The ear pod tree takes its common name from the resemblance of its semicircular seedpod to the human ear. It is a large tree, in habitat up to 100 feet tall, but in cultivation typically much smaller. The bark is light gray with reddish-brown vertical furrows. It has a moderately dense crown, widely spreading when growing in the open. The leaves are light green, alternate, bipinnately compound, oblong in shape and 6 -16 x 6 1/2 inches, with 4 -15 pairs of primary leaflets, each with 40 - 70 secondary leaflets; these very small leaflets are slender and oblong, measuring 3/8 - 3/4 inch. In habitat, ear pod is deciduous during the dry season. Flowering takes place when the new leaves emerge and consists of globular flower heads in the axils of new leaves. Each flower head has about 50 white to greenish, very fragrant blooms, which attract insects. Seedpods are 3 - 4 1/2 inches long, dark brown when mature and containing 8 - 16 oval seeds. The seeds are edible and used for propagation. In central america, the tree shades animals and coffee. The reddish-brown wood is made into doors, cabinets and boats. The tree tolerates various soil types if well-drained. It has no serious pest or disease problems. Because of its large mature size, this majestic flowering tree is best suited to expansive areas in gardens and parks. It is the national tree of costa rica, where it is known as guanacaste.
Photo credit: Cerlin Ng