CINNAMON BARK

Also Known As
Barbasco
Canella
Canella Cinnamon
Mexican Cinnamon
Pepper Cinnamon
Peruvian Cinnamon
Wild Cinnamon
White Cinnamon
ENGLISH ANTILLES:
Bahama Whitewood
BRAZIL:
Paratudo [“for everything”]
CUBA:
Pica-Pica [“it bites”] [4]
In Cuba, it is also known as Curbana, a name possibly of Taino origin, or Malambo, which is either of Taino or African origin. 
DOMINICAN REPUBLIC:
Canelilla [“Little Cinnamon”]
Canela de la Tierra [“Cinnamon of the Land”]
PUERTO RICO:
Canella [“Cinnamon”]
GUADELOUPE:
Bois Canelle [“Cinnamon Tree”]
VIRGIN ISLANDS:
Caneel [variant of Canela]
EUROPE [of old]:
Winteranus [4] 
NOTE: More names are listed in Florida Ethnobotany. 
SYNONYMS:  
Canella alba 
Laurus winterana 
Winterana canella 


Order:   Canellales
Family:   Canellaceae
Genus:    Canella
Species: winterana

Florida s

Edible Parts
Caution
Other Uses
Medicinal Fragrant
This is not the well known Cinnamon found in your kitchen cabinet, which may in fact be any of several species within the genus Cinnamomum. The species profiled here is a native small tree or shrub known by the same name. NEVER harvest this native shrub from the wild, as it is legally protected as an "endangered species" here in Florida, and correctly so. It is quite rare, and grows mainly in the Florida Keys and along "the shores of Florida Bay." I actually spotted my first tree on Sanibel Island, having been planted near the entrance to the newly relocated native plant nursery on the island. It was in bloom and truly captivated me with its beauty. If you live in warmer parts of the state, you may want to purchase a plant from a native plant nursery to tend in your backyard. I grow it here at Bamboo Grove. CAUTION - DO NOT INGEST this plant. The outer bark is toxic, the leaves and stems are toxic to poultry and are a fish poison, and the plant is insecticidal. That said, the crushed leaves, flowers, and fruits have a spicy fragrance and a hot, pungent, spicy pepper-cinnamon taste and the strongly aromatic pale yellow inner bark has been used extensively as a cinnamon substitute in times past, as was used commonly by the Caribs. It has a long history of medicinal use in the Caribbean. However, I reiterate... DO NOT CONSUME. 



CAUTION:  “The [thin] outer bark [which is an eighth of an inch thick [2]] is toxic.” [1]  The leaves and stems are toxic to poultry and are a fish poison, and the plant is insecticidal. Etnobotanist Daniel Austin described the taste of the leaf as "burning like crazy." IFAS writes, “Despite its common name, the plant is not recommended.” CONSERVATION STATUS: This is a state-listed endangered species and should never be harvested from the wild.   

THE FOLLOWING NOTES ON EDIBILITY AND MEDICINAL QUALITIES ARE FOR HISTORICAL INTEREST ONLY - NEVER CONSUME THIS PLANT IN ANY FORM

INNER BARK AS A SPICE:  CAUTION:  “The [thin] outer bark [which is an eighth of an inch thick [2]] is toxic.” [1]  IFAS writes, “Despite its common name, the plant is not recommended.” 
- CARIBS:  “Olaf Swartz wrote in 1791: “This bark, together with the fruit of Capsicum, were formerly common ingredients in the food and drink of the Caraibs [Caribs].” [Grime, 1976, via 4]. 
- 1500s: "Dr. Diego Álvarez Chanca accompanied Christopher Columbus on his second voyage, after which he wrote of a cinnamon (canela in Spanish) which was unlike any of the species of cinnamon used in Europe. He had probably reported the use of C. winterana." [7]
- 1600s: “The species had been known to Europeans since at least 1623, when it was called Cinnamomum s[ive] canella peruana [Peruvian Cinnamon] by Gaspar Bauhin. 
- 1700s: “In the 1700s, the inner bark was exported from the West Indies to Europe as a substitute for cinnamon.” [1] 
- 1800s:  “Williams [1837, 1962] wrote, “The bark is strongly aromatic, and flavored much like Laurus cinnamon [sic], but is more pungent.” [4] 
LEAVES AS A SPICE [DO NOT INGEST - SEE CAUTION] :  Daniel Austin, in his book Florida Ethnobotany, writes “fresh leaves are fiery, and they have been used to season foods throughout its range.  Indeed, In Cuba, they have the common name Pica-Pica [“it bites,” referring to the stinging taste].”  Daniel took “an ample bite from a tip” of a leaf and described his lips and tongue as “burning like crazy.” [4]  The leaves are also used to season foods in the Virgin Islands. [4]  They may also be described as having a peppery-cinnamon flavor.
FRUITS AS A SPICE:  The berries are used to season foods in Puerto Rico. [4]  “Supposedly, the berries are hot like black pepper when gathered green and dried.” [4]  
MEDICINAL BARK: 
- BRAZIL
:   “A decoction of the bitter bark is used as a febrifuge and gargle to relieve sore throat in Brazil.” [4] 
- CUBA
:  “It is also a febrifuge in Cuba where it is called Malambo [Taino or Africa?].” [4]  “Similar uses include the infusion as a tonic [Puerto Rico], to relieve indigestion and fever in new mothers [Cuba], and to treat “female weakness” in the Bahamas [Roig, 1945], Morton, 1981].  Not only is the remedy for new mothers, but in Cuba it has been used as an abortifacient [Roig, 1945].” [4] 
- VIRGIN ISLANDS
: “The bark, mixed with lime leaves and ginger, helps stimulate appetite after illness in the Virgin Islands [Peterson, 1974].” [4] 
- JAMAICA
: “Rum, containing the bark, is drunk for stomach pain in Jamaica [Morton, 1981].” [4] 
- EXPORTED TO EUROPE
: “The bark formerly was exported to Europe and the United States for pharmaceutical use.” [4] 
MEDICINAL WOOD:  “The decoction of the wood is applied to the head or chipped wood is smoked in a pipe in the Bahamas.” [4]  
MEDICINAL LEAVES:  “A leaf decoction is used to alleviate headache.” [4]  
EXTERNAL MEDICINAL USES:  BARK:  “The bark is macerated in alcohol or rum and rubbed on rheumatic and other pains in Cuba and Jamaica [Roig, 1945].” [4]  LEAVES:  “Leaf decoctions are also used in bath for rheumatism in the Bahamas, or the leaves and bark combined with other “bush” [medicinal plant] and made into a bush bath in the Virgin Islands [Peterson, 1974, Morton, 1981].” [4]  
CHEMICAL CONSTITUENTS:  “Bark yields 0.75 to 1.25 percent volatile oil containing 1-a-pineal, cineole, caryophyllene, -8 percent, and 8 percent manitol.  There is also drimane sesquiterpene present [Kioy, 1989].” [4] 
COMMERCIAL PRODUCTION: "Commercial production of “white cinnamon” from C. winterana has ceased, but small-scale, local production continues." [7]
IN GENERAL: "Canellaceae also have alkaloids of the aporphine type, such as N-(cinnamoil)-tryptamine, lignans of thearyl-tetralin type, cinnamaldehydes, and allylphenols. Crystals of calcium oxalate are in the leaf mesophyll." [7]
AROMATHERAPY: I would think that the fresh leaves may be used in aromatherapy after proper research is done. 
USEFUL WOOD:  Though much too rare to ever harvest, the wood “is very heavy and exceedingly hard, strong, and close-grained.” [2]  “It is dark red-brown and the thick sapwood” is “light brown or yellow in color.” [2]  
POULTRY AND FISH POISON:  “Both leaves and stems are toxic to poultry.  Those same poisons make it useful as a fish poison called Barbasco [Marbasco] [American variant of Verasco, general common name for Pterocaulon and Verbascum, but also used for several fish poison plants, Puerto Rico]. “ [4]  
INSECTICIDAL:  “There are potent chemicals in the plant and they have been shown to have insecticidal activity [Udino, 1994.]” [4]  
WILDLIFE:  Ripe fruits are “eaten by many birds.” [2]  A “nectar plant for Schaus’ Swallowtail and other butterflies.” [1]  It “provides food and cover for wildlife.” [1]  

More Details

—NATIVE TO:  “Monroe, Miami-Dade and Collier counties; West Indies [Barbados, etc.], Mexico and the Bay Islands of Honduras.  Very rare on the mainland along the extreme southern coast to about Everglades City.” [1] In the Caribbean, Daniel Austin lists it as being native to “the Bahamas, Cuba, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, the Lesser Antilles from St. Martin and Barbuda to St. Lucia and Barbados.” [4]  It is “not uncommon on the Florida Keys.” [2] 
HABITAT: “A relatively common sub-canopy tree in coastal hammocks in the Florida Keys and the shores of Florida Bay.” [1]  “It generally grows under the shade of larger trees in dense forests composed of Sideroxylon, Lysiloma, Swietenia, Bursera, Hypelate, Dipholis, and Nectandra. [3]   
LEGAL STATUS:  Here in Florida, it is a state-listed endangered species.  
—DESCRIPTION:  “The white bark, the brilliant deep green foliage, and crimson fruit make the Canella one of the most ornamental of the smaller south Florida trees.” [2]  “Usually taller than broad.” [1]  “Small [evergreen] tree or large shrub.” [1] 
- HEIGHT:  “Typically [growing slowly to] 15-20 feet in height; to 29 feet in South Florida.” [1]  “On the mountains of Jamaica, it is said to grow sometimes to the height of 50 feet.” [2] 
- CROWN:  Broadly rounded. [1] 
- TRUNK:  Single.  “To 10 inches in diameter, but usually much smaller.” [1] 
- BARK: “Light gray [whitish], broken into short, thick scales.” [1] 
- LEAVES:  “Dark green above, shiny, 2-5 inches long, aromatic when crushed.” [1]  “Obovate, round, or slightly emarginate at the apex, and contracted into a short, stout, grooved petiole. They are 3.5-5” long and lustrous. [2] 
- FLOWERS:  Green and purple buds open to small flowers that have red petals and red anthers.  All year, peak spring–summer. [1]  The autumn is usually the peak. [2]  IFAS lists the flowering from May-September. 
- FRUIT:  Fruits are “bright crimson, soft, and fleshy.” [2]  They ripen “in March and April.” [2] 
NOTES:  A monotypic [monospecific] genus, containing just this one species.  
CULTURE
- HARDINESS:  USDA zones 9B-12B [down to 26F]. [5] 
- LIGHT:  Full sun to light shade. [1] 
- SOIL: “Moist, well-drained limestone or calcareous sandy soils, with humusy top layer.” [1] 
- WATER:  Moderately drought tolerant. [1] 
- NUTRITIONAL REQUIREMENTS:  “Moderate; can grow in nutrient poor soils, but needs some organic content to thrive.” [1] 
- PROPAGATION:  From seed.  “Rarely cuttings.” [5].  “Volunteer seedlings establish themselves beneath the parent tree.” [5] 
- NOTES:  Does best in the warmer, coastal areas of Florida.  Makes a lovely accent shrub.  


Flowering Calendar
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Flower Color
Red

Fruiting Calendar
J
F
M
A
M
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J
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Fruit Color
Red

Habitat
Coastal
Conservation Status
Florida Endangered
Native?
Native


Plant Form
Woody Evergreen Perennial Understory Tree
Height
25 feet
Rate of Growth
Slow


Hardiness Zone
9b to 12b
Damaging Temp.
26°F
Light
Part Sun Full Sun



Sources for acquiring

Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation's Native Plant Nursery on Sanibel Island [that's where I purchased my tree from] 


References

[1] regionalconservation.org [photo: flowering inflorescence – Roger Hammer / photo: close-up of flowers – Keith Bradley / Leaf cluster – Shirley Denton] 
[2] Wikipedia
[3] The Silva of North America, by Sargent, via Wikipedia 
[4] Florida Ethnobotany, Daniel Austin 
[5] IFAS 
[6] Elbert Little’s detailed Florida range map [map in the lower right corner] 
[7] Plantes Medicinales Aromatiques [an online pdf article] 
Last Updated: October 28, 2017