Planting the tree of life in the Reserve… the magic Guáimaro

Walking on the paths of the Tananeos Natural Reserve we noticed that the ground was covered in hundreds of round coffee coloured seeds. These are the seeds of the magic tree, the tree of life, the seeds of the Guáimaro. And although this tree does not grow close by, these seeds were transported by fruit bats that live in the Reserve. They eat the fleshy peel of the fruit and drop the seeds in many parts of the Reserve, contributing to the reproduction of this wonderful species.

At Tananeos Natural Reserve we want to recuperate this important tree, not only due to its ability in absorbing contaminating emissions more effectively than other tree species, but also because it offers a highly nutritious food source for humans and animals. Therefore, we have created small plantations of Guáimaro and other species with members of the local community for reforestation projects within the reserve and beyond.

The Guáimaro helps to stabilize biodiversity in forests due to its many properties. Its leaves serve as forage for animals and the fruit is food for bats, primates, birds or tapirs. In the past, guáimaro seeds, together with corn, were a vital food source of the Maya civilisation.

The seeds present highly nutritive and energetic properties. According to scientific research, the seeds contain as much calcium as milk, more potassium than the banana and as much iron as spinach. The pulp of the fruit can be consumed directly or in the form of a jelly. Boiled or toasted they can be prepared as liquid, soup or puree and can be combined with corn, honey or banana. Occasionally it is toasted and ground as a substitute to coffee. The natives use it against asthma, anaemia or rheumatism.

The tree can live up to 100 years and is productive during its entire lifetime. Between March and April, it produces an average of 180 Kilos of fruit.

Scientific studies have shown that the Guáimaro is key species to reduce the impact of global warming and climate change. Its roots grow very deep which make it more resistant to droughts and fires. It absorbs CO2 from the atmosphere and accumulates it in its biomass (leaves, wood, fruits etc.) as other trees, but it is particularly efficient in binding CO2 from the atmosphere to the ground creating inorganic calcium carbonate which decomposes much slower and can last for thousands of years in the ground.

Therefore, the Guáimaro represents not only an opportunity to combat the effects of climate change, it also provides communities with the possibility to achieve sustainable livelihoods and an alternative food source in turn of forest conservation.