Our Cuban Abey in the botanical journal of Texas

Our Cuban Abey (Abarema glauca) has a paper in the journal of the Botanical Research Institute of Texas. This paper summarizes the hard work of many people aiming to know this species in depth.


Fecha: 31/08/2020


Project: Planta!’s Capacity Building program: supporting the conservation of threatened trees.


The abey is native of Cuba and La Española and is a relative of two introduced plants commonly known as “Algarrobo” and “dormidera”. However, unlike these two thriving relatives, the abey -a Cuban plant- is facing a risk of extinction. It is a tree that reaches up to 15 m in height, with flowers pollinated by bees and spiral fruits containing blue and white seeds. Due to these fruits, the species is called caracolí in the Dominican Republic.

We conducted four expeditions to Artemisa and Mayabeque.

Monitoring the abey in the South

Four expeditions were conducted to Artemisa and Mayabeque looking for the abey. This region is vital in supplying drinking water and food to Havana. Towards the South, it still preserves natural swamps, mangroves, and a small part of a semi-deciduous forest almost destroyed by agriculture over several decades. This region is a habitat of colorful fungi, “jutías” and countless birds.

I was impressed to see how a forest destroyed by agricultural practices over 40 years ago is growing after all the crops and farming activities stopped. On the other hand, the swamp with some planted trees is a testimony of how useless it is to force a forest to grow where it does not belong. The South is an open skylab, an extreme example of resilience and adaptation. Nobody knows this habitat better than the community, many of which work in forestry companies that use this ecosystem.

The forest South of Havana is an open skylab, an extreme example of resilience and adaptation.

A fragile and robust tree

The monitoring results published in the Texan journal correspond to the province of Artemisa. The paper included the distribution of the abey, its density in the remaining patches of forest, and its growth strategies. The abey, once popular among the Island’s first nations, is now scattered in what remains after 500 years of overexploitation. From 109 located individuals, 30% were adults, and 70% were juveniles, mostly seedlings.

A team of Planta!’s volunteers conducted these expeditions looking for the abey.

This research allowed us to know the distribution of the abey, its density in the remaining patches of forest, and its growth strategies.

The percentage of adults in the population is concerning considering their contribution to the species capacity for a natural long-term survival. A combination of cut adult trees and juveniles destroyed in trails has been seen in the species habitat. Logged trees will stop contributing with seeds to the population; destroyed juveniles will never reach adulthood and produce seeds. It is a never-ending cycle that could bring the species to its extinction.

The abey is a tree that reaches up to 15 m in height, and it is a relative of the "Algarrobo” and “dormidera”.

Forestry technicians, our best allies

One of the most important results of our study relates to the species timber. We were able to estimate the amount of biomass produced by this species compared to the most exploited tree of this region, “almendra de La India” (Terminalia catappa), used by the Forestry company Costa Sur. According to our results, 33 adults of abey accumulate the same amount of wood of 213 “almendras”. Moreover, the abey’s wood density is twice the almendra’s; therefore, it has a higher quality.  However, for forestry purposes, fast-growing trees are more suitable, which luckily for the abey, it is the case of the exotic “almendra”.

“Collaborating with forestry technicians contributed to acknowledge the abey as a valuable threatened species and to initiate its nursery propagation from seeds. They will be our best allies when promoting the elimination of the species’ logging and working to increase its population.”

Diana Rodríguez Cala

Project Leader

Everybody wins

We wanted to publish this research in Spanish so that the forestry specialists could use it for their work. The Texan journal not only allowed this, but they also kindly exempted us from the publication fees. We dedicated this work to Rodrigo Fernández Moreno, a recognized specialist of the forestry company, with very little time to write about all his work throughout the Southern wetlands.

After the publication of the paper, we sent a copy of the Red List of the Cuban Flora to the Botanical Research Institute of Texas. We hope to include gratitude among the numerous abey’s attributes.

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