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Lacebark (Lagetta lagetto)


Lagetta lagetto is a species of tree native to several Caribbean islands. It is called the lacebark or gauze tree because the inner bark is structured as a fine netting that has been used for centuries to make clothing as well as utilitarian objects like rope. Lagetta lagetto, the lacebark (sometimes: lace-bark) or gauze tree, is native to the islands of Jamaica, Cuba, and Hispaniola (in both Haiti and the Dominican Republic). It was formerly known as L. lintearia. It is best documented on Jamaica, although few specimens have been reported in recent decades, and it has not been collected at all on Cuba in recent years. It gets its genus and current species name from its alternate common name of lagetto (a corruption of the Spanish word latigo, or whip) on Jamaica. It is known as laget - dentelle or bois dentelle on Haiti and daguilla or guanilla in the Dominican Republic and Cuba. It is also known in one part of western Jamaica as white bark. L. lagetto is the most widespread of the three known species of the Lagetta genus. The two other species of Lagetta are both native to Cuba: L. valenzuelana, the Valenzuela lacebark tree, and L. wrightiana, the Wright lacebark tree. Little is known about either species. Lagetta is not the only member of the family Thymelaeaceae to be used as a fiber source; others include Daphne species and Edgeworthia chrysantha, both of which supply fiber for papermaking. L. lagetto is a small, narrow, pyramidal tree, growing between 12 and 40 feet (3.7 and 12.2 m) tall. It has a straight trunk with a rough outer bark. It forms part of the subcanopy of the Caribbean forest, sprouting from crevices of rocky limestone slopes. It has been recorded all along the central spine of Jamaica at altitudes of from 1,400 to 2,700 feet (430 to 820 m) as well as along other mountainous ridges in the west central parts of the island. The lacebark tree has smooth, dark green, leathery, somewhat heart-shaped evergreen leaves, roughly 4 inches (10 cm) long by 2.5 inches wide. The small, white, tubular-bell-shaped flowers are produced as racemes in a pattern of alternating flower-stalks along the branchlets. There is no calyx, but the corolla divides into four points at its outer tip. There are eight short filamentous stamens concealed within the flower. It produces a roundish, hairy drupe inside of which is a dark-brown, ovoid kernel about one-quarter inch long. In the 18th and 19th centuries, L. lagetto was reported to be abundant and widespread in Jamaica. By the late 19th century, however, there are reports of growing scarcity attributed to overharvesting without replanting. It is now rare, probably in large part due to such overexploitation combined with more general loss of forest lands in the same period. It is not reported to have been actively cultivated, but if it ever was, there may also have been loss of specialized knowledge of its cultivation needs. In the late 19th and early 20th century, L. lagetto was often grown in botanic gardens in such countries as Great Britain, the United States, and Australia, but no known specimens are found in botanic gardens today. Loma Daguilla, an isolated mountain near San Juan, Cuba, is named for the tree, which is known locally as daguilla de loma and has been abundant thereabouts.

Taxonomic tree

  • Domain: Eukarya

    • Kingdom: Plantae

      • Phylum: Magnoliophyta

        • Class: Magnoliopsida

          • Order: Malvales

            • Family: Thymelaeaceae

              • Genus: Lagetta