Cordia alliodora (Salmwood)

Scientific name

Cordia alliodora Chamisso


Cerdana alliodora Ruix & Pav.

Common names

Spanish elm, salmwood




Cordia alliodora is native to tropical Americas (Mexico to Argentina).

Naturalised distribution (global)

Locations within which Cordia alliodora is naturalised include many Pacific Islands and eastern Africa.

Introduced, naturalised or invasive in East Africa

Cordia alliodora is invasive in parts of Tanzania (Tropical Biology Association 2010). It has been listed as an invasive species in the Amani Nature Reserve, in the East Usambara Mountains in northeast Tanzania. The editors are not aware of records of the introduction of this species to Kenya and Uganda, though this does not necessarily mean that it is absent from these countries.


Cordia alliodora grows occurs at forest edges and gaps.


Cordia alliodora is tree, growing  up to 35m tall.

Leaf stalks (petioles) 1-3 cm long; leaf blades oblong or lance-shaped (lanceolate) to oval (elliptic), 10-20 x 3-8 cm, pilose (soft hairs) or glabrate (almost hairless) on both surfaces.

Inflorescences loosely branched, 10-30 cm across; calyx cylindric, 4-6 mm long,  with 10 prominent ribs; corolla white, drying brown, the lobes 5-7 mm long. The fruit is cylindric, about 5 mm long, enveloped by the persistent corolla and calyx tube.

Reproduction and dispersal

Cordia alliodora reaches sexual maturity within 5-10 years and reproduces by seed.

Economic and other uses

Cordia alliodora root is used as a medicinal plant by natives living in the Peruvian Amazon forest. The roots are said to have substances which have anti-microbial and anti-fungal properties. It is a source of timber.

Environmental and other impacts

In areas where it was introduced for wood, Cordia alliodora multiplies much faster than it can be harvested; it outcompetes indigenous vegetation  to become a problematic invasive species. It is moderately resistant to fire.


The precise management measures adopted for any plant invasion will depend upon factors such as the terrain, the cost and availability of labour, the severity of the infestation and the presence of other invasive species.

The best form of invasive species management is prevention. If prevention is no longer possible, it is best to treat the weed infestations when they are small to prevent them from establishing (early detection and rapid response). Controlling the weed before it seeds will reduce future problems. Control is generally best applied to the least infested areas before dense infestations are tackled. Consistent follow-up work is required for sustainable management.

Control is very difficult as plants sprout readily from cut stems. The editors could not find any information on chemical or biological control of this species.


Not listed as a noxious weed by the state or governments in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.


Ioset, J.R., Marston, A., Gupta, M.P. and Hostettmann, K. (2000). Antifungal and larvicidal compounds from the root bark of Cordia alliodora. Journal of Natural Products, 63, 424-426.

Opler, P.A., Baker, H.G. and Frankie, G.W. (1975). Reproductive biology of some Costa Rican Cordia species (Boraginaceae). Biotropica 7: 234-247.

Paul, J. and Morales R. (1972). A review of Cordia alliodora (Ruiz and Pav.) Oken. Turrialba 22: 210-220.

Tropical Biology Association (2010). Usambara Invasive Plants - Amani Nature Reserve -


Agnes Lusweti, National Museums of Kenya; Emily Wabuyele, National Museums of Kenya, Paul Ssegawa, Makerere University; John Mauremootoo, BioNET-INTERNATIONAL Secretariat - UK.


This fact sheet is adapted from The Environmental Weeds of Australia by Sheldon Navie and Steve Adkins, Centre for Biological Information Technology, University of Queensland. We recognise the support from the National Museums of Kenya, Tropical Pesticides Research Institute (TPRI) - Tanzania and Makerere University, Uganda. This activity was undertaken as part of the BioNET-EAFRINET UVIMA Project (Taxonomy for Development in East Africa).


BioNET-EAFRINET Regional Coordinator: [email protected]