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What is Cordia?

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  • Written By: Niki Foster
  • Edited By: C. Wilborn
  • Last Modified Date: 02 December 2016
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Cordia is a genus of flowering shrubs and trees with about 300 species. Cordia is found worldwide in warm climates. Common names for plants in this genus include manjack and bocote.

Cordia plants are cultivated for their ornamental properties, as well as for their wood and fruit. Common names for the fruit include clammy cherries, glue berries, gunda, sebesten, and snotty gobbles. Cordia fruit, particularly that of C. dichotoma, or Fragrant Manjack, is popular in India and Taiwan, where it may be pickled, cooked, or eaten raw.

The wood of the Cordia may be used for furniture, cabinetry, boat building, and musical instruments, including guitars and drums. Species cultivated for their timber include C. abyssinica, C. alliodora or Ecuador Laurel, C. dodecandra or Ziricote, C. gerascanthus or Spanish Elm, C. goeldiana, C. millenii, C. myxa, and C. platythrysa.

C. boissieri, an evergreen, white flowered shrub with a natural range from southern Texas in the United States to central Mexico, is the state flower of Nuevo León in Mexico. Its yellowish green fruits are slightly poisonous when raw, causing dizziness, but can safely be made into jelly. A syrup made from the fruit is also used as a dye and a remedy for cough, while the leaves are used to treat rheumatism and pulmonary complaints.

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C. myxa, commonly called Assyrian Plum or Lasura, among other names, is another Cordia species with edible fruit. It is indigenous to China, but is grown throughout Asia and has a nearly worldwide range in tropical regions. C. myxa is deciduous, and its white, hairy flowers bloom in March or April.

C. myxa fruit, appearing in July or August, is pale brown to pink, and sweet. It is eaten raw, pickled, and used to make a medicinal broth. The fruit is used to promote hair growth and healthy digestion, while the leaves and bark are used to treat cough. The timber of the plant is also highly valued and used for a number of woodworking applications.

C. subcordata, native to eastern Africa, South and Southeast Asia, northern Australia, and the Pacific Islands, has edible seeds that were historically eaten in times of famine. It has bright orange blooms traditionally used to make leis, and the ancient Hawaiians extracted a dye from the leaves. C. sebestena, or the Geiger Tree, is native to the American tropics. It has edible, though bland, fruits, and is cultivated mainly for its beautiful, bright red flowers.

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