Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide


Myroxylon balsamum
(Peru balsam)



Myroxylon balsamum (Peru balsam)


  • Last modified
  • 20 November 2019
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Host Plant
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Myroxylon balsamum
  • Preferred Common Name
  • Peru balsam
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Plantae
  •     Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •       Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •         Class: Dicotyledonae
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • Myroxylon balsamum is a large tree of tropical America, known internationally and introduced widely as a source of resin (Peru and Tolu balsams) for use in the cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries. It is also a valuable timber tree. How...

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Myroxylon balsamum (Peru balsam); mature tree.
CaptionMyroxylon balsamum (Peru balsam); mature tree.
Copyright©Soraya Alvarenga Botelho
Myroxylon balsamum (Peru balsam); mature tree.
HabitMyroxylon balsamum (Peru balsam); mature tree.©Soraya Alvarenga Botelho
Myroxylon balsamum (Peru balsam); mature tree.
CaptionMyroxylon balsamum (Peru balsam); mature tree.
Copyright©Soraya Alvarenga Botelho
Myroxylon balsamum (Peru balsam); mature tree.
HabitMyroxylon balsamum (Peru balsam); mature tree.©Soraya Alvarenga Botelho
Myroxylon balsamum (Peru balsam); flowered branches.
TitleLeaves and flowers
CaptionMyroxylon balsamum (Peru balsam); flowered branches.
Copyright©Soraya Alvarenga Botelho
Myroxylon balsamum (Peru balsam); flowered branches.
Leaves and flowersMyroxylon balsamum (Peru balsam); flowered branches.©Soraya Alvarenga Botelho
Myroxylon balsamum (Peru balsam); flowers.
CaptionMyroxylon balsamum (Peru balsam); flowers.
Copyright©Soraya Alvarenga Botelho
Myroxylon balsamum (Peru balsam); flowers.
FlowersMyroxylon balsamum (Peru balsam); flowers.©Soraya Alvarenga Botelho


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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Myroxylon balsamum (L.) Harms

Preferred Common Name

  • Peru balsam


  • Myroxylon balsamum var. pereirae (Royle) Harms

Other Scientific Names

  • Myrospermum pereirae Royle
  • Myrospermum sonsonatense Oersted
  • Myrospermum toluiferum DC.
  • Myroxylon pereirae (Royle) Klotzsch
  • Myroxylon punctatum Klotzsch
  • Myroxylon toluiferum A. Rich.
  • Toluifera balsamum L.
  • Toluifera balsamum var. pereirae (Royle) Baill.
  • Toluifera pereirae (Royle) Baill.

International Common Names

  • English: balsam of Peru; balsam of Tolu; santos mahogany; tolu balsam
  • Spanish: árbol de Tolú; árbol tolú; balsamero; bálsamo; bálsamo blanco; bálsamo de San Salvador; bálsamo de Tolú; bálsamo del Perú; chirraca; chucte; estoraque; nabá; palo de bálsamo; quina; quinoquino; sándalo; yaga-guienite
  • French: baumier de Tolu; baumier du Pérou
  • Portuguese: óleo-bálsamo

Local Common Names

  • Argentina: incienso
  • Brazil: bácimo; bálsamo; bálsamo-caboriba; bálsamo-da-américa; bálsamo-de-cartágena; bálsamo-de-tolu; benjoim-do-norte; caboré; caboreíba-vermelha; caboriba; cabreúva; cabreúva-vermelha; cabriúva; cabriúva-do-campo; cabriúva-vermelha; cabrué; cabrúva; cabureíba; caroíba; oleo; oleo-balsa; oleo-bálsamo; óleo-cabreúva; oleo-de-bálsamo; oleo-pardo; óleo-vermelho; pau-bálsamo; pau-de-bálsamo; pau-de-incenso; pau-de-sangue; pau-vermelho; puá; quinaquina; sangue-de-gato
  • Colombia: tache; tolú
  • Costa Rica: chirraca; sándalo
  • El Salvador: bálsamo de Cuscatlán
  • Germany: Perubalsambaum; Tolubalsambaum
  • India: kata-kamanchal; sambranee
  • Italy: balsamo del Peru; sandalo
  • Mexico: cedro chino; nabal
  • Netherlands: balsemboom; Peru-balsemboom
  • Peru: bálsamo de Peru
  • Sri Lanka: katta kumanchal
  • Sweden: tolubalsamträd

EPPO code

  • MYXBA (Myroxylon balsamum)
  • MYXBP (Myroxylon balsamum var. pereirae)

Trade name

  • balsam of Peru
  • balsamo
  • incienso
  • Peruvian balsam
  • santos mahogany

Summary of Invasiveness

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Myroxylon balsamum is a large tree of tropical America, known internationally and introduced widely as a source of resin (Peru and Tolu balsams) for use in the cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries. It is also a valuable timber tree. However, it is reported as highly invasive in inland, montane Sri Lanka, where it forms dense stands shading out native species, which indicates a risk of it also becoming invasive in some of the many countries and islands where it has naturalized.

Taxonomic Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Plantae
  •         Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •             Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •                 Class: Dicotyledonae
  •                     Order: Fabales
  •                         Family: Fabaceae
  •                             Subfamily: Faboideae
  •                                 Genus: Myroxylon
  •                                     Species: Myroxylon balsamum

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

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There is confusion about the number of species and varieties in the genus Myroxylon (Powell, 1995). In Brazil, Lorenzi (1992) reports M. balsamum (L.) Harms and M. peruiferum L.f. as synonymous, but Wiersema et al. (1990) and the USDA-ARS (2015) report the two as good species, with M. balsamum (L.) Harms native to Central America and M. peruiferum L.f. native to northern South America. This is accepted by the Plant List (2013), that also includes two further species, M. nitidum (Hell.) Kuntze (syn: Hisingeranitida Hell.) and the previously unresolved M. balsamiferum Harms.

M. balsamum (L.) Harms has two varieties, var. pereirae (Royle) Harms), the source of Peru balsam from northern South America, and var. punctatum (Klotzsch) Harms with records from Brazil, Peru and introduced to Sri Lanka (Missouri Botanical Garden, 2015). A previously recognized third variety, var. balsamum (source of Tolu balsam), native to Central America, is now accepted as a synonym of M. balsamum (L.) Harms.

The generic name Myroxylon derives from the Greek myron meaning sweet oil or perfume and xylon meaning wood, alluding to the natural, sweet-smelling, viscous resin that is obtained from the trunk of the tree and known commonly as balsam.


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M. balsamum is a large tree up to 40-45 m tall, with a round crown and dense foliage. The main trunk is up to 1 m in diameter, mostly straight, with slim, ascending branches. The outer bark is smooth, greyish brown and covered with many lenticels; the inner bark is yellowish, with a pungent, unpleasant smell. Leaves are alternate or irregular, petiolate, imparipinnate, 8-20 cm long including the petiole. The rachis and petiolules are pubescent and terete; petioles 1-4 cm long and rachis 5-15 cm long. Leaves are composed of 5-10 pairs of leaflets, each 3-11 cm long, 2-4 cm wide, lanceolate, ovate, elliptic-oblong or elliptic, and alternate on the rachilla, with an acute to acuminate apex, obtuse base, entire margins, glabrous, with scattered translucent glandular oil dots or lines. Flowers numerous, 7-9 mm, soon divergent or nodding, in simple axillary or terminal racemes 20 cm long, whitish, pubescent, entomophilous, with small caduceus bracts and bracteoles and a campanulate calyx 3.5-4.5 mm long, with fine ribs. Flowers have a descending aestivation, characteristic of petals of papilionaceous flowers, with 5 irregular lobes, 10 stamens, free or shortly united at the base, and which fall with the petals. Anthers are uniform, acuminate and longer than the filaments. The ovary is stipitate, sparsely villous with 1-2 suspended ovules; style is short, filiform, incurved with a well-defined terminal stigma; pistil glabrous; ovary narrowly obovate, with 2 subterminal ovules. Fruit is a legume, oblong-oblanceolate, distally rounded, flat except at seed-bearing apex, flat, indehiscent, samaroid, winged, monochrome yellowish-brown when dried, stipitate, narrowly obovate, 5-11 cm long, 2-2.5 cm wide, narrowing toward the base. Pod wings are 8 cm long and 1-2 cm wide, with many veins, the lower wing narrower than the upper wing, apical seminiferous area turgid, with a single subreniform seed 1.5-2.0 cm long (adapted from Marin and Flores, 2008; PIER, 2015).

Plant Type

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Seed propagated


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M. balsamum is native to tropical America, from northern South America, through mainland Central America to southern Mexico (including the states of Campeche, Chiapas, Guerrero, Michoacan, Morelos, Oaxaca, Veracruz and Yucatan) (ILDIS, 2015; USDA-ARS, 2015). However, the limits to the native range in South America are not universally agreed. For example, ILDIS (2015) includes only Colombia, Venezuela and Ecuador, whereas USDA-ARS (2015) extends this to include Peru, Guyana and Brazil, though the species is also widespread in Bolivia and Surinam (Missouri Botanical Garden, 2015) and may be native in those countries also. Duke (1981) also includes Argentina but not the Guiana Shield countries, stating that representatives of the genus are found in southern Mexico, Central America, Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Argentina and Brazil, where it is recorded in native forest in many states, and endangered especially in littoral forest in southern Brazil (Sebbenn et al., 1998).

M. balsamum has been introduced for balsam production and is now found in humid and sub-humid areas in West, Central and East Africa, South and South-East Asia, and Pacific and Caribbean islands.

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.

Last updated: 17 Dec 2021
Continent/Country/Region Distribution Last Reported Origin First Reported Invasive Planted Reference Notes


Congo, Democratic Republic of thePresentIntroducedPlanted
Sierra LeonePresentIntroduced


-West BengalPresentIntroduced
Sri LankaPresentIntroducedInvasive

North America

Costa RicaPresentNative
Dominican RepublicPresentIntroduced
El SalvadorPresentNative
MexicoPresentNativeSouthern states of Campeche, Chiapas, Guerrero, Michoacan, Morelos, Oaxaca, Veracruz and Yucatan


Federated States of MicronesiaPresentIntroduced
FijiPresentIntroducedCultivated rarely
French PolynesiaPresentIntroduced
Marshall IslandsPresentIntroduced
New CaledoniaPresentIntroduced

South America

-Sao PauloPresentNativePlanted
ColombiaPresentNativeDepartments of Amazonas, Antioquia, Cesar, Magdalena and Meta
EcuadorPresentNativeProvinces of Napo, Pastaza and Zamora-Chinchipe

History of Introduction and Spread

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M. balsamum has been widely introduced, including to Sri Lanka, India and West Africa, specifically for the production of balsam resin (Marin and Flores, 2008). Of the botanical varieties, Duke (1981) reported that it was M. balsamum var. pereirae that had been introduced to southern Sri Lanka, India, West Africa and Florida, USA.

M. balsamum was first reported in Sri Lanka in the 1920s (Weerawardane and Dissanayake, 2005) in the Central Province, where it was being grown as a shade tree along roadsides, for windbreaks and in plantations. It escaped cultivation and has now become a naturalized and rapidly spreading species, colonizing natural and semi-natural habitats, forming invasive, monospecific stands covering large parts of Udawatta Kele Nature Reserve in Kandy district (Wedathanthri and Hitinayake, 1999; Hitinayake et al., 2000; Pushpakumara et al., 2000) and some mixed mahogany forests, reportedly damaging the composition, structure and function of natural ecosystems (Weerawardane and Dissanayake, 2005).


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Introduced toIntroduced fromYearReasonIntroduced byEstablished in wild throughReferencesNotes
Natural reproductionContinuous restocking
Sri Lanka 1920s Forestry (pathway cause); Ornamental purposes (pathway cause) Yes Weerawardane and Dissanayake (2005)

Risk of Introduction

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A weed risk assessment of M. balsamum for the Pacific region resulted in a high risk score of 7 (PIER, 2015). Further introduction of the species is not recommended and, noting how invasive it has become in Sri Lanka, native humid tropical forests in areas where it has been introduced should be monitored.


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M. balsamum is found in evergreen tropical humid forests at low to medium elevations (100-600 m) on moderate, well-drained slopes with an annual rainfall above 2500 mm (Marin and Flores, 2008). It also occurs spontaneously in its native range on agricultural land and in disturbed areas. In its native range in southern Brazil, M. balsamum has been reported as one of several weeds of managed grasslands (Vageler, 1962).

Habitat List

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Terrestrial ManagedCultivated / agricultural land Secondary/tolerated habitat Natural
Terrestrial ManagedCultivated / agricultural land Secondary/tolerated habitat Productive/non-natural
Terrestrial ManagedManaged forests, plantations and orchards Principal habitat Productive/non-natural
Terrestrial ManagedManaged grasslands (grazing systems) Secondary/tolerated habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Terrestrial ManagedDisturbed areas Secondary/tolerated habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Terrestrial ManagedDisturbed areas Secondary/tolerated habitat Natural
Terrestrial ManagedRail / roadsides Secondary/tolerated habitat Productive/non-natural
Terrestrial ManagedUrban / peri-urban areas Secondary/tolerated habitat Productive/non-natural
Terrestrial Natural / Semi-naturalNatural forests Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Terrestrial Natural / Semi-naturalNatural forests Principal habitat Natural

Biology and Ecology

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The chromosome number for species in the genus Myroxylon is n = 14 (Dillon, 1980).

Reproductive Biology

M. balsamum propagates by seed. There are approximately 1700 seeds per kg (Lorenzi, 1992). Seed behaviour is orthodox, germination is hypogeal and seedlings are cryptocotylar. An average germination frequency of 60-75% is reported, with root protrusion beginning 8-10 days after sowing. Natural regeneration is abundant mainly under the canopy of parent trees, where up to 80% germination is estimated, though fungi, insect larvae and other pests and pathogens may reduce seed viability. Seedling survival is reduced by low light availability (Marin and Flores, 2008).

Physiology and Phenology

In Brazil, M. balsamum begins producing flowers at around five years of age, with flowering occurring from July to September and seed setting in October and November. It is a fast-growing, nitrogen-fixing, deciduous tree tolerant of shade and requiring ample and regular rainfall. In its native range, it is a typical emergent tree in the canopy of tropical primary forests. Where invasive in the Kandy district of Sri Lanka, M. balsamum exhibits characteristics that enhance its invasive potential as compared to other species, including higher photosynthetic rate under both sunny and shady conditions, higher stomatal resistance and higher leaf nitrogen content (Costa et al., 2001).

Environmental Requirements

M. balsamum grows in areas with an annual precipitation range of 1350-4030 mm, an annual mean temperature of 23-27ºC and soil pH of 5-8 (Duke, 1981). Where widespread, in the ‘balsam zone’ of north-western El Salvador, it grows at 450-700 m altitude (Fuentes 1993). Duke (1981) reports that M. balsamum var. pereirae grows on poor but well-drained soils at altitudes up to 600 m. Marin and Flores (2008) state that M. balsamum is found in low to medium elevation forests at 100-600 m, in well-drained soils on moderate slopes, and in areas with an annual rainfall above 2500 mm and a temperature range of 24-30°C.


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Af - Tropical rainforest climate Preferred > 60mm precipitation per month
Am - Tropical monsoon climate Tolerated Tropical monsoon climate ( < 60mm precipitation driest month but > (100 - [total annual precipitation(mm}/25]))
As - Tropical savanna climate with dry summer Tolerated < 60mm precipitation driest month (in summer) and < (100 - [total annual precipitation{mm}/25])
Aw - Tropical wet and dry savanna climate Tolerated < 60mm precipitation driest month (in winter) and < (100 - [total annual precipitation{mm}/25])

Latitude/Altitude Ranges

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Latitude North (°N)Latitude South (°S)Altitude Lower (m)Altitude Upper (m)
20 -25 300 700

Air Temperature

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Parameter Lower limit Upper limit
Absolute minimum temperature (ºC) 10
Mean annual temperature (ºC) 23 30


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ParameterLower limitUpper limitDescription
Dry season duration02number of consecutive months with <40 mm rainfall
Mean annual rainfall13504030mm; lower/upper limits

Rainfall Regime

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Soil Tolerances

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Soil drainage

  • free

Soil reaction

  • acid
  • alkaline
  • neutral

Soil texture

  • heavy
  • light
  • medium

Natural enemies

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Natural enemyTypeLife stagesSpecificityReferencesBiological control inBiological control on
Meliola xylosmae Pathogen Plants|Leaves not specific
Muyocopron pereirae Pathogen Plants|Leaves
Peckia pereirae Pathogen Plants|Leaves
Phomopsis Pathogen Plants|Leaves not specific
Phyllosticta myroxyli Pathogen Plants|Leaves
Trabutia xylosmae Pathogen Plants|Leaves not specific

Notes on Natural Enemies

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Both M. balsamum and its variety pereirae are reported by Duke (1981) to be attacked by several fungal diseases, including Meliola xylosmae, Muyocopron pereirae, Peckia pereirae, Phyllosticta myroxyli, Phomopsis sp. and Trabutia xylosmae

Means of Movement and Dispersal

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Natural Dispersal

The small seeds (1700 seeds/kg) in their winged pods are primarily adapted for wind dispersal (Lorenzi, 1992).

Intentional Introduction

M. balsamum has been introduced to many countries outside its native range and grown in plantations for the production of its valuable balsam resin. In Sri Lanka it was also introduced in the 1920s as a shade tree and for use in windbreaks (Weerawardane and Dissanayake, 2005).

Pathway Causes

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CauseNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
Escape from confinement or garden escape Yes
Forestry Yes
Industrial purposesFor gum production Yes Yes
Ornamental purposes Yes

Pathway Vectors

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VectorNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
Wind Yes

Impact Summary

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Cultural/amenity Positive
Economic/livelihood Positive
Environment (generally) Negative
Human health Positive and negative

Economic Impact

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M. balsamum is one of several invasive species in Sri Lanka assessed by Marambe (2001) regarding the social and economic factors affecting its spread. Recommendations are made for its control, but no specific cost estimates are included. 

Environmental Impact

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Marambe (2001) describes the status of seven alien invasive plants, including M. balsamum, in Sri Lanka, including ecological, social and political factors affecting their spread. M. balsamum tolerates more diverse light conditions than native species and, in the absence of natural enemies, seeds sprout in very high numbers, giving rise to dense stands of young trees. Under these conditions, no other vegetation can grow, causing severe ecological disruption, the disappearance of local native plant species, and the animals and insects that feed on them (Marambe, 2001).

In the Udawatta Kele forest reserve near Kandy in central Sri Lanka, dominated by Swietenia macrophylla,Michelia champaca, Mesua ferrea and now also M. balsamum, Wedathanthri and Hitinayake (1999) found that M. balsamum dominates the understorey even when there were only a few mature parent trees in the vicinity. Reasons for this were considered to be the species’ capacity for prolific seed production, its ability to germinate under a wide range of light conditions, favourable microclimatic conditions for growth in the understorey, and the absence of any seed pests or pathogens. The study also clearly showed that invasion by M. balsamum resulted in the decline of forest species diversity. If no control measures were applied, Wedathanthri and Hitinayake (1999) expected that M. balsamum would invade other parts of the forest; they recommended that action should be taken immediately to uproot seedlings, collect and destroy seeds, and thin mother trees. 

Social Impact

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Allergic reactions are reported following external application and internal use of the tree’s resin (Peru balsam) for medicinal purposes, causing reddening, swelling, ulcers and skin eruptions (e.g. Avalos-Peralta et al., 2005).

Risk and Impact Factors

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  • Proved invasive outside its native range
  • Has a broad native range
  • Abundant in its native range
  • Tolerates, or benefits from, cultivation, browsing pressure, mutilation, fire etc
  • Pioneering in disturbed areas
  • Tolerant of shade
  • Long lived
  • Fast growing
  • Has high reproductive potential
Impact outcomes
  • Monoculture formation
  • Reduced native biodiversity
  • Threat to/ loss of native species
Impact mechanisms
  • Competition - monopolizing resources
  • Competition - shading
  • Rapid growth
Likelihood of entry/control
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally deliberately


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Economic Value

M. balsamum balsam and its essential oil are used in the perfume, cosmetic and soap industries, seeds are used as a flavouring and in folk medicine, and trees are planted for fine timber, as shade trees for cultivated crops and as ornamentals (Duke, 1981; Powell, 1995).

M. balsamum and M. balsamum var. pereirae yield gums known as Tolu balsam and Peru balsam, respectively, which were first brought to Europe in the 1500s. They are used mainly as flavourings in confectionery, baked goods, soft drinks, ice cream, chewing gums, cough syrups and similar products and as incense in churches (Duke, 1981). El Salvador is the largest producer of Peru balsam, with annual exports recorded at about 48 t in the late 1970s, while Colombia is the largest producer of Tolu balsam, which is also produced in Venezuela and the West Indies (Duke, 1981). Gum harvesting begins when trees are 20-30 years old with stems 12-15 cm in diameter (Fuentes 1993), such trees yielding 1.5 to 3.0 kg of gum per year. In El Salvador, the traditional method of tapping, collecting and extracting Peru balsam is practised by skilled indigenous ‘balsameros’ (Wellman, 1945). Following removal of strips of bark from the tree, the exposed wood secretes the balsam, which soaks into rags wrapped around the tree, which then are boiled in water. The naturally heavier balsam sinks to the bottom and can be separated (Khan and Abourashed, 2010). In the process of producing Tolu balsam, as well as Peru balsam in many cases, trees are wounded to stimulate gum exudation and the liquid gum is then collected in cups below V shaped notches cut in the trunk through the bark and sapwood (Duke, 1981; Fuentes, 1993; Powell, 1995; Khan and Abourashed, 2010).

Tolu balsam contains resin, free cinnamic and benzoic acids and volatile oil composed mainly of esters of these acids with small amounts of terpenes, as well as traces of eugenol and vanillin. It is a brown or brownish-yellow solid that hardens and darkens with age, and has an aromatic vanilla-like odour and an aromatic, mildly pungent flavour. Peru balsam in its crude form is a dark brown, viscous liquid, also with an aromatic vanilla-like odour but with a bitter acrid taste. It contains 20-28% w/w resin, 45-70% esters, mainly benzyl-cinnamate and benzyl benzoate, and 50-64% cinnamein, which consists mainly of benzoic and cinnamic acid esters (Marin and Flores, 2008; Khan and Abourashed, 2010) and is used in high-grade perfume, cosmetics and soap manufacture (Duke, 1981). The silvicultural, usage and socioeconomic aspects of balsam production in Peru are outlined by Navarrete-Tindall et al. (1998).

M. balsamum trees are also planted for the production of wood for use in construction and as fuelwood. The heartwood is reddish brown with an occasional yellowish hue, turning deep red or purplish after exposure, fairly uniform or striped and sharply demarcated from the white sapwood. Lustre is medium to high and golden; texture is medium; and the grain is typically interlocked. Fresh cut wood has a strong spicy or cedar-like smell, and has been assessed for effects on aging rum when made into barrels. Known as santos mahogany, the wood is very hard, heavy, tough, and strong, with a specific gravity of 0.74-0.81, and is very resistant to fungal attack. M. balsamum wood exhibits low shrinkage values after drying, it is valued for many uses such as flooring, furniture, interior fitting, turnery and sleepers, is moderately difficult to work, but can be finished smoothly with a high natural polish (Saldarriaga, 1979; Chudnoff 1984; Rivera Inga and Uceda Castillo,1987).

M. balsamum is grown in El Salvador as a shade tree in coffee plantations, propagated mainly through natural regeneration and growing to 10 m in 10-12 years (Fuentes 1993; Navarrete-Tindall et al., 1998; Marin and Flores, 2008). It is also planted in forest reforestation projects in Brazil (e.g. Schwarcz et al., 2014).

Social Benefit

In local medicine, Peru balsam is applied externally as an ointment, or in alcoholic solutions is used extensively as an antiseptic to treat certain skin diseases, and as a local protectant, rubefacient, parasiticide and expectorant. Tolu balsam is used as an expectorant in cough mixtures, and as an inhalant for catarrh and bronchitis (Powell, 1995). Alcoholic extracts of both Tolu and Peru balsam inhibit Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Duke, 1981). 

Uses List

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  • Agroforestry
  • Amenity
  • Ornamental
  • Shade and shelter
  • Soil improvement


  • Fuelwood

Human food and beverage

  • Food additive
  • Gum/mucilage


  • Essential oils
  • Gums
  • Miscellaneous materials
  • Resins
  • Wood/timber

Medicinal, pharmaceutical

  • Source of medicine/pharmaceutical
  • Traditional/folklore


  • garden plant

Wood Products

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Railway sleepers

Sawn or hewn building timbers

  • Carpentry/joinery (exterior/interior)
  • Flooring
  • For light construction


  • Turnery

Similarities to Other Species/Conditions

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According to Condit et al. (2011), the leaves of Acosmium panamense and Dalbergia retusa are similar to those of M. balsamum but their alternating leaflets have notched tips.

Prevention and Control

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Due to the variable regulations around (de)registration of pesticides, your national list of registered pesticides or relevant authority should be consulted to determine which products are legally allowed for use in your country when considering chemical control. Pesticides should always be used in a lawful manner, consistent with the product's label.

Physical/Mechanical Control

Wedathanthri and Hitinayake (1999) recommended physical control measures for M. balsamum in central Sri Lanka, including uprooting seedlings, collecting and destroying seeds, and thinning some mature trees.

Chemical Control

M. balsamum was one of several weeds of managed grasslands in Brazil that underwent herbicide trials in the early 1960s; basal applications of a 1.5% solution of a 2,4-D + 2,4,5-T mixture gave better control than did spraying overall (Vageler, 1962).

Gaps in Knowledge/Research Needs

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To inform decisions on the management and maintenance of species diversity and on how to control the invasion of M. balsamum in Udawatta Kele forest reserve, Sri Lanka, Wedathanthri and Hitinayake (1999) suggested further research to better understand the dynamics of competition between Swietenia macrophylla, M. balsamum and Mesua ferrea for dominance at different levels in the forest canopy, and on physiological processes including water use efficiency and stomatal conductance.


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Acevedo Mallque M; Santillana Villacorta J, 1991. Anatomical description and identification key for nineteen forest species of Madre de Dios. [Descripcion anatomica y clave de identificacion de 19 especies forestales de Madre de Dios.] Revista Forestal del Peru, 18(2):5-16; 16 ref.

Allen ON; Allen EK, 1981. The Leguminosae: a source book of characteristics, uses, and nodulation. Madison, USA: University of Wisconsin Press, 812 pp.

Augspurger CK, 1984. Light requirements of neotropical tree seedlings: a comparative study of growth and survival. Journal of Ecology, UK, 72(3):777-795.

Avalos-Peralta P; García-Bravo B; Camacho FM, 2005. Sensitivity to Myroxylon pereirae resin (balsam of Peru). A study of 50 cases. Contact Dermatitis, 52(6):304-306.

Botelho SA; Davide AC; Faria JMR, 1996. Initial development of six native forest species at two sites in the southern region of Minas Gerais. [Desenvolvimento inicial de seis espécies florestais nativas em dois sítios, na regiao Sul de Minas Gerais]. Cerne, 2(1):43-52.

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Distribution References

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19/11/2014   Original text by:

Nick Pasiecznik, consultant, France

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