Stinking Toe Tree

The stinking toe tree [hymenaea courbaril] is a neo-tropical tree has thick bark that varies in color from brown to greyish. Beneath the bark the wood is a reddish-brown color. This wood is prized as lumber because of its warm red hue.

The stinking toe tree usually grows to around 131 feet (40 m), and can get as tall as 164 feet (50 m) and its large trunk can grow as large as 3 feet (1 m) in diameter. It has large roots that are relatively shallow, and sometimes visible above the surface of the ground. The branches create a wide circle of shade.

Stinking toe tree flowers are a delicate off-white color. These flowers emerge in the dry season, and at the beginning of the rainy season. In the rainy season the stinking toe tree produces its fruit, which falls to the ground and provides food for animals. The stinking toe’s edible fruit is encased in an oblong pod with large seeds. This pod resembles a large toe and has a pungent smell when ripe.

Agoutis, rodents that are relatives of the guinea pig, are instrumental in helping the stinking toe tree spread its seeds. They carry the pods away from the tree and hide them for later – this is called “scatter hoarding” and it increases the likelihood that the pod’s seeds will become a new tree. Pods left near the stinking toe tree will get stepped on or eaten, but in an isolated location they may stay put long enough to germinate.