Trees used in cosmetics industry protected by CITES

18 March 2010 | News story

Delegates at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) conference decided yesterday to add two trees from South America, which produce aromatic oils that are used in the cosmetics industry, to the list of species whose trade will be regulated by delegates. Palo Santo (Bulnesia sarmiento) and the Brazilian rosewood (Aniba rosaeodora) will be included in Appendix II of the Convention, which allows for regulated trade. These measures will come into force in 90 days.

The essential oil of the Palo Santo tree, known as ‘guayacol’, ‘guajol’ or ‘guayaco’, is widely used in the perfume industry. Its fragrance is similar to that of the rose and, to a lesser extent, the violet. The essential oil is also used to perfume luxury soaps and to make mosquito repellent coils. In addition to traditional uses of the timber, such as for handicrafts, the Palo Santo tree has recently become popular for flooring and furniture. It only occurs in the Gran Chaco ecosystem in central South America that is shared among Argentina, Bolivia, Paraguay and a small sector of south western Brazil.

The Brazilian rosewood is also prized for its essential oil, which is used in fine perfumes, but this has led to its decline. It takes between 18 and 20 tons of timber to produce one drum of essential oil, that’s 180 kg. Demand from the late 1930s until the beginning of the 21st century saw nearly 13,000 tons of essential oil from the Brazilian rosewood being exported. Such high demand inevitably led to unsustainable harvests and a drop in supply of the oil.

These two species from Latin America join other aromatic oil producing tree species already on CITES Appendix II including Agarwood, an Asian tree and Guaiacum, from central America.  

IUCN media team

Nicki Chadwick, Media Relations Officer, t +41 22 999 0229, m +41 79 528 3486, e. nicki.chadwick@iucn.org
Brian Thomson, Media Relations Manager, m +41 79 721 8326, brian.thomson@iucn.org