Tonka Bean Tree

The tonka bean tree [dipteryx odorata] grows and reproduces better in full sun, and largely appears on the northeastern lowland plains of Costa Rica. The tall, yellow-white to brown trunk can reach over 3 feet (1 m) in diameter. Sometimes the trunk has buttressed roots.

About The Tonka Bean Tree

When in flower, this tree is even more conspicuous – pretty, two-tone pink flowers emerge in large clusters, and give off a fragrance reminiscent of fruit. These flowers attract several species of hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees.
The fruit is also popular among wildlife—around 60 species or so of mammals, insects, and birds. These include monkeys, parrots, bats, toucans, golden orioles, coati, and agouti. The desirable fruits are green, 2-2.5 inches (5-6 cm) long, and contain a seed under layers of woody shell and soft fruit flesh. The shell dehisces (or opens) as the seed germinates.

A notable eater of the tonka bean fruit is the great green macaw, and the survival of this incredible bird depends on this tree. Great green macaws fly large distances between the remaining almendro trees, searching for individual trees that currently have fruit.

Unfortunately, the wood of the tonka bean is attractive to humans, and most mature trees have been cut down, and their lumber harvested to decorate homes. Tonka bean trees grow quickly when planted from seed, but the stately giants that are being cut down for human consumption will take hundreds of years to replace. Hopefully the great green macaw will find enough tonka bean trees in the meantime. It's important that this species is part of reforestation projects.

In the Wild

Places Have Been Spotted