Piscidia piscipula

Piscidia piscipula Sarg.

Common Names: Dog Wood, Jamaican Dogwood, Fish Poison, Fish Fuddle

Family: Fabaceae

Habit: Piscidia piscipula grows as a medium to large size tree up to 15 m in height. The bark is grey with prominent lenticels. The leaves are arranged alternately and are pinnately compound with 5 – 9 leaflets.  The leaflets are oblong to obovate, up to 12 cm in length, apiculate at the apex, with a slightly ridged leaf margin.  The abaxial leaf surface has a fine covering of short hairs.

The complete, perfect, zygomorphic flowers are arranged in panicles.  The calyx has 5 greenish sepals that are fused at their base.  The corolla has 5 whitish-pink petals. The 2 lower petals are fused forming a keel and the upper petal is enlarged to form the standard. There are 10 stamens in a monodelphous arrangement (the lower 9 are fused forming a partial tube with the 10th stamen unfused). The ovary is superior with a single locule. The fruit is a legume up to 10 cm in length and up to 6 seeds.  The fruit has 4 wings and is brown at maturity with black seeds.

Habitat: Piscidia piscipula grows at the edges at the edges of Dry Broadleaf Evergreen Formation –Forest/Shrublands (coppice) with either a limestone or sand substrate.

Distribution: Piscidia piscipula occurs throughout the Lucayan Archipelago as well as Florida, the Caribbean region, and Central America.

Medicinal/Cultural/Economic usage: Piscidia piscipula has been used medicinally in the Lucayan Archipelago to treat chiggers and rheumatism. Extracts from the bark were once used to relieve pain during surgery in the 19th century.

It is also used as a fish poison.  The leaves and stems and put in a bag and beaten then put under water to stun fish.  It is ILLEGAL to use Piscidia piscipula for fishing in the Bahamas as well as in Florida.  Piscidia piscipula is poisonous and should only be used externally.

Piscidia piscipula has been used traditionally for boat building, fence posts, woodcarving and charcoal production. It is currently used in the horticultural industry.

Piscidia piscipula has no relation to the Dogwood Family.  The name derives from its use in shipbuilding where it was carved to make the central axis or “dog” on a boat.