DixPix Photographs

     

TROPICAL SOUTH AMERICA

 
     
  MALPIGHIALES ORDER  

 

The Malpighiales Order is named for the Malpighiaceae Family, which is of moderate size, boasting about 1300 species, mainly in the warmer parts of the Western Hemisphere.  Within the Order, however, it is dwarfed by the Euphorbiaceae or Spurge Family, which can muster in the neighborhood of 7500 species.  The Clusiaceae is also prominent in the Neotropics, but its size depends on to which classification system one pays homage.  Also included are the Passifloraceae or Passion Fruit Family, the Ochnaceae or Wild Plane Family, and the Erythroxylaceae (Coca Family).  Single species from the related Orders of Oxalidales and Celestrales are appended.

We start with the Malpighiaceae, which does not seem to have a popular name despite sporting some unusual flowers.  I find myself calling it the "Malpigs".

 

Within the flood zone of the Amazon River in Colombia, we find Hiraea fagifolia.  The white wings of its seeds are just starting to immerge.  Although little celebrated, this striking species is found through most of the Neotropics. Click to see big picture (685x600 pixels; 109 KB)
Diplopterys lutea shows a classic flower of the Malpighiaceae family.  Some would place this in the Banisteriopsis genus with other psychoactive species.  It is reported through much of tropical South America, with photo from eastern Bolivia. Click to see big picture (448x600 pixels; 103 KB)
Diplopterys cabrerana is definitely a hallucinogenic, and part of the infamous ayahuasca concoction (which frankly just gives me diarrhea).  It is a vine or liana, here at the botanical gardens of Jatun Sacha reserve, Ecuador. Click to see big picture (800x535 pixels; 120 KB)
The Stigmaphyllon genus is known as Amazon Vines, with typical flowers of the Malpighiaceae.  Photo from the Buenos Aires botanical gardens. Click to see big picture (457x600 pixels; 90 KB)
From northern Argentina and the adjacent tropics of other countries, comes the Papa del Rio vine, Stigmaphyllon bonariense.  Some would immerge this in S. littorale.

Euphorbiaceae is known as the Spurge Family after some minor weeds of the temperate Northern Hemisphere.  This is unfortunate, as in other parts of the world this family presents many unusual and interesting species, a few even of importance.

 

 
The prime example of importance is Manihot esculenta. whose roots yield the food known as Cassava or Manioc, or in its native Amazon, as Yuca. Click to see big picture (498x600 pixels; 175 KB)
Here Yuca roots are being peeled on an island in the Amazon River.  Now a pantropical crop, it is the nutritional basis for more than a half billion people in tropical climates.  However, most varieties contain cyanide, and must be processed to be edible. Click to see big picture (754x600 pixels; 247 KB)
An example of traditional Yuca preparation on the banks of the Amazon River in Colombia.  In North American and European market, this is introduced as Tapioca. The majority of Cassava is now produced by Africa and Asia. Click to see big picture (624x600 pixels; 166 KB)
After preparation, it is necessary to squeeze the remaining water out of the Yuca.  These are ingenious indigenous devices to do just that.  Filled with yuca paste, they are stretched, constricting the contents. Click to see big picture (677x600 pixels; 152 KB)
Leaves of the Yuca plant (Manihot Esculenta) are attacked by gall midges of the Cecidomyiidae Family.  These appear to be the work of Iatrophobia brasiliensis, with some differing spellings of the genus name.  The resulting galls are striking, but not harmful to the crop. Click to see big picture (483x600 pixels; 105 KB)
The flowers and young leaves of Jatropha gossypiifolia are red, but all parts are poisonous, and it is known as the Bellyache Bush.  Despite this, it has a number of applications in traditional medicine.  Of Neotropical origin, it is now planted more widely. Click to see big picture (800x541 pixels; 146 KB)
The seeds of Jatropha gossypiifolia are consider especially toxic, and touching the plant can give some people a rash.  Photo from the town of Nariño on the Amazon River in Colombia. Click to see big picture (669x600 pixels; 111 KB)
Euphorbia milii started its career in Madagascar, but has been spread to many of the warmer parts of the planet  It has naturalized in South America, where it is known as the Corona de Espinos (crown of thorns). Photo from eastern Bolivia, where it is used for living fences. Click to see big picture (800x487 pixels; 106 KB)
Cnidoscolus (or Jatropha) urens is a potent nettle, that you may be unfortunate enough to bump into in many parts of the Neotropics. Click to see big picture (449x600 pixels; 114 KB)
Croton cuneatus is found mainly in the Amazon and Orinoco basins.  Photo is from the Matamata River in the Colombian Amazon. Click to see big picture (700x600 pixels; 102 KB)
A wild looking Croton west of the city of Coca in Ecuador.  It may have been planted, in which case Croton lechleri is the most likely as the red Dragon's Blood sap of this species has several uses in folk medicine. Click to see big picture (800x600 pixels; 119 KB)
A closer look at the flower of Croton sp. shown above. Click to see big picture (450x600 pixels; 103 KB)
Turning to the Ochnaceae Family, a few species have these unusual seed structures which have caused them to be called Mickey Mouse Plants.  This rather poor photo from the Colombian Amazon is likely Ouratea cuspidata. Click to see big picture (697x600 pixels; 215 KB)
From the same area, this is a fairly typical flower from the Ouratea genus, but I can't identify the species. Click to see big picture (629x600 pixels; 94 KB)

The Clusiaceae Family also answers to the term Guttiferae.  It is a variable family of disputed size, but likely around 1600 species.  Of most interest here are some of the seed pods.

 

 
This photo from the Condor Range between Peru and Ecuador shows some very unusual seed pods, which, along with the thick leaves strongly suggest the Clusiaceae.  No idea as to further classification. Click to see big picture (800x572 pixels; 112 KB)
The above plant is itself somewhat strange in its structure, not to mention its jointed stems. Click to see big picture (713x600 pixels; 188 KB)
A colorful floral fragment at Calanoa Reserve in the Colombian Amazon.  Likely  from Clusia weddeliana. Click to see big picture (482x600 pixels; 103 KB)
At Sacha Lodge Reserve in eastern Ecuador, an open Clusia seed pod is scraped with a machete, and then pressed against a shirt to make an indelible print.  Possibly Clusia minor. Click to see big picture (800x566 pixels; 125 KB)
Fruit of Chrysochlamys sp. at the Wild Sumaco Reserve in Ecuador. Click to see big picture (340x600 pixels; 138 KB)

Passifloraceae is the Passion Fruit Family, and although it contains a variety of species, it is best known for the Passiflora genus, appreciated for large, complex flowers and fruit which is often edible.  There are said to be about 365 species in this genus, typically vines and mainly from the Neotropics.

 

 
One of the most common wild passion fruit species is Passiflora vitifolia.  It is widespread in the Neotropics, here along the Amazon River in Colombia. The flower and its sweet smell has insured its place in tropical gardens.  Local names include Grenadilla del Monte, but the fruit is rather sour until over-ripe. Click to see big picture (732x600 pixels; 119 KB)
By contrast, the flower of Passiflora foetida is a bit dowdy and it stinks.  But this species has become pantropical, from a neotropic origin.  In fact this photo is from Sarawak.  Click to see big picture (705x600 pixels; 139 KB)
But both the leaves and the fruit of Passiflora foetida are edible, which is no doubt why it has been so widely planted.  This photo is from a weed in Managua, Nicaragua-- no doubt a garden escapee.  It is known in latin america as Maracuja Silvestre. Click to see big picture (434x600 pixels; 110 KB)

Passiflora alata is native largely to the Amazon basin, but has been planted and appreciated for its edible fruit and its flowers.  The natives called it Ouvaea, meaning "red star".  In view of its use in making juices, the local term is Maracuja de Refresco.  Photo from the town of Leticia on the Amazon River in Colombia.

 

Passiflora quadrangularis produces the largest fruit of the genus. These are known as Giant Granadilla or simply as Badea.  The fruit is rather acid, but used for drinks and flavorings.  This one is growing at Calanoa Lodge on the Amazon River in Colombia. Click to see big picture (425x600 pixels; 83 KB)
This is the Passiflora quadrangularis vine, with flanged stems and "feelers" which can wrap around anything they touch. Click to see big picture (605x600 pixels; 147 KB)
Cissus erosa is a tropical representative from the Vitaceae Family.  It appears though much of the Neotropics and is known as Caro de Tres Hojas.  Here by the Amazon River in Colombia, however, it tends to be called the Mano de Sapo vine. Click to see big picture (749x600 pixels; 144 KB)
A broader view of the Cissus erosa vine in the Colombian Amazon. Click to see big picture (416x600 pixels; 103 KB)
From the Celastraceae Family, we have the large pod of Tontelea ovalifolia. It is a species of northern South America, and these Tutuara pods may be used as a percussion instrument when empty. Click to see big picture (635x600 pixels; 111 KB)
We turn to the Oxalidaceae Family for Biophytum somnians in Amacayacu Park of the Colombian Amazon.  This species of the northwestern Amazon Basin is rather different from the Oxalis wood sorrel flowers which characterize the family. Click to see big picture (640x600 pixels; 119 KB)
And from Iguazu National Park in northeastern Argentina, here is Hybanthus communis of the Violet Family (Violaceae).  Despite the "communis" name, this species is found mainly along the southern rim of the South American tropics.
We should not forget Erythroxylum coca of the Erythroxylaceae Family, the source of cocaine. This is the ipadu variety or Amazon Coca, here on the Javary River between Peru and Brazil. Click to see big picture (720x582 pixels; 146 KB)