The nance is a slow-growing large shrub or tree to 33 ft (10 m). The tree is native and abundant in the wild, sometimes in extensive stands, in open pine forests and grassy savannas, from southern Mexico, through the Pacific side of Central America, to Peru and Brazil; also occurs in Trinidad, Barbados, Curaçao, St. Martin, Dominica, Guadeloupe, Puerto Rico, Haiti, the Dominican Republic and throughout Cuba and the Isle of Pines. The nance is limited to tropical and subtropical climates. In Central and South America, the tree ranges from sea-level to an altitude of 6,000 ft (1,800 m). It is highly drought-tolerant.
It is known by such names as "nance" (Panama), "nanche" (Mexico), and "murici" (Brazil), among others.
The fruits are eaten raw or cooked as dessert, or may be included in soup or in stuffing for meats. In rural Panama, the dessert known as "pesada de nance" is quite popular. It is prepared with the addition of sugar and flour. They are also made into a candy, dulce de nance, prepared with the fruit cooked in sugar and water.
The fruits are often used to prepare carbonated beverages, flavor mezcal-based liqueurs, or make an oily, acidic, fermented beverage known as chicha, the standard term applied to assorted beer-like drinks made of fruits or maize. Nance is used to distill a rum-like liquor called crema de nance in Costa Rica. Mexico produces a licor de nanche.