Amarillo tree (Terminalia amazonia) growing in the mixed species plantation at Agua Salud. Credit: Jorge Alemán, STRI Native to India, teak is the go-to species for reforestation in Central America. But teak often underperforms in the nutrient poor soils that dominate tropical landscapes. To discover if the timber value of teak plantations grown on poor soils can be increased, scientists at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute interplanted rosewood and amarillo, both economically valuable native tree species. Native trees are well-adapted to local environmental conditions, resisting diseases and insect pests. Rosewood (Cocobolo, Dalbergia retusa) is typically sold to instrument makers and craftspeople for a higher price than teak is sold for. Rosewood trees also improve the soil by pulling nitrogen gas out of the air and converting it into fertilizer for itself and neighboring trees. Despite its timber value, rosewood is rarely cultivated and is more often poached from protected areas. Although amarillo ( Terminalia amazonia ) is highly valued in Panama as a hardwood tree that grows fast and straight in conventional planting conditions—even in full sun—it has never been formally tested in mixtures with teak and rosewood. Previous studies predicted that other tree species might not grow among […]

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