Saving threatened habitats worldwide

Cavanillesia platanifolia (Cuipo)

cuipo tree

Class: Magnoliopsida

Order: Malvales

Family: Malvaceae (Bombacaceae)

Scientific Name: Cavanillesia platanifolia

IUCN Red List status: Near threatened

Protected by the following WLT project

The Ecuador Forests


The Cuipo is a giant deciduous tree with a distinctive appearance. It grows quickly, up to 60 metres tall and seven metres in diameter. Its massive grey trunk and short buttress roots resemble an elephant’s foot and toes. The crown is small and round and flowers in March or April, producing large fruits shortly after. The edible seeds carpet the forest floor and are said to taste like peanuts. Like the baobab, the trunk can swell to store water.

The Cuipo’s resin is traditionally used to heal infected wounds and the Cuna indigenous communities of Colombia and Panama believe the fibrous bark can induce weight gain. The trunk is soft and light providing ideal material for dug-out canoes and wooden containers. However the size and shape of the tree makes it difficult to cut and transport so they are often left standing when other trees in the area have been felled. 


The Cuipo is found in the lowland moist and dry forests of Central America, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Brazil, occurring less frequently further from the Pacific coast. One of the biggest remaining populations is found in Panama.

In 2015 a massive Cuipo was discovered in Laipuna Reserve in the dry forest of southern Ecuador. The reserve is owned and managed by Naturaleza y Cultura Ecuador, a partner of World Land Trust. 


Although this is a widely distributed species, its habitat and population is declining due to deforestation.  Scattered individual trees and subpopulations exist in deforested areas across its range, though the Colombian subpopulation is considered to be endangered. 

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