The Samaúma Tree [1] - "Tree of Life" and "Queen of the Amazon Rainforest"

I am with the indigenous people Huni Kuin [2] in the Brazilian Amazon rainforest. Today is the day and for the first time we go together to the Samaúma tree. Eagerly, I have been awaiting this moment.

The Queen of the Amazon rainforest

The Samaúma tree is about a 15 minute walk from the village a little deeper in the rainforest. The village's cacique [3] shows me the way. As we enter the denser jungle, the climate changes noticeably. It is oppressive. The energies are strong. Then the cacique suddenly stops. "See, there is the Samaúma," he says, pointing to the front. For the people Huni Kuin the Samaúma tree is the "Queen of the Forest". I look through the overgrown thicket and can already see its mighty trunk. When we reach it, I take some time to let the moment work on me. I look at the majestic tree. It will take at least thirty people to fully encompass this tree trunk. The thick tubular roots of its strong trunk vehemently dig into the ground over several meters. Some of its roots snake around their trunk and additionally secure it. Then I look up at its crown. I don't know how many meters. But there are definitely around 50 or 60. Its broad trunk points into the air and the green of its crown juts out into the sky.

"Escada dos Espíritos" ("Ladder of the Spirits")

The cacique points to a strut that hangs down from its trunk like a rope. "On this strut you can climb up to the crown. We call it 'Escada dos Espíritos' ('Ladder of the Spirits')”, he explains. “Up there in its crown all the spirits of the forest are united, the spirits of the plants, animals and humans. If you climb up there you will feel them.” I learn how sacred the Samaúma tree is for his people. For them, it is a connection between heaven and earth and a spirit that brings healing.

The magic of the Samaúma tree and the tragedy of the destruction of the rainforest

What an enormous beauty, elegance and powerful energy this tree radiates. I put my hand on its trunk. At that moment I feel all the magic of the forest, its healing energies and its strength. I'm happy to be here. But at the same time a sad feeling spreads in me. Images of the unstoppable destruction of this rainforest come to my mind. Every day, yes every minute, trees are cut down here in the rainforest and die. Trees like this Samaúma tree, which draws water from the depths of the soil and thus not only supplies itself but the entire surrounding plant kingdom. A tree that is over 400 years old that provides rain and thus brings good things for the planet and humanity. A tree that is also called the "tree of life".

“(...) Nature feels the effects of human actions. Our rivers are increasingly polluted with garbage, oil and chemicals from the mines. Our trees do not bloom or bear fruit like they used to. I feel the sadness of the Samaúma tree, this gigantic tree, the representative of the Amazon (...). I have the feeling that it wants to tell the following: 'We must stop abusing rivers, trees and forests now.'” Prazeres Quaresma, known as Dona Neneca, head chef and owner of the Saldosa Moloca restaurant on Combu Island in Belém do Pará, Brazil. [4]

[1] The Samaúma tree grows between 60 and 70 meters tall. However, some specimens can reach a height of up to 90 meters, making it one of the largest trees in the world. The Samaúma tree is native to Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, northern South America and West Africa. The word samaúma is used to describe the cotton fibers that are obtained from their fruits. This tree can draw water from the depths of the soil and not only supply itself, but also share it with other species, as its roots known as Sapopemba burst at certain times of the year and irrigate the entire surrounding plant kingdom. It is therefore also called the "tree of life". See:

[1] The Huni Kuin people are one of the most present indigenous peoples in Brazil. They live on the border with Peru in the lower reaches of the Jordão River, in Acre, Brazil. The term "Huni Kuin" (Kaxinawá) means something like "homens verdadeiros" or "gente com costumes conhecidos" which means in translation "real people" or "people with known customs". More detailed information about the Huni Kuin people can be found under the following link (in Portuguese):á)

[3] The Cacique is the political leader of an indigenous community.


A video of the Samaúma tree recorded in the Brazilian rainforest can be found here:

For more photos please visit the photo galleries on my website:

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