(Lacmellea panamensis)

A portion of a cerillo tree

Family:  Apocynaceae

Synonym: Zschokkea panamensis

Other names:  Espinudo, lagarto negro

Cerillo is a minor fruit from the Central America.  The fruit can be commonly seen in the parks and reserves along Costa Rica’s southern Pacific slope (from Carara to Corcovado), though it is found on the country’s Caribbean slope as well. It ranges from Belize to Panama.

A fruit of cerillo

             Cerillo is not known outside Central America.


A small to medium sized tree with a straight and cylindrical trunk upto 45 cm in diameter scattered with conical blunt spines; bark smooth, gray-brow.

Shoots of cerillo with fruits

            Leaves simple, opposite, 10-12 cm long, narrowly elliptical, dark green baring a contrasting pattern of yellow, pinnately arranged veins, spaced evenly on branches, leaves give out white latex if damaged.

            Flowers white to cream, 3.5 cm long, 1 cm wide, appearing in axillary cymes each bearing 1-6 flowers; calyx green; corolla haning two marked swellings, one at its base and the other two-thirds the way along its length and just past second swelling, the corolla flares into five, finger-like petals

Flowers of cerillo

            Fruits a berry, rounded, nearly spherical, 4 cm wide and yellow when ripe; flesh soft and thick, edible.

            Seeds small, 2 per fruit weighing 230 to 250 mg each.


The fruits are edible.  These are also suitable for making canned juices, preserves and jellies.

A ripe fruit of cerillo

            Latex from cerillo trees is used as chewing gum, as an additive to rubber, and also as a milk substitute in coffee.


Cerillo is not cultivated on commercial scale.  The fruits, if needed for use, are just collected either from wild growing trees or those in parks etc.

            New plants are raised from seed which germinates readily.