A rough translation from the Taino word is (tree of
incense), The Tabonuco is a unique large forest tree, the only species of its genus found on the Greater Antilles, where is endemic only in Puerto Rico, as well as the Lesser Antilles from St. Kitts to Grenada, It is the dominant canopy tree of the mountain
rain forest. Mature species reach 35 m in height and live over 400 years. Tabanuco forest may have been protected in pre-Columbian Puerto Rico, where they might have played a key role in development of the Meso Indian (Archaic) trade linkage that gave impetus
there to the Neolithic transition.
Spanish settlers found the uplands of Puerto Rico well forested with dense stands of tabonuco. From the Indians they learned to tap the trees for
the flammable white resin, which could be used for medicinal purposes and to make aromatic candles that give off a rich incense to please gods and kings.
The colonizers discovered that
branches tabonuco make durable torches.
The beautiful reddish yellow wood became the standard all purpose lumber of the rural Puerto Rico while it lasted.
Current efforts to restore tabonuco in area that were deforest are hampered by the species failure to adapt to land that has been clear-cut where tress of its own kind no longer exist. Plausible the tabonuco requires a specific
mycorrhizal fungus formerly disseminated by the extinct native spiny rats.
The Caribbean people hollowed the trunks into dugout canoes. However, there may have been a time when tabonuco
was spared from much use as timber. Its resin would have been an important item of trade with the mainland and may have helped lure Igneri merchants from the Orinoco as far as Puerto Rico there to initiate the Neolithic transition in the first century AD
Tabonuco like aromatic white resin, produce plum like edible fruits that can be swallowed and is dispersed by migration of animal, and birds