The chloroplast genome has been widely used to describe genetic diversity in plant species. Its maternal inheritance in numerous angiosperm species and low mutation rate are suitable characters when inferring historical events such as possible recolonization routes. Here we have studied chloroplast DNA variation using PCR–RFLP (polymerase chain reaction–restriction fragment length polymorphism) with seven pairs of primers and four restriction enzymes in 14 populations of Vouacapoua americana (Caesalpiniaceae) a neotropical tree sampled throughout French Guiana. Population diversity (Hs), total gene diversity (Ht) and differentiation among populations (GST) were estimated using Nei’s method as 0.09, 0.87 and 0.89, respectively. This is consistent with the limited gene flow associated with synzoochory in this species. The genetic structure observed in the north of French Guiana suggests that historical events such as contractions and recent recolonizations have had a large impact on the distribution of genetic diversity in this species.