Opening/Closure Status

The grounds of the USBG will be closed September 18, 2021. On other days, all outdoor gardens are currently open. The Conservatory and public restrooms remain closed, due to the closure of the U.S. Capitol campus buildings. Please monitor www.USBG.gov for updates on operating status. USBG resources can be accessed online, including educational materials, virtual tours, and online programs by visiting www.USBG.gov/AtHome.

Tree of life or Lignum vitae

Guaiacum officinale
Plant Botanical Name: 
Guaiacum officinale
USBG Plant Location: 
Conservatory
Conservatory Room Location: 
Garden Court
Plant Threat Level: 
Endangered

Before polymers, alloys and composites, the wood of Guaiacum officinale, also known as tree of life, was extremely important due to its combination of strength, toughness and density. The common name, Lignum vitae (tree of life or wood of life), comes from its historic medicinal use as a remedy for conditions from arthritis to coughs to syphilis. These uses caused over harvesting, reducing native populations to the point that Lignum vitae is now listed as "Endangered" by IUCN (The World Conservation Union). It is native to most of the Caribbean (including Key West), a 'biodiversity hotspot' that supports exceptionally diverse ecosystems. Most of its native habitat has been devastated by deforestation and development.