Jaragua´s canelilla (Pimenta haitiensis) is a threatened tree  species (according to both IUCN’s Red List and the National Red List) that only occurs naturally in Pedernales province of the Dominican Republic. Its dried aromatic leaves are in high demand in the DR for making infusions (on their own or combined with other ingredients), flavour rum and other distillates, and make milk, custards and other desserts more tasty.  Jaragua’s canelilla is also used in traditional home remedies against colds, vertigo and other ailments.

All dried canelilla leaves sold in the DR are illegally harvested from Jaragua National Park.  This trade is not sustainable because 1) wild plants have a very limited distribution, 2) during harvest in the wild, trees are severely mutilated, and cannot reproduce the following year or die, 3) once inside the park, the cutters impact other resources, such critically endangered Ekman´s cherry tree palms (see below), threatened rhinoceros rock iguanas (Cyclura cornuta) and make  forest clearings to make space to dry out and pack the canelilla leaves.  

Learn about the problem

Adult canelilla tree

Sólo quedan árboles de esta planta en zonas remotas y de difícil acceso (sólo a pie). El corte de hojas de canelilla de Jaragua es realizado por jornaleros dentro del Parque Nacional Jaragua. Se hace de manera acelerada y descuidada, también debido a la alta competencia que hay de sacar la mayor cantidad posible en el menor tiempo. 


Severely trimmed canelilla tree

Las hojas de canelilla se cortan en el Parque Jaragua y se ponen a secar en el suelo en el mismo Parque. Después de unos días, se “baten” para despegar las hojas de las ramas y se meten en sacos para ser trasnportadas hasta los grandes mercados del país. A veces se cortan otros árboles para que penetre más el sol y puedan secarse mejor.

Collateral damage: Ekman's Cherry Palm

When canelilla poachers enter Jaragua National Park, they often destroy Ekman’s cherry palms (Pseudophoenix ekmanii), a critically endangered species.  This species is also only found naturally in Jaragua National Park. People cut it to drink the sugary sap from the large juvenile’s trunk. These palms grow Estas palmas grow very slowly (+50 years to reach maturity), making this practice highly unsustainable and putting this species at high risk.

Cacheo de Oviedo derribado por canelilleros

Canelilla Sostenible® certification

To address this situation, Grupo Jaragua developed the  “Canelilla Sostenible® certification.  After studying this species in the field as well as its propagation, we are ready to offer seedlings from our plant nurseries to help start plantations outside protected areas that can be commercially harvested. In this way, we are helping natural populations recover in the natural ecosystems where it is found, we are mitigating and adapting to climate change through agroforestry, and we are providing income to local communities of the La Selle-Jaragua-Bahoruco-Enriquillo UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. 

Interested in participating?

Step 1. Read and accept the “Norms for Establising Certified Sustainable Canelilla Plantations” from Grupo Jaragua (version 1.0)

Step 2. Fill out and send Interest Form:  Formato  PDF    Google Form (fillable on line) 

Canelilla plantation near Oviedo, Pedernales

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