DixPix Photographs

     

TROPICAL CENTRAL AMERICA

 
     
  Flora- DOGBANES AND GENTIANS  

The fact that the important Apocynaceae Family is named after the lowly Dogbane shows a bias toward a non-tropical mind set.  Now that the Asclepiadaceae Family has been dumped into the dogbanes, there is something in the order of 1500 species and counting.  One characteristic of the family is copious sap, often milky and in many cases stinging and/or poisonous. 

Apocynaceae is part of the Gentianales Order, and a few tropical examples from the Gentian Family are appended.   The third major family from this order, the Rubiaceae (coffee family) is a monster and has its own oversized page.

 

Let's start with the famous Plumeria.  With the latin handle Plumeria rubra, one would expect a reddish flower, and indeed some have.  This effect has been emphasized in breeding for gardens.  And thanks to gardeners, this genus from Tropical America is now pantropical with a vengeance under the intriguing name of Frangipani. Click to see big picture (481x480 pixels; 87 KB)
Plumeria tricolor refers to the mixture of pink, white and yellow.  It is generally looked on as a rehash of P. rubra.  Flowers without leaves may look a little strange, but here in Malawi, Africa many things are strange.  This species gets around. Click to see big picture (630x392 pixels; 84 KB)
Back in its native Mexico, Plumeria rubra is usually white, and in a tree looks like this.  The pointy leaves shows that this is the acutifolia subspecies. This is the national flower of Nicaragua, and if your tongue is up to it, the native word is Sacuajache.  Note the forked pod in the lower right.  Click to see big picture (472x480 pixels; 86 KB)
By comparison, this pod which forms an 'obtuse' angle (remember your high school trigonometry) is from Plumeria obtusa. Click to see big picture (554x480 pixels; 82 KB)
The flower of Plumeria obtusa in coastal Nicaragua.  It seems to have started its march from an area in Mexico and the Caribbean. Click to see big picture (640x473 pixels; 85 KB)
Allamanda cathartica is a scrambling shrub which is generally blamed on Brazil, but is now found throughout the tropics as a combination garden flower and invasive weed.  If proof is needed, this photo is from Borneo.  It is mainly poisonous, but in appropriate portions can but used to induce vomiting, hence the name.  Nice flower, ugly seed pods.  Usually called simply Allamanda, but in its native neotropics often Flor de Mantequilla, (butter). Click to see big picture (440x480 pixels; 70 KB)
Referred to as the Mangrove Rubber Vine in English and Clavelito locally, Rhabdadenia biflora is mainly a daughter of the Caribbean coasts.  In this case it was caught on an island off western Panama. Click to see big picture (541x480 pixels; 89 KB)
Again in Panama, but up in the San Blas Mountains, meet Mandevilla hirsuta, sometimes called the Plebian Trumpet Vine.  Pretty, but poisonous.  Native to about from Guatemala to Brazil, mostly hugging the coast in South America. Click to see big picture (540x480 pixels; 78 KB)
And here is a somewhat different version of Mandevilla Hirsuta in Costa Rica.  Savannah Flower is another name. Click to see big picture (640x469 pixels; 88 KB)
Mandevilla subsagittata is a vine with an unusual flower.  Its native range is from southern Mexico to northern Peru, this one residing in the latter. mandevilla subsagittata
This appears to be the mellon of the Cruel Vine or Moth Vine (moth pollinated), Araujia sericifera which is a widespread product of the neotropics.  It is now a noxious weed in some quarters, and noted for the bad odor of its sap. Click to see big picture (390x480 pixels; 108 KB)
The cream color of this pinwheel flower would suggest Tabernaemontana longipes (or alba), which shows up from Nicaragua to Colombia.  Click to see big picture (640x448 pixels; 81 KB)
The thorny trunk of Lacmellea lactescens, known as Chicle Muyu, suggesting that the sap is chewed.  Jatun Sacha Botanical Gardens in Ecuador.
This flower from Ecuador's Wild Sumaco Reserve seems to be from the Odontadenia genus, but I can't find a match for species. 
Carissa macrocarpa is a product of South Africa, but with attractive flowers and an edible fruit, it has migrated and is now found in Florida and Central America among other tropical locations. Click to see big picture (574x480 pixels; 77 KB)
The fruit of Carissa macrocarpa may be eaten whole or used in sweets, etc.  The usual name is Natal Plum, directly translated as Ciruela de Natal in Latin America. Click to see big picture (461x480 pixels; 60 KB)
Calotropis procera is a large and weedy plant of Afro-Asian origin.  It has medicinal uses in some circles, despite being largely poisonous, and has traveled under names such as Rooster Tree and Giant Milkweed.  Here it is as a roadside weed in Tayrona Park, northeastern Colombia. Click to see big picture (640x462 pixels; 91 KB)
Calotropis gigantea is another species known as Giant Milkweed or Giant Calotropis.  It is of southeastern Asian origin, but has been widely planted in the tropics, and is here blooming in Tanzania. Click to see big picture (640x425 pixels; 102 KB)
Known as the Pine-needle Milkweed, Asclepias linaria, is largely a dryland plant, but does get down into Oaxaca, Mexico. Click to see big picture (607x480 pixels; 81 KB)
This African milkweed was originally part of the Asclepias genus, but is now filed under Gomphocarpus physocarpus.  It has naturalized in many parts of Mesoamerica and is known as the Balloonplant or Swan Plant.  It is poisonous, but a favored food of the monarch caterpillar. ballonplant
Thevetia thevetioides seems to have originated here in southern Mexico, where it is known as Yoyote and used in folk medicine for various ailments from skin problems to toothaches.  Click to see big picture (600x480 pixels; 97 KB)
A better known member of the genus is Thevetia peruviana.  This poisonous plant may be found from Mexico to Bolivia.  Here in its namesake of tropical Peru, it is known as Paichachi Click to see big picture (640x434 pixels; 129 KB)
Thevetia peruviana sometimes turns up in gardens under the name of Yellow Oleander.  It is not always yellow, however, some plants have a more orange flower.  The unusual fruit is sometimes called Lucky Nut. Click to see big picture (601x480 pixels; 93 KB)

 

  The Gentian Family, Gentianaceae lends its name to its botanical order, the Gentianales.  It is a fairly large family with some 1500 species defined, many with handsome, bell-shaped flowers.  It is better known in temperate climates, however, and only a few have turned up here in the tropics of Central America, where most seem to prefer higher elevations.

 

 
High in a paramo of Colombia, the cheerful blooms of a sky-blue Gentian, likely Gentiana sedifolia, which has been recorded from the mountains for both Central and South America. Click to see big picture (471x480 pixels; 112 KB)
From the 4000 meter level on Cerro Chimborazo, Ecuador's highest summit, this appears to be Gentianella cerastioides, but the adjacent strap-leaves are from another species.
Gentianella jamesonii, from near Papallacata Pass east of Quito.  This is mainly a species of the Ecuador highlands.
The Halenia clan are easily overlooked alpine herbs.  This is likely H. aquilegiella on a mountain with the cheerful name of Cerro de la Muerte, which seems to be sort of the type locality for the species. Click to see big picture (272x480 pixels; 71 KB)
While this species with more spreading stems from Volcan Baru in Panama is likely Halenia rhyacophila. Click to see big picture (277x480 pixels; 77 KB)
While well above timberline on Chimborazo, Ecuador's higest mountain, this would be Halenia weddelliana.
This attractive green bell appears to be from the Chelonanthus genus, growing in central Panama. Click to see big picture (596x480 pixels; 155 KB)
A closer look at the flower and leaves.  The lack of a leaf stem marks this as Chelonanthus, and the only one of this genus registered in Panama is Chelonathus alatus. Click to see big picture (640x406 pixels; 80 KB)
And from near Puyo, Ecuador, a view of the pods, flowers and the tall spindly plant of Chelonanthus alatus.
Macrocarpaea sodiroana is found at altitude in Ecuador, and has a flower quite similar to Chelonanthus.
But unlike Chelonanthus, Macrocarpaea proves to be a sizeable shrub.
This is likely Macrocarpaea auriculata, which fades from white to yellow as it ages.  If so, it is confined to the highlands of central Costa Rica.
Nymphoides indica is a pantropical water weed, sold under the name of Snowflake if you need a plant for your pond. The name suggests that it is from India, but its origin is not clear.  This is from Lago Nicaragua, where it is known as Flotante Fir.  Some believe that it should be in the Menyanthaceae Family, rather than in with the Gentians. Click to see big picture (595x480 pixels; 125 KB)
Also from Lago Nicaragua, the Mayan Water Lily, Nymphaea ampla, known in the neotropics as the Lirio de Agua.