What is Brya?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 09 October 2019
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Brya is a small genus of flowering trees and plants native to the West Indies. This genus is placed in Fabaceae, the legume or pea family, and there are less than 10 known species classified in the Brya genus. These plants can be seen growing wild in their natural habitat, and several species are also cultivated as ornamental plants and for other uses, like timber. People interested in growing a plant in this genus may be able to find seedlings at a nursery, or can take cuttings from a mature plant for propagation. Garden exchanges can also be a source, for people living in areas where these plants are not widely cultivated.

B. ebenus is probably the most famous member of this genus. Known as the Jamaican rain tree, it produces long stems that grow straight up until they bend under their own weight. This tree can grow up to 30 feet (almost 10 meters) in height, although pruning can shape it and keep it at a more manageable height. The stems are covered in small thorns and colorful yellow to orange flowers. In humid climates, the Jamaican rain tree can bloom year round.


This particular member of the genus can be used as an ornamental in the garden, where it makes an excellent specimen planting. Brya species can also be used to create a hedge or privacy screen. Like many members of their family, they grow quickly and can have a sprawling growth habit, making them ideal for developing rapidly established landscaping and making a garden look more mature and attractive.

In addition to being used ornamentally, B. ebenus is also a source of timber. It is used to produce Jamaican ebony, a wood product prized for its close grain, rich color, and durability. Timber from these trees is often used in the production of musical instruments. Flutes and similar instruments made with Jamaican ebony tend to have a very pure, clear tone, a desirable feature in musical instruments, in addition to having rich, visually interesting wood.

People interested in growing a Brya species will need to live in a tropical to subtropical climate, where conditions are similar to those found in the West Indies. Many species thrive on poor soil, although rich, moist soil will help plants mature more quickly. Regular pruning is recommended to keep the plant from taking over and to help it have a consistent shape. The long, trailing branches of Brya species can grow disorderly very quickly without pruning.



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