Guaiacum officinale (Lignum vitae or "tree of life") is native to the Carribean and the northern coast of South America. It is the national flower of Jamaica. Create a distinctive memorial gift in memory of someone special and adopt the seed of Lignum vitae, or tree of life.
One of two species yielding the true Lignum vitae wood (the other being Guaiacum sanctum), this wood was once very important for applications requiring a material with its extraordinary combination of strength, toughness and density.
Due to the density of the wood, cricket bails, lawn bowls, croquet mallets and skittles balls are sometimes made of lignum vitae. The wood also has seen widespread historical usage in mortars and pestles and for wood carvers' mallets.
Until recently, it was the traditional wood used for the British police truncheon as the combination of its density and strength, combined with the relative softness of wood (compared to metal) tended to bruise or stun rather than simply cut the skin!
It was listed as an endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in 1998, and international trade of this species is restricted because of its placement in Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).