Belize's most complete agricultural publication.

Beyond The Backyard – “Mother, May I?”

in Issue 29 by

In March 2015 alone more than 100,000 visitors flocked to Washington State USA to see the Cherry Blossoms. They fly from around the world and join the feeding frenzy sucking up the sight of these marvelous trees. They marry under the confetti of petals, dancing and reveling in delight, taking shots with their i phones and sharing their joy on Facebook.MadreDeCacao2

In Belize there is a blossom that momentarily takes my breath away, as I am stunned by its beauty, every bit as impressive as the cherry blossom but with much more versatility. It has a fairly humble position as it is used mainly as a living fence and nicknamed “quick stick”as it is really that easy to grow in any type of soil. Its deep roots and quick growth make it a good windbreak.

Gliricidia sepium is derived from the Latin meaning to kill a rat. Which is just one of its many uses. It is a good insect repellent and used on dogs and livestock for flees, ticks and scabies or to get rid of termites and bed bugs. There are many folkloric medicinal claims and known to be antipruitic, antioxidant, antifungal and antimicrobial. In Mexico there is a antibacterial soap made from the bark. It is also a leguminous nitrogen fixer suitable for alley cropping. Cut branches are then used for firewood and lumber. We know the tree as Madre de Cacao as it has been utilized as a guardian companion for shading and protecting cacao trees from pests. Other names are Mexican Lilac, Madreado and in the Philippines Kakawate. The only part that is edible to humans are the flowers whose pollen greatly attracts bees. The leaves can be sun dried for fodder for ruminants, farmed fish and to improve production of laying hens. It does seem though that if given the choice livestock would not choose this feed. Given its name as a rodent killer who wouldn’t. It is also said that the leaves are toxic to horses and have capability to stun fish. So caution is recommended. By lining an earthenware pot with the leaves you can ripen fruits such as banana, avocado, papaya as it traps the ethylene gas that softens the fruit. Endless uses and possibilities.MadreDeCacao1

Here are mothers potions…..

Rat poison: grind up bark and mix with cooked corn

Pets: for ticks and flees and preventative. Grind up the leaves and mix with water bathe the animals once a week but do not rinse off.

Ointment for dermatitis, boils, diaper rash: mash fresh leaves make a poultice or add to melted white candle wax and coconut oil.

MadreDeCacao4Trees are being felled to make way for supposedly needed crops of coconuts, citrus ,corn and pineapples etc.They should live in harmony, the trees providing much needed nutrients and taking their rightful place as they really do bring important tourist dollars. Visitors come to see our sights, our wildlife and our beauty. The trees are essential to the wildlife and crop pollinators. When the Madre de Cacao drops it’s leaves, it is replaced by an abundance of showy pink flowers at the start of the dry season going through to March. Now this also happens to be our tourist season. So imagine our roadways alive with colour! Let’s get planting.

Pictures courtesy Phoenix Photo

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