Species list


Ocotea foetens


Stinkwood (Eng); til, tilo, tiles (Spa).


DID YOU KNOW...? This tree gets both the Latin name 'foetens' and the English 'stinkwood' from the characteristic foetid scent that the fresh wood gives off when damaged.


This species is one of the laurel forest trees with the greatest coverage. It has an upright form and is 20-30 m tall with a slender trunk that branches frequently from the base. The crown is wide, very leafy, and more or less rounded. Its bark is dark grey-brown and covered by small round, whitish protuberances (known as lenticels) that, when abundant, give the bark a very rough appearance. The main trunk is often surrounded by numerous shoots (suckers). The leaves are persistent, simple, alternate, hairless, almost leathery and shiny on the upper side. The blade is oblong-lanceolate to almost elliptical in shape. It has an entire margin (sometimes a little wavy) and a pointed tip. Adult leaves are 10-12 cm long and 4-5 cm wide in the middle, and are characterised by the swollen gland sat the base, next to the main vein. During the summer, the greenish or yellowish-white flowers appear. They have 6 petals and form fairly open clusters. They give off a light, pleasant scent. Ocotea foetens is easily differentiated from other species as its fleshy, olive-like fruits (drupes) are almost half covered by a persistent cupule, making it look like a 3 cm-long acorn. They are a deep green colour at first, becoming purple or blackish when ripe, which is when they detach from the cupule and fall to the ground.


As the stinkwood is very demanding when it comes to environmental humidity, it is only found in the coolest spots in the laurel forest, mainly at altitudes frequently affected by the sea of clouds (800-1000 m). It does not withstand changes in environmental conditions well, and prefers rich, deep soils. For this reason it grows very well in relatively flat river valleys.


This species is endemic to Macaronesia and is found on Madeira and almost all the Canary Islands, specifically El Hierro, La Palma, La Gomera, Tenerife and Gran Canaria.