The Makiling Botanic Gardens (MBG) Plant of the Month (POM) for July 2022 is the Bitter-Wood, scientifically known as Quassia amara L. is from the family Simaroubaceae and is Native to South America. The plant is also called Bitter-ash Amargo.
Bitter-wood is a multi-stemmed shrub or small tree with 3-5 pinnate leaflets, deeply veined and with distinctive winged axis and red veins. Its flowers grow on the tip of each branch in panicles. It has a 10-30 cm red-branched raceme that produces crimson flowers. The flower comprises 5 lanceolate petals which remain closed together forming a sharpening cylinder. Meanwhile, its fruit has five (5) small elliptic, fleshy green to purple-black drupes that turn red as it matures.
This plant is often used as an insecticide, traditional medicine (all plant parts have medicinal properties), and food additive (bark extracts are mainly used as a flavoring in drinks). Interestingly, Quassia amara was named after an enslaved healer and botanist, Graman Quassi, who uses this plant to treat a fever. Additionally, the word “amara” in Latin means “bitter”.
Did you know?
All parts of Q. amara are harvested because it contains a very bitter compound called Quassimarin?
To know more about this plant, here is a short video presentation: