Sendero Sacbaquecán [Hueso Blanco de Culebra] [White Bone of Snake]

BioEsfera Project

This section contains a catalog of plant species found at the Sendero Sacbaquecán. This is part of the ecology instrucional program offered by EcoEscuela de Español in the San Andrén, Petén area. The name means 'Hueso Blanco de Culebra' or 'White Bone of Snake' in Maya Itzá language. According to the locals, it is said that once upon a time, a plant which had the ability to heal any the bite of any venemous snake was to be found in this area. This plant was called Sacbaquecán.


  1. CHALTECOCO (common name)
    Caesalpinia velutina (scientific name)
    Aripin (Maya name)

    Chaltecoco, a secondary wood, is a lesser known timber species. this means that its value as a commercial product has not been fully realized. For now, it is used in home construction to support beams and corner posts. The wood is not harvested for export. Individuals extract it for personal use.


    This tree is an indicator of a disturbed forest or patch. Its leave are sun seekers, providing a large surface area to collect the sun's energy and turn it into sugars which allow the tree to grow quickly. The quick growing pattern also produces a soft wood. When a tree falls, or after a forest is cleared for cattle or agriculture, guarumo, which is a sun tolerant species, quickly establishes a canopy, this protecting the soil and allowing sun intolerant species to start growing. Fot this reason, it is called a "pioneer" species. The wood is soft and the trunk is hollow because the tree is investing in fast vertical growth. This contrasts with more dense tropical species that grow slowly but live longer. This is a short-lived tree that dies after approximately twenty years, giving way to the slower grwoing species. Guarumo has a symbiotic relationship with ants of the genus Azteca. It provides the ants with food and housing, while these fierce social insects protect it.

    Guarumo seeds are dispersed by birds and bats. the germination cycle is interesting in that seeds will lie dormant in the soil until there is a change in the amount of light that reaches the soil. When the normally closed canopy is disturbed, the sun light has the opportunity to reach the seed, thus triggering germination. Because the seeds will not germinate without direct sunlight, guarumo thrives in disturbed forests.

    Trophis racemosa
    Yax' ox

    This is a very important tree that the Petén forest society relies upon to feed its animals. The leaves of the Ramón Colorado are used to feed farm animals such as horses, mules and cows. the wood is also used in construction for crossbeams and skirting boards.

  4. ROBLE
    Bourerria oxyphyllaria

    The main use of roble is for leña, or fire wood for cooking


    Tres filos, a vine, is cut and used for spear fishing.

  6. ANONA
    Anona squamosa

    The anona tree bears a soft edible fruit enjoyed by the Peteneros. It is an important source of foos for forest mammals. Anona provides an example of a species that relies on animals for seed dispersal. After the animal eats the pulp, they drop the seed on the forest floor whre it can germinate.

  7. JABIN
    Piscidia piscipula

    The Jabin has a very strong core that is used in foundation construction for houses, particularly corner posts. It is also used for fire wood, or leña. In Mexico it is used for railroad ties.

    Lysimola bahamensis

    The bark is used to cure and tan leather. It is an indicator of poor soils that are not suitable for farming.

    Bursera simaruba

    This tree has a very charactersitic appearnace with a thin, reddish bark that flakes of easily to reveal a green trunk. Because of the reddish flakes, locals also call it 'Nariz de Gringo' [gringo's nose]. It is used to make plywood. It has simple medicinal values and its resin is used to take out stains. The sap of this tree is a remedy for the painful rash caused by another very common forest tree, Chechén Negro. Unlike many tropical trees, the chacaj rojo is leafless in the dry season.

    Pseudobomba ellipticum

    Although cedro and caoba are the preferred woods, amapola may also be used for dugout canoes. It is a very soft and manageable wood, which is also used to make plywood.


    This rock is very useful to the Peteneros. When mixed with water, the shavings serve as paint. Chicleros use the stone to make the oven base for cooking chicle when they are in the forest. It also serves as the surface for cooking tortillas which can be seen in most of Pet&eeacute;n households.

    Pimineta dioica

    Pimienta gorda is a very important tree. Its fruit represents a sustainable harvestable product, called allspice on the international market. The fruit is harvested and dried when it ripens during the first months of the rainy season in July and August. It is exported and used as a cooking spice and as a preservative in food industries (common in the Russian herring industry). The oil from both the fruit and the leaves is used not only in food but in making rum and after shave (Old Spice). Peteneros harvest the fruit without causing much damage to the tree therefore causing minimal damage to forest ecosystems over the long term. It is also used to cure minor stomach problems.
    For building purposes, pimineta gorda is occasionally used in heavy construction such as bridges and housing supports. The Ancient Maya also used the oil for embalming the dead.

    You can also find out more about the flora of the Petén by looking at Dr. Gomez-Pompa's page The Trees of the Great Petén .


    Your comments, corrections, and suggestions on the computer materials are always welcomed. Please send electronic mail to:

    Carlos R. Solís

    Revised May 9, 1995 by crs