DixPix Photographs

     

TROPICAL SOUTH AMERICA

 
     
  ROSALES AND CUCURBITALES  

 

The botanical Order Rosales in named for the Rose Family Rosaceae, and although this is large and important, it contains mainly species of temperate climates and is of little importance in the Neotropics.  Two other closely related families of this order, however, are commonly encountered, namely the Urticaceae or Nettle Family and the Moraceae or Fig Family.  An example from the Buckthorn Family, Rhamnaceae is also included.

The Cucurbitales Order is smaller, and named for the Cucumber or Squash Family Cucurbitaceae.  This does have some vines in the Amazon area, and a few Begonias are also present.

We begin with the Urticaceae.  Named for the nettles, this does indeed contain plants capable of delivering a substantial sting in the Urea and Urtica genera.  Most species are of a more friendly character, however, and now that the Cecropia tree genus has been folded into it, the family is a major player in the Neotropics.

 

Urera baccifera haunts forests throughout the Neotropics, and is one of the nettles which has earned the name of Ortiga Brava for its potency.  Oddly, it is also used as an anti-inflammatory.  When present, the reddish berries are a distinctive warning. Click to see big picture (480x600 pixels; 168 KB)
Urera baccifera is rather variable in leaf shape, but it always seems to have tooth-edged leaves.  It is also variable in potency as a nettle.  Although the term 'ortiga' is Spanish for 'nettle', there are more colorful local names such as Mala Mujer (bad woman) used for both nettles and thorny shrubs. Click to see big picture (800x600 pixels; 260 KB)
Urera caracascana is another Ortiga Brava that is widespread in tropical Americas.  The ripe fruit is a bright red, giving it the name of Flameberry in English. Click to see big picture (800x600 pixels; 178 KB)
Trees of the Cecropia genus are major players in the Neotropics, and quite distinctive.  They once had their own family, but have now been thrown in with the nettles, which they in no way resemble above the gene level.  This is C. latiloba Click to see big picture (544x600 pixels; 111 KB)
In the Amazon region, cecropias tend to be called Yarumos. These lining a branch of the Amazon River in Colombia are Cecropia latiloba. Click to see big picture (800x545 pixels; 168 KB)
Cecropia latiloba is a flood plain specialist, and appears to feed the fish during the high water season when the rivers of the Amazon watershed rise several meters. Click to see big picture (723x600 pixels; 148 KB)
An unidentified Cecropia west of the town of Coca, Ecuador. Click to see big picture (777x600 pixels; 197 KB)
Bright red leaf sheaths on the unidentified CecropiaC. insignis is similar, but is not recorded this far east. Click to see big picture (691x600 pixels; 123 KB)
Cecropia pachystachya, also known as C. pinnatiloba.  Found mainly in the southern parts of the South American tropics where it is known as Amby.  Photo from Iguazu area, Argentina-Brazil border. Click to see big picture (482x600 pixels; 115 KB)
These white-topped trees in the Cordillera Condor between Peru and Ecuador are courtesy of Cecropia telenitida, known as Yarumo Blanco.  The species is found around the northwest edge of the Amazon Basin. Click to see big picture (770x600 pixels; 203 KB)
Cecropia trees can grow fast and light by creating a boxwork structure in their branches.  In many cases these house aztec ants which protect the trees from predation by other insects. Click to see big picture (720x508 pixels; 148 KB)
Pourouma uvifera (or cecropiifolia) by the Amazon River in Colombia. This tree has cecropia-like foliage, but produces a tasty fruit known as Amazon Tree Grapes. The species is native to the western Amazon basin, but planted more widely, with names such as Caimarona and Uvilla. Click to see big picture (800x546 pixels; 159 KB)
Phenax rugosus has little to recommend it, but may be found from southern Mexico to southeastern Brazil.  It does have some applications in folk medicine, and may have anti-inflammatory properties. Click to see big picture (484x600 pixels; 115 KB)

Moraceae, the Fig Family, has roughly a thousand species of which maybe 850 are in the Ficus genus, properly known as figs.  The family is mainly tropical, and is a major player in the Neotropics.

 

 
There are many species of Ficus (figs) in tropical South America, but don't bother looking for flowers on these trees.  The flowers are internal to the fruit and pollinated by Fig Wasps which find their way in.  Most species of fig are edible, but one has to deal with the wasps (alive or dead), and the eggs thereof. Click to see big picture (710x600 pixels; 110 KB)
Many figs are stanglers.  These envelop and finally strangle and replace their host trees.  Here in eastern Bolivia one is taking on a palm tree.  The local men liken this to the embrace of a woman. Click to see big picture (393x600 pixels; 122 KB)
Seen from a distance, it is clear that the Palm is far from dead, but the Strangler Fig already has most foliage. Click to see big picture (800x522 pixels; 158 KB)
Some fig trees can grow very large.  These are Ficus insipida in eastern Ecuador, named "insipid" because of their rather bland fruit.  This is a strangler fig, but in maturity the host has disappeared.  It is found widely in the Neotropics, and in northwestern South America is known as Chibecha. Click to see big picture (675x600 pixels; 235 KB)
A few trees in the Amazon have red wood. This fallen log in Amacayacu Park, Colombia, is Brosimum rubescens. It is found mainly in the Amazon Basin and north thereof. Click to see big picture (800x562 pixels; 219 KB)
The wood of Brosimum rubescens and some similar species is in demand, and prized by craftsmen.  Bloodwood is the English term and Palo de Sangre in Spanish. Click to see big picture (800x519 pixels; 187 KB)
Clarisia racemosa is a tree which can be found from Nicaragua to Bolivia, here in Ecuador it seems known as Mashonaste. It is appreciated for its fruit and lumber, but is visually striking for its orange patterned bark and roots. Click to see big picture (639x600 pixels; 213 KB)
A closer look at the orange bark patterns of Clarisia racemosa by the Amazon River in Colombia.  Here it goes by names such as Arracacho. Click to see big picture (519x600 pixels; 158 KB)
A floating seed pod of Naucleopsis ulei, from the Matamata River in Colombian Amazon. The species is native to the tropics of northern South America, where it is known as Balsamo.  Although it doesn't look it, this fruit is said to be edible. Click to see big picture (681x600 pixels; 175 KB)
The fruit of another Naucleopsis species, also from the Colombian Amazon. There are several members of this genus in the area. Click to see big picture (533x600 pixels; 110 KB)
Surely one of the strangest of flora-- introducing Colletia paradoxa, the Anchor Plant.  This is from the Rhamnaceae or Buckthorn Family.  It is native to southeastern Brazil, Uruguay and parts of Argentina.  Photo from Buenos Aires.  Click to see big picture (564x600 pixels; 166 KB)
Another view of Colletia paradoxa. It is locally known by names such as Curro, and has been planted in gardens beyond its native range as a curiosity. Click to see big picture (361x600 pixels; 123 KB)

The Begoniaceae family pretty well boils down to the Begonia genus.  There are lots of species here, although most would prefer to root themselves above the Amazon Basin itself, or on the east coast.  Most  have distinctive, asymmetric leaves.

 

 
A classical Begonia living right in the spray of Iguazu Falls.  I can't find the species, perhaps someone planted it. Click to see big picture (800x568 pixels; 159 KB)
From the same area where Brazil and Argentina come together, this is Begonia cucullata.  It is known as the Clubbed Begonia in garden circles, and this one is at the garden of UC Berkeley.
Crinkled leaves mark Begonia gehrtii.  It is supposedly native to eastern Brazil, but more likely to be encountered in gardens, in this case Lotusland in Montecito, California. Click to see big picture (666x480 pixels; 159 KB)
And from the same garden, Begonia angulata.  This species comes from southeast Brazil originally. Click to see big picture (720x543 pixels; 209 KB)
And again from Lotusland, another citizen of eastern Brazil, Begonia parilis.
Begonia venosa-- the word means poisonous.  Brazilian, but found mainly in gardens, in this case at those of Berkeley University.

The Cucurbitaceae family has been named after cucumbers, squash, melons or gourds.  It is credited with almost a thousand species, in both tropical and temperate climates.

 

 
On a fence near San Javier in eastern Bolivia, we come across a vine of Luffa cylindrica.  This and some related species are known by names such as Sponge Cucumber, as the structural filaments of their fruit are used as sponges.  It is native to Asia, but now pantropical. Click to see big picture (720x547 pixels; 195 KB)
Gurania lobata is sometimes known as the Jungle Cucumber.  The species is native to northwestern South America.  Photo from the Calanoa Reserve of the Colombian Amazon. Click to see big picture (799x600 pixels; 174 KB)
Gurania lobata flowers.  The resulting fruit is also known as Pygmymelon. Click to see big picture (450x600 pixels; 69 KB)
Trema micrantha is found through much of the Neotropics, going by names such as Guacimilla and Jamaican Nettle Tree.  Here it is near Iguazu in northeastern Argentina.  These is some confusion as to its family, Cannabaceae seems to be a popular option.