American cinnamon is an evergreen tree that is native to Ecuador, Colombia, and Peru. Called Ishpingo in its native range, it’s known as cinnamon flower in English-speaking countries. This important medicinal tree has been used since Inca times. Today, it’s used in general cooking and certain rituals.
American cinnamon is the perfect pono substitute for invasive cinnamon! They both belong to the same family, Lauraceae. American cinnamon oils are less volatile than common cinnamon, and they won’t cause skin irritation. Furthermore, it can be boiled for long periods while retaining the flavor.
The spicy aroma comes from the woody calyces of the flowers. The leaves and bark also emit a strong cinnamon smell. Value-added products on the internet tout medicinal cures, ranging from skin disorders to digestive issues. In its native land, the cinnamon flower can be sustainably exploited while providing economic and environmental benefits for the local population.
The medium to large tree prefers slightly acidic soil. After maturity, it should flower every other year. It may be finicky as a young tree. Once the tree is 3 to 4 years old, the growth becomes more robust. Very little is known regarding its preferred growing conditions here in Hawai’i. It appears to be shade tolerant in its younger years. Although it may be semi-deciduous, local growers report leaf dropping several times a year. American cinnamon is a valued ornamental tree with “scratch and sniff” bark and leaves.
- Cultural significance
- Privacy / screening
- No dangers
High Risk Traits:
- Thrives in tropical climates
- Reproduces by seeds
- Seeds presumably dispersed by birds and intentionally by people
- Poorly studies species. Limited ecological information may reduce accuracy of risk prediction
Low Risk Traits:
- No reports of invasiveness or naturalization, but no evidence of widespread introduction outside native range
- Unarmed (no spines, thorns, or burrs)
- Used medicinally and for flavoring
- Slow growth rate
- Relatively large seeds may limit long distance and inadvertent dispersal