Scientific Name: Anacardium exelsum

Botanical Family: Anacardiaceae

Common Name: Espavel

Our tree of the month of March, the Espavel, fills the rivers basin of our Naranjo River Biological Corridor and the Central Pacific with its majestic stature and beautiful green canopy. This species is found mostly along the banks of the rivers and streams. It is a tree of large size which can reach heights up to 40 meters and diameters up to 1.5 meters! The trunk is cylindrical and straight with a aqueous aromatic sap. Its leaves are simple, alternate and are grouped at the end of the branches. When you crush the leaves in your hand, they exude a smell similar to the mango, which indicates to us that we are in the presence of one of the species belonging to the Anacardeaceas family.


We feature the Espavel this month because during March, it produces fruit abundantly and so is visited daily by the troops of Titi or squirrel monkeys found within the Biological Corridor. The fleshy fruits, which have an S shape, have an agreeable sweet flavor which are enjoyed by the animals. Traditionally its wood has been used in carpentry and furniture making and is used especially to produce the pilones and bateas (wooden trays) used to process corn and beans on the farms of the Costa Rican campesinos.

It is believed that due to the great heights of these trees, during the Spanish colonial times the Native Americans would climb them to use as lookouts for their enemies, thus giving rise to the origin of the Spanish word “espave” which was abbreviated for “es para ver” meaning “it is to see” .