DixPix Photographs





The Acanthus Family is a major one in tropical and subtropical climates, with something like 2500 species defined so far.  These plants are mainly herbs, shrubs and vines, with only a few real trees.  One of the more distinctive features are large, often colorful bracts, partly enclosing the flowers.  In addition, many of the flowers are themselves striking, and as a result an unusually large number of species from this family adorn tropical gardens and have traveled widely on this ticket.  Some have proved to be aggressive weeds in their new homes.


What better place to start than with Justicia aurea which some insist on calling J. umbrosa.  For some reason this goes by the name of Yellow Jacobina in garden circles, and by many local names in its native range from Mexico to Panama.  Now widely planted. Click to see big picture (553x480 pixels; 82 KB)
And here is a more complete look at Justicia aurea from the mountains of southwestern Mexico.  There seems to be two rather distinct forms of this species, or some simple confusion.
The origins of Justicia spicigera seem to be from south Mexico to Costa Rica. Gardeners call it Mexican Honeysuckle, although it has no relationship to honeysuckles.  In folk remedy circles it goes by the name of Muitle, and is peddled for a variety of ailments. Click to see big picture (640x367 pixels; 85 KB)
Justicia leonardii or Orange Justicia might prefer to be at home in Central America, but is here ensconced at the botanical gardens in San Francisco.  There are those who would say this is the same as Justicia corumbensis, which tends to hang out farther south. Click to see big picture (436x480 pixels; 88 KB)
This appears to be Justicia secunda in the El Dorado Reserve of the Santa Marta Mountains, northeastern Colombia.  It is at home in Panama and in northern South America.
And from the same isolated mountain range, another pink Justicia with purple calyx, unidentified.
Again from the Santa Marta Mountains, a pure white Justicia.  This look a lot like J. carnea alba, but that is an Amazonian species.
Mexican Plume is the usual term given to Justicia fulvicoma, and indeed it hales from here in Mexico to Honduras. Click to see big picture (329x480 pixels; 68 KB)
Red Justicia (J. candicans) in the Desert Botanical Gardens, Phoenix.  The species is at home from there south to Central America, and is one of several flowers referred to as Chuparosa. Click to see big picture (389x480 pixels; 64 KB)
Justicia americana looks a little bit different than the rest of the genus, and it is a semi-aquatic plant to boot.  It is mainly found in Mexico and the southern USA Click to see big picture (640x435 pixels; 83 KB)
Justicia brandegeeana tends to be termed a Shrimp Plant, translated as Camaron.  This name is given to plants with flowers erupting from a stack of colorful bracts.  Native from Mexico to Honduras but now widely scattered. Click to see big picture (640x404 pixels; 91 KB)
The classical camaron is the Golden Shrimp Plant, Pachystachys lutea.  No tropical garden would be complete without a few.  This one shows off at the KEW gardens. Click to see big picture (437x480 pixels; 69 KB)
Pachystachys lutea started out in a range from Guatemala to Colombia, but is now virtually pantropical. Click to see big picture (640x469 pixels; 88 KB)
Pachystachys coccinea on the other hand seems to have begun its march in the Caribbean and adjacent South America.  Its bright color and imaginative name of Cardinal's Guard have been its ticket to travel. Click to see big picture (640x452 pixels; 93 KB)
Megaskepasma erythrochlamys is widely popular, if unpronounceable.  No wonder no other species has been assigned to that genus.  The garden name of Brazilian Red Cloak is also suspect, as it is native to Venezuela and abounds in Central America. Click to see big picture (640x445 pixels; 130 KB)
Schaueria flavicoma (or S. calicotricha) actually does carry a Brazilian passport, but under the name of Golden Plume it has long been spread to Central America and other parts of the tropics. Click to see big picture (479x480 pixels; 107 KB)
The Golden Zebra Plant (Sanchezia speciosa) may have originated in Ecuador, but is now found in Central America and beyond. Click to see big picture (552x480 pixels; 88 KB)
There are several species in the Sanchezia genus, they tend to be planted in gardens because of their decorative leaves, which are also the origin of their Zebra Plant name. Click to see big picture (459x480 pixels; 105 KB)
Sanchezia parvibracteata is a Zebra Plant mainly encountered from southern Mexico to Colombia, this being in the latter.  It has become a pest in Australia. Click to see big picture (601x480 pixels; 89 KB)
This is the original form of the Polkadot Plant (Hypoestes phyllostachya) in the cloud forests of the Maihuatlan Range of Mexico.  Those leaf dots have been tweeked into garden plants with colorful leaf patterns, so it is now a widespread species.
There are those who would claim that Sanchezia nobilis is just a synonym for S. speciosa. This one, however, has escaped to Hawaii and is unconcerned. Click to see big picture (637x480 pixels; 92 KB)
There are several Aphelandra species lurking in the forests of Central America. This one with the red bracts is likely A. lingua-bovis, with a range from Nicaragua to Colombia. Click to see big picture (388x480 pixels; 86 KB)
And this with greenish bracts is probably Aphelandra scabra, with a wider range of Mexico to Venezuela.  Here in Nicaragua these types of plant are referred to as Mozote del Diablo. Click to see big picture (383x480 pixels; 87 KB)
Turning to the Jatun Sacha reserve in the andean foothills of Ecuador, this is Aphelandra aurantiaca, widespread in the neotropics.
Trichanthera gigantea is one of the few trees in the Acanthus Family.  It is native from Costa Rica to Colombia, but has been widely planted in the Orient and elsewhere as prime cattle fodder. Local names include Nacedero and Madre de Agua, both referring to its preference for growing at the headwaters of streams. Click to see big picture (640x428 pixels; 102 KB)
Another tree of the family is Bravaisia integerrima, a mangrove that may be found on coastlines from southern Mexico to Venezuela.  Here again it is only the fallen blossoms that are within reach.  It too is betimes called Nacedero, as well as Julubol in Mexico. mangrove flowers
Besides its appearance, Razisea spicata is a garden favorite as it attracts hummingbirds.  It is hence found far beyond its native range of Guatemala to Colombia. Click to see big picture (612x480 pixels; 123 KB)
This unusual flower is known as Dicliptera trifurca, and as the species name would suggest, the flowers tend to occur in groups of three. Click to see big picture (474x480 pixels; 81 KB)
The Dicliptera genus has been given the odd name of Bear's Breeches in English, but D. trifurca seems confined to Costa Rica and Panama. Click to see big picture (634x480 pixels; 85 KB)
Carlowrightiana arizonica is known as the Arizona Wrightwort.  Despite having Arizona in both names, its range extends south to Costa Rica.  Here it is blooming in southwestern Mexico.
From a beach in southwestern Nicaragua, this is Barleria oenotheroides.  At home from Mexico to Panama, it has reportedly become a weed in some other places such as west Africa. Click to see big picture (582x480 pixels; 105 KB)
Blechum pyramidatum has been introduced far from its range of south Mexico to South America, and has become invasive on some Pacific Islands.  It is known as Ruellia blechum in some parts and as the Green Shrimp Plant as well. Click to see big picture (383x480 pixels; 76 KB)
Ruellia brevifolia is a child of the highlands of tropical South America, in this case in Colombia.
Ruellia simplex, growing among agaves on the southwestern coastline of Mexico.  Although known as the Mexican Petunia, this species is found throughout much of Latin America and has no relationship to Petunias.
Ruellia simplex is also a popular garden flower in tropical settings.  These, near Gamboa, Panama, appear to have been planted.
In garden circles, Ruellia inundata tends to go by the misleading name of Wild Petunia.  It appears to have two native populations, one across Central America, and the other in eastern Brazil. Click to see big picture (640x443 pixels; 128 KB)
A closer look at the flowers of Ruellia inundata shows why it is a popular plant in tropical areas. Click to see big picture (621x480 pixels; 96 KB)
And a close look at a less well travelled member of the genus.   This is Ruellia lacatea, which makes its home in southern Mexico and Guatemala. Ruellia lactea
Ruellia chartacea employs red leaves as well as red flowers.  It is here at Cotacocha Lodge on the upper Rio Napo of Ecuador, but it is more often found farther east in the Amazon basin.
An east African vine which has conquered the tropics. Here in Mexico, Thunbergia alata is known as Hierba de Susto, referring to a shock or scare. Click to see big picture (526x480 pixels; 65 KB)
A side view of Thunbergia alata reveals the typical Acanthus Family bracts.  Another of several Latin American names is Ojos de Poeta (Poet's Eyes), while the usual English handle is a less imaginative Black-eyed Susan Vine. Click to see big picture (463x480 pixels; 63 KB)
There a several species of Thunbergia vines which have taken up residence in Central America.  This appears to be T. battiscombei, which would call Kenya or Uganda home rather than here in central Panama.  For some reason the genus is usually called Clock Vines. Click to see big picture (395x480 pixels; 111 KB)
From near the town of Tena in Ecuador, the white flower base here indicates Thunbergia erecta, an African species, naturalized in several parts of the Neotropics.  It is one of the species known as Bush Clock Vine.
The Orange Clock Vine, Thunbergia gregoryi (or gregorii) carries a Tanzanian passport, but has become a popular garden item in the warmer parts of the world.
And this vine in a garden in western Panama would be Thunbergia grandiflora alba, the invasive pantropical White Sky Vine, which began its conquest from Asia. Click to see big picture (392x480 pixels; 73 KB)
Surely one of the strangest flowers belongs to the Indian Clock Vine, Thunbergia mysorensis.  As both names would suggest, it is native to southern Indian, but widely appreciated by tropical gardeners. Click to see big picture (404x480 pixels; 64 KB)