  • Lawsonia spinosa L.
  • Rotantha combretoides Baker

International Common Names

  • English: camphire; henna; henna tree; mignonette tree
  • Spanish: alcana; alhena; jenna; reseda
  • French: henne; henné
  • Arabic: hinná; yoranna
  • Portuguese: alfeneiro; hena; hésia

Local Common Names

  • Cambodia: krâpéén
  • Dominican Republic: resedón
  • Germany: Hennastrauch
  • India: hena; marithoni; maruthani; mehedi; mendhi; mendi
  • Indonesia: inai
  • Indonesia/Java: pacar kuku
  • Italy: alcanna vera; arbusto della henna
  • Laos: kaaw
  • Lesser Antilles: copiae
  • Malaysia: hinna; inai; pacar kuku
  • Myanmar: dan
  • Pakistan: hena; mendhi
  • Philippines: cinamomo
  • Vietnam: lá mòn; nhuôm móng

EPPO code

  • LAWIN (Lawsonia inermis)

Trade name

  • henna
  • mendhi

Summary of Invasiveness

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L. inermis is a shrub or small tree widely cultivated as an ornamental and hedge plant and for the commercial production of henna, a dye extracted from its leaves (Oyen, 1991; Orwa et al., 2009; PROTA, 2017; USDA-ARS, 2017). This species has often become naturalized, particularly on alluvial soils along rivers. In some African regions (e.g., Madagascar) this species has become so common that there is no need for cultivation (PROTA, 2017). It is listed as invasive in Cuba (Oviedo Prieto et al., 2012) and Singapore (Chong et al., 2009).

Taxonomic Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Plantae
  •         Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •             Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •                 Class: Dicotyledonae
  •                     Order: Myrtales
  •                         Family: Lythraceae
  •                             Genus: Lawsonia
  •                                 Species: Lawsonia inermis

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

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The family Lythraceae comprises 31 genera and 620 species of herbs, shrubs and trees that are recognizable by their flaky bark; opposite, entire leaves that lack gland dots; ovary is more or less superior. The fruit is usually a capsule; the testa of about half the genera has distinctive, initially inverted mucilaginous hairs (Stevens, 2012). Lawsonia is a small genus of just two species: Lawsonia inermis and Lawsonia odorata (The Plant List, 2013). The specific epithet inermis means unarmed or without spines (Orwa et al., 2009).


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L. inermis is a much-branched, glabrous shrub or small tree, 2-6 m tall, with greyish-brown bark, unarmed when young, older plants with spine-tipped branchlets. Young branches quadrangular. Leaves opposite, entire and sub-sessile, elliptic to broadly lanceolate, 1.5-5 cm x 0.5-2 cm. Flowers numerous in large, pyramidal, terminal cymes, fragrant, 1 cm across and 4-merous, calyx with 2 mm long tube, and 3 mm long spreading lobes; petals orbicular or obovate, white or red; stamens 8, inserted in pairs on the rim of the calyx tube; ovary 4-celled, style up to 5 mm long, erect. Fruit a globose capsule, 4-8 mm in diameter, many-seeded, opening irregularly. Seeds 3 mm long, angular, with thick coat (Oyen, 1991). 

Plant Type

Top of page Broadleaved
Seed propagated


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The native distribution range of L. inermis is uncertain, but this species probably originates in Asia (USDA-ARS, 2017). Linguistic and biogeographic evidence supports an origin in the area of Baluchistan (Iran/Pakistan) to western India, where it can still be found growing in the wild (PROTA, 2017). From there it would have spread to the rest of India, Indonesia, the Sahel, Central Africa, and the Middle East. L. inermis is now distributed throughout tropical and subtropical regions (Oyen, 1991; Orwa et al., 2009; PROTA, 2017). Both USDA-ARS (2017) and PROTA (2017) suggest that the origin is likely to be South Asia, but also include much of Africa and parts of Asia and the Middle East in the listed native distribution.

Distribution Table

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The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.

Continent/Country/RegionDistributionLast ReportedOriginFirst ReportedInvasivePlantedReferenceNotes


AfghanistanPresentPlanted, Natural
BangladeshPresentPlanted, Natural
BhutanPresent Planted
CambodiaPresent Planted
ChinaPresentIntroducedFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2013
-FujianPresentIntroducedFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2013
-GuangdongPresentIntroducedFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2013
-JiangsuPresentIntroducedFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2013
-YunnanPresentIntroducedFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2013
IndiaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2017
-GujaratPresentPlanted, Natural
-HaryanaPresentPlanted, Natural
-Indian PunjabPresentPlanted, Natural
-MaharashtraPresentPlanted, Natural
-Uttar PradeshPresentPlanted, Natural
-West BengalPresentPlanted, Natural
IndonesiaPresentNativeOrwa et al., 2009
-JavaPresent Planted
IranPresentNativeOrwa et al., 2009
IraqPresentNativeOrwa et al., 2009
JapanPresent Planted
JordanPresentNativeOrwa et al., 2009
KuwaitPresentNativeOrwa et al., 2009
LaosPresent Planted
LebanonPresentNativeOrwa et al., 2009
MalaysiaPresentNativeOrwa et al., 2009
MyanmarPresent Planted
OmanPresentNativeOrwa et al., 2009
PakistanPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2017
PhilippinesPresentNativeOrwa et al., 2009
QatarPresentNativeOrwa et al., 2009
Saudi ArabiaPresentNativeOrwa et al., 2009
SingaporePresentIntroduced Invasive Chong et al., 2009
Sri LankaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2017
SyriaPresentNativeOrwa et al., 2009
TurkeyPresentNativeOrwa et al., 2009
United Arab EmiratesPresent Planted
VietnamPresent Planted
YemenPresentNativeOrwa et al., 2009


AlgeriaPresentNativeOrwa et al., 2009
BeninPresentNativeOrwa et al., 2009; USDA-ARS, 2017
Burkina FasoPresentNativeOrwa et al., 2009; USDA-ARS, 2017
CameroonPresentIntroducedOrwa et al., 2009
Central African RepublicPresentNativeOrwa et al., 2009; USDA-ARS, 2017
ChadPresentIntroducedOrwa et al., 2009
ComorosPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2017
CongoPresentIntroducedOrwa et al., 2009
Congo Democratic RepublicPresentIntroducedOrwa et al., 2009
Côte d'IvoirePresentNativeOrwa et al., 2009; USDA-ARS, 2017
EgyptUSDA-ARS, 2017Uncertain origin
EthiopiaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2017
GabonPresentIntroducedOrwa et al., 2009
GambiaPresentNativeOrwa et al., 2009; USDA-ARS, 2017
GhanaPresentIntroducedOrwa et al., 2009
GuineaPresentNativeOrwa et al., 2009; USDA-ARS, 2017
Guinea-BissauPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2017
KenyaPresent Planted
LiberiaPresentNativeOrwa et al., 2009; USDA-ARS, 2017
LibyaPresentOrwa et al., 2009; USDA-ARS, 2017Cultivated
MadagascarPresentIntroducedPROTA, 2017Naturalized
MaliPresentNativeOrwa et al., 2009; USDA-ARS, 2017
MauritaniaPresentIntroducedOrwa et al., 2009
MauritiusPresent Planted
MoroccoPresentNativeOrwa et al., 2009
MozambiquePresentPROTA, 2017
NigerPresentNativeOrwa et al., 2009; USDA-ARS, 2017
NigeriaPresentNativeOrwa et al., 2009; USDA-ARS, 2017
SenegalPresentNativeOrwa et al., 2009; USDA-ARS, 2017
SeychellesPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2017
Sierra LeonePresentNativeOrwa et al., 2009; USDA-ARS, 2017
SomaliaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2017
South AfricaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2017
SudanPresentNativeOrwa et al., 2009; USDA-ARS, 2017
TanzaniaPresentIntroducedOrwa et al., 2009Zanzibar
-ZanzibarPresentIntroducedOrwa et al., 2009
TogoPresentNativeOrwa et al., 2009; USDA-ARS, 2017
TunisiaPresentNativeOrwa et al., 2009

North America

MexicoPresentIntroducedDavidse et al., 2009Naturalized
USAPresent Planted
-HawaiiPresentIntroducedPIER, 2017

Central America and Caribbean

Antigua and BarbudaPresentIntroducedBroome et al., 2007
ArubaPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2012
BahamasPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2012
BarbadosPresentIntroducedBroome et al., 2007
BelizePresentIntroducedDavidse et al., 2009
Cayman IslandsPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2012
Costa RicaPresentIntroducedDavidse et al., 2009Naturalized
CubaPresentIntroduced Invasive Oviedo Prieto et al., 2012
CuraçaoPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2012
DominicaPresentIntroducedBroome et al., 2007
Dominican RepublicPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2012
El SalvadorPresentIntroducedDavidse et al., 2009Naturalized
GuadeloupePresentIntroducedBroome et al., 2007
GuatemalaPresentIntroducedDavidse et al., 2009Naturalized
HaitiPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2012
HondurasPresentIntroducedDavidse et al., 2009Naturalized
JamaicaPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2012
MartiniquePresentIntroducedBroome et al., 2007
MontserratPresentIntroducedBroome et al., 2007
Netherlands AntillesPresentIntroducedBroome et al., 2007St Barthelemy
NicaraguaPresentIntroducedDavidse et al., 2009Naturalized
PanamaPresentIntroducedDavidse et al., 2009Naturalized
Puerto RicoPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2012
SabaPresentIntroducedBroome et al., 2007
Saint Kitts and NevisPresentIntroducedBroome et al., 2007
Saint LuciaPresentIntroducedBroome et al., 2007
Sint EustatiusPresentIntroducedBroome et al., 2007
United States Virgin IslandsPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2012St Croix, St Thomas

South America

BoliviaPresentIntroducedJørgensen et al., 2014
EcuadorPresentIntroducedJørgensen and León-Yanez, 1999
-Galapagos IslandsPresentIntroducedCharles Darwin Foundation, 2008
GuyanaPresentIntroducedFunk et al., 2007
SurinamePresentIntroducedFunk et al., 2007
VenezuelaPresentIntroducedHokche et al., 2008


CyprusPresentNativeOrwa et al., 2009
Russian FederationPresent Planted
SpainPresent Planted


AustraliaPresentIntroducedOrwa et al., 2009
Cook IslandsPresentIntroducedMcCormack, 2013
FijiPresentIntroducedSmith, 1985
Northern Mariana IslandsPresentIntroducedPIER, 2017

History of Introduction and Spread

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L. inermis occurs wild from Iran and Pakistan to western India. From there it would have spread eastward to the rest of India and Indonesia, and westward to the Middle East where it became one of the important plants of Islam. Aronson et al. (2017) suggest that it was introduced to the Middle East 1500-2500 years ago. Later, Islamic armies and traders from Arabia introduced this species in areas as far as Spain, northern Africa, Madagascar, the Moluccas, Indo-China and Japan (PROTA, 2017). Currently, this species can be found throughout the tropics and subtropics. It is often grown in home gardens and commercial production is limited to a few places in India, Pakistan, Iran, Egypt, Libya, Niger and Sudan (Oyen, 1991; PROTA, 2017).

The earliest known use of the dye (henna) prepared from L. inermis dated to the Ancient Egypt. Egyptians used this plant to stain mummies and mummy’s wrappings. Later, between 1400-1500 BC, Greeks probably moved this species from the Middle East and North Africa to the Mediterranean islands and Europe. In classical Greece, henna was well known as a medicinal and cosmetic plant (Zavada, 1993).

Risk of Introduction

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The likelihood of continued introduction of L. inermis is moderate to high. This species has been widely introduced across tropical and subtropical regions to be used as an ornamental and for henna dye production (USDA-ARS, 2017). The international demand for henna dye is still growing, and consequently new introductions are highly likely to occur (Oyen, 1991).


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L. inermis is well adapted to a wide range of environmental conditions. It grows in dry and semi-arid habitats, in coastal secondary scrubs, along watercourses and in temporarily flooded riverbeds and riverine thickets (Orwa et al., 2009; PROTA, 2017). In Africa it has often become naturalized, particularly on alluvial soils along rivers and in areas near villages (PROTA, 2017). In Central America and Mexico, it can also be naturalized in secondary vegetation (Davidse et al., 2009).

Biology and Ecology

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The chromosome number reported for L. inermis is 2n = 30 (Oyen, 1991; Hanson et al., 2001).

Reproductive Biology

L. inermis is listed as a “self-pollinated” plant (Phirke and Saha, 2013).

Physiology and Phenology

L. inermis produces flowers all year round (PROTA, 2017).


L. inermis is a perennial shrub or small tree. In cultivation, while highest yields occur at 4-8 years after planting, plants are often left in the field for 12-25 (max. 40) years (Orwa et al., 2009).

Activity Patterns

L. inermis requires high temperatures (~25°C) for germination, growth and establishment (PROTA, 2017).

Environmental Requirements

L. inermis grows best in areas where mean annual temperatures are within the range 19-27°C (but can tolerate 13-33°C) and mean annual rainfall ranging from 500 mm to 1500 mm, but can tolerate ranges varies form 200 mm to 4200 mm. It can grow on poor, stony, and sandy soils, but it is also adapted to heavy, fertile clay soils with pH ranging from 4.3 to 8. This species requires high temperatures (optimum daily average about 25°C) for germination, growth and development. L. inermis tolerates drought and semiarid conditions. It often grows in temporarily flooded, riverbeds and riverine thickets at elevations up to 2000 m (Oyen, 1991; Orwa et al., 2009; FAO, 2017; PROTA, 2017).

Latitude/Altitude Ranges

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Latitude North (°N)Latitude South (°S)Altitude Lower (m)Altitude Upper (m)
32 13 0 1500

Air Temperature

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Parameter Lower limit Upper limit
Absolute minimum temperature (ºC) 0
Mean annual temperature (ºC) 17 25
Mean maximum temperature of hottest month (ºC) 28 36
Mean minimum temperature of coldest month (ºC) 6 13


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ParameterLower limitUpper limitDescription
Dry season duration36number of consecutive months with <40 mm rainfall
Mean annual rainfall2004200mm; lower/upper limits

Rainfall Regime

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Soil Tolerances

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Soil drainage

  • free
  • impeded

Soil reaction

  • acid
  • alkaline
  • neutral

Soil texture

  • heavy
  • light
  • medium

Special soil tolerances

  • infertile
  • saline
  • shallow

Natural enemies

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Natural enemyTypeLife stagesSpecificityReferencesBiological control inBiological control on
Alternaria alternata Pathogen Whole plant not specific
Alternaria tenuissima Pathogen Whole plant not specific
Corticium koleroga Pathogen Whole plant not specific
Pachnoda interrupta Herbivore Whole plant not specific
Phenacoccus solenopsis Pathogen Whole plant not specific
Sarucallis kahawaluokalani Whole plant not specific
Xanthomonas campestris pv. lawsoniae Pathogen Whole plant not specific

Notes on Natural Enemies

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Pests and diseases have been reported attacking L. inermis including: Alternaria alternata, Alternaria tenuissima, the beetle Pachnoda interrupta, Phenacoccus solenopsis (cotton mealybug), the aphid Sarucallis kahawaluokalani and Corticium koleroga. In India, a black root rot caused by Corticium koleroga and a bacterial leaf spot caused by Xanthomonas lawsoniae have been reported on this species (Orwa et al., 2009).

Means of Movement and Dispersal

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Birds feed on the fruits of L. inermis and probably disperse the seeds (Orwa et al., 2009).

Intentional Introduction

L. inermis has been widely introduced to be used as ornamental and hedge plants, and for the commercial production of henna, a dye extracted from its leaves (Oyen, 1991; Orwa et al., 2009; PROTA, 2017; USDA-ARS, 2017).

Pathway Causes

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CauseNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
Botanical gardens and zoos Yes Yes USDA-ARS, 2017
Crop productionCommercial production of henna dye Yes Yes USDA-ARS, 2017
DisturbanceNaturalized in disturbed sites and near villages Yes Yes PROTA, 2017
Escape from confinement or garden escape Yes Yes Oyen, 1991
ForageBrowsed by livestock Yes Yes Orwa et al., 2009
Habitat restoration and improvementPlanted for soil conservation Yes Yes Orwa et al., 2009
Hedges and windbreaksLive fence Yes Yes Orwa et al., 2009
Industrial purposesHenna dye production Yes Yes USDA-ARS, 2017
Medicinal useUsed in traditional Asian and African medicine Yes Yes Orwa et al., 2009
Ornamental purposes Yes Yes Orwa et al., 2009

Pathway Vectors

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VectorNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
Debris and waste associated with human activitiesSeeds Yes Yes Orwa et al., 2009

Environmental Impact

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Impact on habitats

L. inermis removes a large quantity of nutrients from the soil. For example, a yield of 1000 kg dry leaves removes about 180-190 kg of nitrogen, 100-150 kg of potassium and 10-30 kg of phosphate (Orwa et al., 2009).

Impact on biodiversity

L. inermis can grow forming dense thickets which are able to cause environmental degradation by out-competing and replacing native vegetation, mostly native vegetation on alluvial soils and in riparian zones (PROTA, 2017).

Social Impact

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The henna dye is known to be dangerous to people with glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency and may cause allergic reaction and injuries to the skin (FDA, 2017).

Risk and Impact Factors

Top of page Invasiveness
  • Proved invasive outside its native range
  • Abundant in its native range
  • Highly adaptable to different environments
  • Is a habitat generalist
  • Tolerates, or benefits from, cultivation, browsing pressure, mutilation, fire etc
  • Pioneering in disturbed areas
  • Benefits from human association (i.e. it is a human commensal)
  • Long lived
  • Fast growing
  • Gregarious
Impact outcomes
  • Altered trophic level
  • Ecosystem change/ habitat alteration
  • Monoculture formation
  • Negatively impacts human health
  • Reduced native biodiversity
  • Threat to/ loss of native species
Impact mechanisms
  • Causes allergic responses
  • Competition - monopolizing resources
  • Competition - smothering
  • Herbivory/grazing/browsing
  • Rapid growth
  • Rooting
Likelihood of entry/control
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally deliberately


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Economic Value

L. inermis is widely cultivated in tropical and subtropical regions of the world. It is often planted as ornamental for its fragrant flowers. It is also cultivated for the production of henna: an orange-red dye obtained from macerated, triturated or powdered leaves. Henna dye is used for dyeing cloth and hair, for staining nails, palms and soles, and in traditional medicine. Leaves are browsed by livestock and the wood is used to make tent pegs and tool handles (Oyen, 1991; Orwa et al., 2009; PROTA, 2017; USDA-ARS, 2017).

Environmental Services

L. inermis has been successfully planted in soil conservation projects (Orwa et al., 2009). It can also be grown as a live fence.

Uses List

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Animal feed, fodder, forage

  • Fodder/animal feed


  • Amenity
  • Boundary, barrier or support
  • Erosion control or dune stabilization
  • Revegetation
  • Shade and shelter


  • Fuelwood

Human food and beverage

  • Food additive


  • Baskets
  • Carved material
  • Dye/tanning
  • Dyestuffs
  • Essential oils
  • Fibre
  • Pesticide
  • Wood/timber

Medicinal, pharmaceutical

  • Source of medicine/pharmaceutical
  • Traditional/folklore


  • Christmas tree
  • Cut flower
  • garden plant
  • Potted plant
  • Propagation material
  • Seed trade

Wood Products

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  • Industrial and domestic woodware
  • Tool handles


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11/03/17 Original text by:

Julissa Rojas-Sandoval, Department of Botany-Smithsonian NMNH, Washington DC, USA

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