DixPix Photographs

     

TROPICAL SOUTH AMERICA

 
     
  MALVALES AND KIN  

 

Malvales is a botanical Order dominated by the Mallow Family, Malvaceae.  The only other family of interest here is the Bixaceae or Achiote Family.  A closely related Order presented is the Sapindales, which in addition to the Sapindaceae Family includes the Anacardiaceae (Cashew Family),and the Burseraceae (Copal Family).  Examples of the Caricaceae (Papaya Family) and the Cleomaceae from the Brassicales Order are also appended.  That's enough Latin.

 

There are about 150 species of Abutilon, and a host of cultivars. One of the most popular is Abutilon pictum, which began its career in the southern sectors of the South American tropics, but is now found in tropical gardens world-wide. This streaked form of the species is the most popular, and goes by names such as Redvein Abutilon. Click to see big picture (424x600 pixels; 83 KB)
But there are also yellow forms of Abutilon pictum, and here is one growing wild in its native range in northeastern most Argentina.  Abutilons tend to be called Farolitos is South America. Click to see big picture (464x600 pixels; 122 KB)
Abutilon megapotamicum is a child of temperate climates south of the Amazon basin, and is hence a cold-tolerant garden favorite, in this case at the botanical gardens of San Francisco.  Trailing Abutilon is the most common English name. Click to see big picture (572x600 pixels; 100 KB)
Abutilon grandifolium is a large shrub which originated in South America, but has now been planted and naturalized in many of the warmer parts of the planet.  Here in northern Argentina it is one of the species known as Abutilo.
This photo from northeast of Salta, Argentina, shows why the English name for Abutilon grandifolium is Hairy Indian Mallow.
The flowers of Luehea divaricata are reason enough to plant the tree, but Azota Caballo is also considered a medicinal plant, whose bark is used by tradition to treat inflammation and arthritis. Click to see big picture (800x589 pixels; 114 KB)
And here is the Azota Caballo tree itself.  The species is native to southeastern Brazil, Paraguay and northeastern Argentina.  Photo from the latter. Click to see big picture (480x600 pixels; 152 KB)
This is the flower of the tropical Sea Island Cotton, Gossypium barbadense.  It had spread through the Neotropics in prehistoric times, and is here at a homestead on an island in the Amazon River.
Pavonia strictiflora is an unusual plant which originated in eastern Brazil, but is now planted in various parts of the tropics, including here in Hawaii. Click to see big picture (434x600 pixels; 93 KB)
Looking very different, is the Pale Pavonia, also known a Spearleaf Swampmallow.  Pavonia hastata is native to the southern Neotropics, but has been planted widely and is here in the Royal Gardens of Madrid.
A hairy mat plant, likely Sida sp. near the town of San Javier in eastern Bolivia. Click to see big picture (663x600 pixels; 170 KB)
From the Colombian sector of the Amazon River, this mallow bush has adapted to the rivers seasonal flood zone.  Not listed in the botanical compendium for nearby Amacayacu Park Click to see big picture (643x600 pixels; 142 KB)
This is a weed in the Iguazu area of northeastern Argentina. Not yet identified. Click to see big picture (720x578 pixels; 121 KB)
Mutisia (or Quararibea) cordata is a tree that produces large fruit. These are enjoyed locally within its range, which includes the northwestern Amazon Basin and adjacent Cordillera.  It goes by names such as Sapotillo and Chupa-chupa. Click to see big picture (542x600 pixels; 105 KB)
The seed pods of Apeiba membranacea are one of several called Monkey Combs or Peine de Monos.  The tree is found through the western Neotropics and the pods are green with larger thorns when young. Click to see big picture (602x600 pixels; 126 KB)
Most taxonomists put the chocolate plant and its Theobroma genus in the Mallow Family.  This is T. grandiflorum fruit, which is used locally, mainly for juices and candies.  Here in amazonian Colombia it is known as Cupuacu. Click to see big picture (579x600 pixels; 131 KB)
We now get into some of the cotton-bearing tree which were once in the Bombacaceae Family, but have since been tossed in with the mallows.  This is Ceiba Pentandra, one of the giants of the Neotropics Click to see big picture (800x552 pixels; 128 KB)
The flowers of Ceiba pentandra turn into pods full of cotton, which gives the species its most common name of Kapok Tree.  Native from Mexico and the Caribbean to the Amazon, it has now been widely planted, especially in southeast Asia as a source of tree cotton. Click to see big picture (780x600 pixels; 206 KB)
And here are the huge, buttressed roots of one of these forest giants. Click to see big picture (753x600 pixels; 246 KB)
Ceiba speciosa is another of the cotton pod species and it goes by the name of Silk Floss Tree. It is native to the southern tropics of South America, but now has been widely planted, in good part because of its striking flowers. Click to see big picture (698x600 pixels; 157 KB)
Many Ceiba speciosa trees have a swollen lower trunk, this one in a park in San Javier, eastern Bolivia is a case in point.  This has given rise to the common name of Palo Boracho, as the tree reminds some people of a drunk.  Toborochi is a less colorful name. Click to see big picture (339x600 pixels; 117 KB)
The cotton of the Silk Floss Tree is not of the same quality as that of the Kapok, but is nevertheless used as a stuffing in some areas. Click to see big picture (678x600 pixels; 131 KB)
Another of this group is the Shaving Brush Tree, Pseudobombax longiflorum. Like the silk floss tree, it is native to the southern parts of tropical south America. Click to see big picture (800x521 pixels; 160 KB)
The Bixaceae Family is a small one. It is named for its one well-known species, the AchioteBixa orellana has spread throughout the world tropics due to a dye available from its seeds and pods.  The flower, however, also brightens gardens. Click to see big picture (800x589 pixels; 124 KB)
And here are those bright red pods, together with a look at the plant as a whole. Click to see big picture (800x444 pixels; 146 KB)

Cleome parviflora in the Colombian Amazon, a species found in much of the Neotropics.  This brings us briefly to the Cleomaceae Family which has strange and spectactular flowers, but which is largely not tropical.

Click to see big picture (680x600 pixels; 100 KB)

Anacardiaceae is known as the Cashew Family although it is equally famous for the mango.  In North America it is better known for poison ivy/oak.  The flowers tend to be numerous, but small.

 

 
Anacardium occidentale in amazonian Colombia. Cashew nuts hang below a fruit known as a Cashew Apple in English or as Marañon in Latin America.  The cashew "nuts" contain the same poisons as Poison Ivy and must be toasted in a ventilated area to be edible.  There is really no such thing as a "raw" cashew on the market. Click to see big picture (800x555 pixels; 149 KB)
The Marañon fruit produces a strange juice which leaves the author more thirsty than before drinking.  It is also used to make a godawflul liquor.  The Cashew plant has gone from Neotropical to Pantropical, and the nut is now exported from several countries. Click to see big picture (528x600 pixels; 132 KB)
Spondias mombin is native to the Neotropics, but is now been planted very widely.  Partly this is because of its edible fruit, and partly because it has many uses in folk medicine.  Here in the Colombian Amazon, it was used for the pains of childbirth, and everywhere it has been prized for healing wounds.
And here are the fallen fruit of the Sponias mombin tree.  Here in Colombia, they tend to call this the Uvo Tree, confusing it with grapes.  The Caribbean name Jobo is more widespread.
Crowding the shore of the Amazon River in Colombia are young shrubs of Tapirira guianensis.  The multitude of small flowers is typical of the Anacardiaceae family.  This species is found through much of the Neotropics, and can grow to be a sizeable tree.  There are several names, including Jobo Liso. Click to see big picture (800x533 pixels; 221 KB)

There are only about 35 species in the Caricaceae Family, which is named after its most famous one, the Papaya.

 

 
Papaya del Selva is one of the names given the Jacaratia digitata tree.  The fat thorns are more visually impressive than defensive.  It is a species of the western and southern Amazon Basin, here in Colombia. Click to see big picture (360x600 pixels; 103 KB)
We turn to Ecuador for a cross-section of the fruit of Jacaratia digitata, which is eaten by indigenous communities.  Chamburo is one of the more common names. Click to see big picture (573x600 pixels; 77 KB)
Jacaratia spinosa is a fruit tree found through most of the Neotropics.  It has many names, of which Yacaratia is the most common here in Argentina near the Brazil border. Click to see big picture (480x600 pixels; 158 KB)
A fuller view of the Jacaratia spinosa tree.  The wood is of fine quality. Click to see big picture (480x600 pixels; 170 KB)
The fruit is sweet and eaten by humans as well as a host of other animals, but does not seem greatly sought.  It is known as Papayon, but in the author's opinion tastes better than normal papaya. Click to see big picture (631x600 pixels; 116 KB)

The Sapindaceae or Soapberry Family is of only moderate size, but contains some unusual species.  It is known best for maples in North America and for the Lychee in the Orient.

 

 
This is from the Serjania genus, in northernmost Peru. These are not flowers, but seed structures.  The actual seeds are the green nubs in threes at the ends of the projections, and the whole thing will break up into maple-style winged seeds. Click to see big picture (800x533 pixels; 129 KB)
Magonia pubescens is another unusual plant, found in the southern parts of South America's tropical zone.  This photo from near Bolivia's border with Brazil shows the fruit, but it is a liquid made from the bark which is used to stun fish and to deter ticks.  Known as Tingui in Brazil. Click to see big picture (616x600 pixels; 146 KB)
Copal is a flammable tree resin used in indigenous communities as incense.  It is derived from a few trees, in this case Dacryodes peruviana of the Burseraceae family.  The species is known as Copalwood and is found in northwestern South America, producing edible fruit as well as copal.  Photo from eastern Ecuador. Click to see big picture (792x600 pixels; 220 KB)