The first thing you might notice about the ziricote is the bright orange flowers. At the end of March and early part of April in the Yucatan you will see these trees in bloom. It adds a bit of color to the landscape. Other then looking decorative, these trees have been used for centuries and continue to be used today for many things. The ziricote is also known as ziracote or ciricote. The scientific name is cordia dodecandra.
The ziricote normally grows up to 16 meters tall (52 ft.). It grows throughout Central America, Southern Mexico and also in the Caribbean. It is tolerant to many things like drought and can even grow close to the ocean.
Where can you find these trees?
Since the ziricote is a fairly easy tree to grow and it is somewhat desirable for decoration, you can find these around homes, parks and avenues. You might have passed by some many times without knowing it. Larger rural ziricote are often cut for the decorative wood. Smaller ones however are easy to identify with the orange flowers and fruit in season.
The ziricote tree should not be confused with the look-a-like tree found along the coast of the Riviera Maya. It is related but does not have the same size nor the good fruits.
The leaves of the ziricote tree
The leaves are oval shape and about 5 inches in length. The interesting thing about the leaves is the texture. It is rough to the touch. Kind of like a cats tongue. because of the texture, traditionally the leaves were used for scrubbing both in cleaning dishes and exfoliating skin.
The ziricote produces fruit around April. The fruit will start in green clumps on the branches. When ripe the fruit will turn a yellowish color. The fruit is aromatic and complex in taste. A full grown tree can produce about 35 kg. of fruit (77 pounds).
Traditionally the ziricote fruit is used as a dessert. It is mixed with sugar or made into preserves. This is popular in rural communities in the Yucatan Peninsula especially in the town of Espita.
Once ripe this fruit does not last long. That might be why you have never heard of this fruit. Also it is best picked from the tree since they bruise easily and get eaten by ants and iguanas.
Medicinal used of the ziricote
Both the flowers and bark are made into syrups for coughing.
The wood of the ziricote
Wood form the ziricote is very desirable for fine furniture making. The contrasting dark veins and detailed lines make it striking. Many local modern furniture makes produce pieces from this wood.