DixPix Photographs

     

TROPICAL SOUTH AMERICA

 
     
  FLORA-  ASTERIDS  

 

So what is an ASTERID? The practical answer is that it is a grouping of botanical Orders which has proved useful in setting up this page.  The Lamiales Order belongs here, but it has been given its own page.  The major contributors in this case are the Potato Family (Solanaceae) and the Coffee Family (Rubiaceae).  The Apiaceae and Lecythidaceae are also Families of note, and there are nine others.

Clearly the term "Asterid" is derived from the Asteraceae or Aster Family.  Although huge, it does not much like the tropics, and is mainly represented by peripheral weeds.

 

Centratherum puntactum is now widespread from its original home in southeast Brazil and surroundings.  Here it is on its native turf, near the Brazil-Argentina border.  It has acquired a few names, such as Larkdaisy and Brazilian Button Flower. Click to see big picture (720x613 pixels; 100 KB)
Vernonanthera nudiflora is viewed as invasive in grasslands, even in its native region of southeast Brazil, Northeast Argentina and Uruguay.  In English it is one of the species known as Ironweed. Click to see big picture (800x673 pixels; 204 KB)
Wedelia trilobata, alias Sphagneticola ulei, is a weed of pantropical stature.  I have met it on a beach in Borneo and on the coast of Panama, and here it is on the banks of the Amazon River in Colombia.  Its travels have been facilitated by its use as ground cover. Click to see big picture (720x607 pixels; 170 KB)
The Barbasca Liana (Clibadium sylvestre) ranges from Costa Rica to Peru and to French Guiana. Locally it is known as Cunani, and is important because its leaves are used to stun fish by paralyzing their gills. Click to see big picture (800x535 pixels; 146 KB)

What cannot be said about the Solanaceae Family?  It has given us the world feeding resources of Potatoes and Tomatoes, the curse of tobacco, and the addictive pain of the hot chili peppers. On the dark side, this is also known as the Nightshade Family, in view of many toxic members.  It has world-wide distribution, but with emphasis on the western hemisphere, and the Neotropics has its share.

 
Solanum asperolanatum is a fuzzy member whose fruit are known as the Devil's Figs.  It is found in Central America and around the rim of the Amazon Basin.  Here it is growing in the Condor Range along the Peru-Ecuador border. Click to see big picture (800x718 pixels; 164 KB)
It is known as the Jasmine Nightshade, and I will call it Solanum jasminoides, although there are other contenders in the taxonomic debates.  It started its career in the nexus between southeastern Brazil, northeastern Argentina and Paraguay.  It has now become widespread as a garden item.   Jardin Real, Madrid. Click to see big picture (703x768 pixels; 157 KB)
It goes by the endearing name of Cockroach BerrySolanum capsicoides is widely reported in the Neotropics, and will be an orange-red when mature.  Photo from near Iguazu in northeastern Argentina. Click to see big picture (614x768 pixels; 190 KB)
The flower of Solanum capsicoides is nothing special, but look at those thorns. In Brazil it is known as Arrebenta Cavalo, meaning "tears horses". Click to see big picture (720x665 pixels; 202 KB)
Solanum mauritianum is another, wide traveling product of the Brazil, Argentine, Uruguay interface.  Planted abroad under names such as Wooly Nightshade and Bugweed, it has widely proved invasive. Click to see big picture (720x613 pixels; 126 KB)
Solanum wrightii is a large plant for its genus, and goes by names such as Giant Star Potato Tree and Brazilian Potato Creeper.  It is indeed Brazilian by origin, but is now pantropical, in fact this photo is from near Arusha, Tanzania. Click to see big picture (800x678 pixels; 192 KB)
Introducing the Tree Tomato or Tomate de ArbolSolanum betaceum has been cultivated since prehistoric times at moderate elevations in the Andes, but the fruit is now grown and enjoyed in many countries.  The popular term Tamarillo seems to have come from New Zealand.  Photo from Wild Sumaco Reserve, central Ecuador. Click to see big picture (497x720 pixels; 175 KB)
This intriguing shrub hanging over a tributary of the Amazon River in Colombia, appears to be something out of the potato family, but I have not been able to figure out what. Click to see big picture (800x430 pixels; 121 KB)
A fuller view of the unknown Solanaceae. Click to see big picture (785x720 pixels; 184 KB)
Wild White Petunias (Petunia axillaris) are native in northern Argentina and adjacent parts of Paraguay and Uruguay. They are now a widespread garden flower, in this case the botanical gardens at UC Berkeley. Click to see big picture (800x523 pixels; 121 KB)
Iochroma (or Acnistus) australe calls northeastern Argentina and southeastern Bolivia home.  Once in gardens, it is known as Mini Angel's Trumpet.  Here it is brightening the scene at the University of British Colombia. Click to see big picture (708x768 pixels; 178 KB)
A view of a Mini Angel's Trumpet with its fruit. Click to see big picture (767x768 pixels; 130 KB)
It is known as the Paraguay Nightshade, and Lycianthes rantonnetii is indeed native to Paraguay and surrounding territories.  Now widespread, it has gained the additional name of Blue Potato Bush.  Jardin Real, Madrid. Click to see big picture (800x664 pixels; 214 KB)
With a 'spike collar' calyx, this is the fruit of Lycianthes pauciflora.  It is a scrambling bush reported from scattered locations in the Neotropics.  This one is growing in the forests near the town of Iguazu in northeasternmost Argentina. Click to see big picture (652x720 pixels; 125 KB)
These are the flowers of Lycianthus pauciflora, again with the spike collar. Click to see big picture (644x720 pixels; 125 KB)

The Rubiaceae or Coffee Family is a major one.  It claims roughly 13,000 species, mainly in the tropics, and a huge number are indeed found in South America.  Although there are many exceptions, the greatest number of these tend to be shrubs or trees with smallish white flowers that turn to berries, and simple leaves.  They are not particularly photogenic, and can be damn difficult to identify to species.

 

 
One of the most widely recognized species in the Neotropics, is Psychotria poeppigiana.  Its flower is known as Hot Lips in English or Labias Ardientes in Spanish.  Click to see big picture (850x687 pixels; 231 KB)
And the fruit of Psychotria poeppigiana are also colorful and unusual. Click to see big picture (508x720 pixels; 137 KB)
Psychotria is one the largest genera, and with its offshoot Notopleura harbors about 2000 species.  Many look a lot like this, with opposite leaves and clusters of berries or white flowers.  This one is from the Amazon Basin in Ecuador. Click to see big picture (474x720 pixels; 166 KB)
The fruit of Genipa ameriana is edible, which is likely why it has been spread through much of the Neotropics. It has several names, such as Genipapo and Huito. Click to see big picture (720x489 pixels; 120 KB)
Bothriospora corymbosa is found in the lowlands of northern South America, here above an arm of the Amazon River in Colombia. Click to see big picture (720x639 pixels; 135 KB)
Calycophyllum megistocaulum is notable for its thin, skin-like bark.  It is known as Capirona, and may be found in the western Amazon Basin, in this case in Amacayacu Park, Colombia. Click to see big picture (514x768 pixels; 159 KB)
Counting secondary leaf veins, this appears to be Isertia rosea on the Sacha Lodge Reserve of eastern Ecuador. It has been reported mainly from the Amazon and Orinoco drainages.  Frankly, it look more like something of the Odontonema genus (Acanthaceae), but nothing is reported from the Amazon in that group. Click to see big picture (498x768 pixels; 122 KB)
The Palicourea genus is a close relative to Psychotria, but it has colorful racemes of flowers and berries.  Here is Palicourea crocea, which is native to Paraguay and adjacent Brazil and Argentina.  Photo from the Argentina-Brazil border. Click to see big picture (800x635 pixels; 175 KB)
Palicourea subspicata is at home in the western and southern Amazon Basin. Here it blooms beside the Matamata River in the Colombian Amazon. This raceme is immature, there are yellow tubular flowers to come. Click to see big picture (850x663 pixels; 233 KB)
Very different from most other tropical Rubiaceae, meet Geophyla repens, widespread in moister parts of the Neotropics. Best described as a creeping herb, but with cheerful little flowers and berries. Click to see big picture (800x625 pixels; 157 KB)
The Apiaceae or Carrot Family is not well represented in the tropics.  Here we have Eryngium serra, which skirts the tropical forests through southeastern Brazil, northeastern Argentina and Uruguay.  Van Dusen Gardens, Vancouver. Click to see big picture (800x670 pixels; 166 KB)
Here is a wider view of Eryngium serra, showing the sharp teeth that gives rise the the term "serra". Click to see big picture (516x768 pixels; 151 KB)

Eryngium foetidum would be a forgettable herb, were it not the condiment Culantro (not to be confused with Cilantro).  It also produces a medicinal tea, and is now widely grown from a Neotropical beginning.  Photo from a homestead on an island in the Amazon River.

Click to see big picture (720x513 pixels; 141 KB)

The Lecythidaceae is widely known as the Brazil Nut Family.  It is not big, some 300 species or less, but it does field some large flowers and fruit.  This photo from the Brazil-Peru border is Gustavia Hexapetala, known as Cenicero Blanco, or as Palo de Muerte in its range of Central America and northern South America.

 

Click to see big picture (804x768 pixels; 197 KB)
And here is Cenicero rosea (Gustavia augusta), which is more constrained to northern South America.  It is here blooming in the Calanoa Reserve on the Amazon River in Colombia.  Cenicero means ashtray, by the way. Click to see big picture (850x620 pixels; 119 KB)
Oops, this was supposed to follow the Lecythidaceae. Anyhow meet Hydrocotyle Callicephala, a Tropical Pennywort of the Araliaceae Family. It inhabits mashes in southeastern Brazil and here in northeastern Argentina. Click to see big picture (698x768 pixels; 189 KB)
Returning to the Lecythidaceae, here are the flowers of the Piton TreeGrias Neuberthii may be found here in eastern Ecuador, and in adjacent parts of Peru and Colombia. Click to see big picture (850x659 pixels; 246 KB)
The fruit of the Piton Tree are large, and the coating of the seeds are edible and consumed by natives. Click to see big picture (475x768 pixels; 184 KB)
A Matamata Tree growing by the Matamata River in Amazonian Colombia.  Eschweilera ovalifolia is native to much of the Amazon Basin, and prized for its strong wood. Click to see big picture (576x768 pixels; 236 KB)
Yerba Mate is a gift of the Holly Family (Aquifoliaceae).  Ilex paraguariensis is even the same genus as holly.  A tea made from the minced leaves has been favored in Argentina and regions to the north since prehistoric times.  Taken through a bombillo with a porous bulb, it is the gauchos friend and the social drink in the rural parts of the region. Click to see big picture (850x562 pixels; 150 KB)
Here in central Ecuador, leaves of Ilex guayusa are sold by the roadside.  This species is found in Ecuador and adjacent parts of Colombia and Peru.  Like its cousin Yerba Mate, it is used to make a stimulating tea. Click to see big picture (313x768 pixels; 71 KB)
Turning to the Borage Family (Boraginaceae), this appears to be Heliotropium transalpinum, which has been reported from scattered areas in the Neotropics.  Photo from the Argentina-Brazil border area near Iguazu. Click to see big picture (720x653 pixels; 119 KB)
Cordia trichotoma is a tree prized for it wood and its oils.  Going by names such as Peterbi and Louro-pardo, it is native from Bolivia and northern Argentina to eastern Brazil. Click to see big picture (800x606 pixels; 209 KB)
From the Gentian Family (Gentianaceae), this appears to be Potalia amara, known in the Amazon Basin as Kurarina and used to reduce swelling and bleeding of snake bites.  Photo from eastern Ecuador. Click to see big picture (800x729 pixels; 176 KB)
The Loasaceae Family is largely populated by nettles.  Here, near the town of Salta in northeastern Argentina, is a vine from the Presliophytum genus. Click to see big picture (720x678 pixels; 166 KB)
The Sapotaceae Family yields several tropical fruit, but this is something different. Manilkara bidentata produces both an inelastic "rubber" from its sap and very hard wood. It is known as Balata in Spanish and Bulletwood in English.  Calanoa Reserve, Colombian Amazon. Click to see big picture (532x640 pixels; 150 KB)
The Marcgraviaceae is a small family containing some unusual plants.  Here in a marsh of the Sacha Lodge Reserve in eastern Ecuador is one of them, meet Souroubea guianensis. Click to see big picture (442x768 pixels; 86 KB)
Souroubea guianensis has been reported from scattered wetlands through much of the Neotropics. Click to see big picture (800x736 pixels; 155 KB)

An insect-eating pitcher plant from the Sarraceniaceae Family. Heliamophis nutans is found in marshes, including on the elevated mesas known as tepuis, in northern Brazil and in Venezuela.  Sometimes called the Nodding Pitcher Plant.  KEW Garden, London.

 

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