Palo Colorado

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Palo Colorado

Ternstroemia luquillensis

Status Endangered
Listed April 22, 1992
Family Theaceae (Tea)
Description Evergreen tree growing to 60 ft (18 m) high with leathery leaves up to 4 in (10.2 cm) long, and green leaf surfaces with undersides black, white, or cream colored concave flowers.
Habitat Dwarf forests in the Luquillo Mountains.
Threats Establishment of plantations, selective cutting, trail and road construction.
Range Puerto Rico


Palo Colorado, Ternstroemia luquillensis, is an evergreen tree that grows to a height of 60 ft (18 m). The leaves are alternate, thick and leathery, and widest in the middle but acute at both ends. They are up to 4 in (10.2 cm) long and about three times longer than wide. Both leaf surfaces are green and the underside is black punctate. The flowers are showy, about 1 in (2.5 cm) in diameter and the five petals are white or cream colored and concave. The fruits are ovoid capsules which are terminated by the persistent style. The seeds are red and about 0.1 in (3 mm) in length.


Palo Colorado is found in the Palo Colorado and dwarf, or elfin, forests in the Luquillo Mountains of eastern Puerto Rico.


Palo Colorado is currently restricted to three or four sites in the Palo Colorado and dwarf/elfin forest associations in the Luquillo Mountains in the Caribbean National Forest. The four known populations contain a total of six individuals; three in the Palo Colorado association and one in the dwarf/elfin forest association. The population located adjacent to Road #191 has not been relocated in recent years and may have originally been misidentified.


Various forest management practices on the Caribbean National Forest could potentially impact this species. These practices include: establishment and maintenance of plantations, selective cutting, trail and road construction and maintenance, and shelter construction.

Two populations of palo colorado have been destroyed; one during the construction of the communication towers for the U.S. Navy and private entities communication facilities on El Yunque, and the other by a hurricane.

This species' limited distribution and small population size leave it vulnerable to catastrophic events such as Hurricane Hugo. This hurricane was responsible for an immense amount of damage in the Caribbean National Forest. Many trees, including several endangered species, were defoliated and had several branches broken off.

Conservation and Recovery

Recovery activities should include surveys to locate new populations and/or sites suitable for reintroduction, studies to develop propagation and transplanting techniques, studies to determine the species' life history and ecological requirements, and plans to protect and enhance known populations.


U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Boquerón Ecological Services Field Office
P.O. Box 491
Boquerón, Puerto Rico 00622-0491
Telephone: (787) 851-7297
Fax: (787) 851-7440


U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 22 April 1992. "Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Determination of Endangered Status for Five Puerto Rican Trees." Federal Register 57 (78): 14782-14785.

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Palo Colorado

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