DixPix Photographs

     

TROPICAL CENTRAL AMERICA

 
     
  Flora- AROIDS AND KIN  

 

The Araceae Family is huge, something like 3700 species recognized, and mainly at home in the Neotropics.  It is generally known as the Arum Family, and its members the Ariods.  (It should not be confused with the Aracaceae, which is the Palm Family).  Many species of aroids have been plucked from the jungles to act as house-plants in temperate regions, and are more likely to be met in your dentist's office than in a tropical cloud forest.  Some of those have been horticulturally tweaked almost beyond recognition.  There is a large website devoted to aroids at www.aroidpictures.fr.

The Araceae dominates the Alismatales Order, named for a small family of water plants, the Alismataceae.  Some examples from this and other families of the Order are appended.

 

Behold a typical Aroid.  Most have a huge number of tiny flowers covering an elongated structure known as a Spadix, and partly protected by a hood known as a Spath.  Typically the male flowers are on the upper spadix, and the female below, often hidden in the spath base. This photo also shows the common system in which leaves start out coiled in a tight spindle. Click to see big picture (281x480 pixels; 58 KB)
There are about 60 species of Monstera vines in the tropical Americas, the best known having the odd name of Monstera deliciosa.  The ripe fruit are indeed edible and sometimes known as Mexican Breadfruit.  The genus is widely confused with the philodendrons, but only a few of those have split leaves. Click to see big picture (640x480 pixels; 112 KB)
Because the large leaves of Monstera species usually develop splits or large holes, they are betimes called Swiss Cheese PlantsM. deliciosa is native from southern Mexico to Panama, but has been very widely planted, both indoors and in tropical gardens.  Ceriman is one of the popular names in Latin America. Click to see big picture (575x480 pixels; 104 KB)
Most Monstera species sneak up trees as thin vines, with small round leaves pressed against the trunk.  At some height it spreads out in its mature form.  This appears to be Monstera tenius on the left, and a close view of typical leaves of an 'access vine'. Click to see big picture (516x480 pixels; 137 KB)
Another of the many species of Monstera, from the Monteverde area of Costa Rica. Click to see big picture (570x480 pixels; 119 KB)
Despite being a household name, the Philodendron genus is said to to poorly known.  Estimates of the number of species range all the way from 350 to 900.  This one is hanging out in northwestern Panama. Click to see big picture (640x468 pixels; 99 KB)
From the highlands of Colombia, likely Philodendron scherberichii, which is endemic to that country, but no guarantees.  Click to see big picture (340x480 pixels; 60 KB)
For some reason the Heartleaf Philodendron is known as the VilevinePhilodendron hederaceum is native to the Caribbean and Central America, not to mention here in southern Mexico.
On the other hand, Philodendron alliodorum has a latin name suggesting garlic, and indeed its berries are said to have that smell.  Somewhat distictive for its tall spath, you might encounter it from Nicaragua to Ecuador, here in Panama.
Philodendron gloriosum is a creeper, not a climber.  It seems rather rare yet widely reported in the Neotropics.  Here, at Summit Park in the Panama Canal Zone, it may well have been planted.
Some philodendrons also climb trees.  They use short roots as hold-fasts. Click to see big picture (441x480 pixels; 88 KB)
Another characteristic of some philodendron species is the large scars left by fallen leaves. Click to see big picture (300x480 pixels; 61 KB)
The Anthuriums form the largest genus in the aroids with over a thousand species.  Likely the most famous is A. scherzerianum, the Flamingo Lily.  It is native to Costa Rica, but is widely encountered in gardens, in this case at the University of Berkeley, which presents some of the species variety. .  Attractive but poisonous. Click to see big picture (640x376 pixels; 95 KB)
There is also a Pink Flamingo Lily, Anthurium andraeanum, which is here caught at home in Columbia.  Note that "flamingo lilies" are not related to lilies, or for that matter to flamingos.  Boy Flowers is another English name.  In Latin America anthuriums are usually called Anturios. Click to see big picture (577x480 pixels; 85 KB)
Another look at Anthurium andraeanum with its leaf.  There are bright red cultivars of this species.  The colored part is actually the spath, which usually stands out at an angle in anthuriums. Click to see big picture (460x480 pixels; 118 KB)
Anthurium ochranthum ranges from Honduras to Colombia, here in Panama.  Unlike most of its genus, this species is fragrant. Click to see big picture (322x480 pixels; 64 KB)
Again in Panama, this time the northwest coast.  Anthurium obtusum may be found through much of the neotropics with the exception of the Amazon Basin.  Click to see big picture (462x480 pixels; 92 KB)
And from Panama's San Blas Mountains, I am told that this species with the strange leaves is Anthurium obtusifolium. Anthurium obtusifolium
The colorful spadix of Anthurium nymphaeifolium at the Omaere Etnobotanical Gardens, Puyo, Ecuador.  This species has been identified at scattered locations in the northern Neotropics.
Anthurium rzedowskii is confined to southern Mexico by nature, but it has here escaped to the botanical gardens at the University of Berkeley. The fruit will become more colorful as it matures. Click to see big picture (640x437 pixels; 110 KB)
Anthurium flexile is featured from south Mexico to Colombia, this one is half way between in Costa Rica.  The fruit will be orange on maturity. Click to see big picture (640x459 pixels; 125 KB)
Anthurium argyrostachyum is mainly confined to Ecuador, and noted mainly for its unusual leaf shape.  Photo from Wildsumaco Reserve.
Some anthuriums can be large.  This is A. formosum in the mountains above San Jose, Costa Rica.  Note the red top leaf stems.  Despite its size it is an epiphyte. Click to see big picture (640x480 pixels; 158 KB)
A closer view of the leaf and immature spadix of Anthurium formosum.  Its range is from here in Costa Rica to Colombia. Click to see big picture (640x437 pixels; 113 KB)
Another large species is Anthurium oxybelium, which may be found in the Andes from Columbia to northern Peru. We find it here at Papallacta Hotsprings of Ecuador, where it is known as Pugxi.
Back to the botanical gardens at the U. of Berkeley for Anthurium watermaliense.  This citizen of Costa Rica and Panama is known as the Anturio Negro or Black Anthurium, but the black spath for which it is named seems to be only brown here. Click to see big picture (597x480 pixels; 116 KB)
On the other side, a pure white spath of Anthurium guayanum, but you will have to go to the Guiana Shield to find one in its natural habit.  This one landed up in Bogota.  Some consider this a subspecies of A. bonplandii. Click to see big picture (496x480 pixels; 65 KB)
From the Condor Range on the Peru-Bolivia border, this appears to be Anthurium grubii, although it is not a widely recognized species. Click to see big picture (623x480 pixels; 137 KB)
A large anthurium with a red or orange spadix sheath, unidentified at the Botanical Gardens of Quito.
Syngonium podophyllum goes by names such as Arrowhead Vine.  It is widespread in the Neotropics and even more widespread in gardens, in this case at Lotusland, Calif.
Enough of anthuriums.  This huge leaf in the Juan Castro Blanco Park of Costa Rica gives Xanthosoma undipes its name of Elephant's Ear, or Oreja de Elefante in spanish, although terms such as Malanga are more commonly used for this genus. Click to see big picture (640x459 pixels; 165 KB)
A closer view of the Elephant's Ear flower structure.  The lower spath is red, hiding red female flowers. Plants of this genus can generate heat in the afternoon to generate a scent. The species ranges from Costa Rica to Ecuador and Venezuela. Click to see big picture (354x480 pixels; 91 KB)
The giant taro Alocasia macrorrhizos usually has vertical leaves, but this case in northern Nicaragua seems to have subcomed to the rain.  It is Asian by origin, and the flower shot is from Borneo.  There is a large tuber which is edible after detoxification. Click to see big picture (421x480 pixels; 95 KB)
More big leaves, this time of Montricharidia arborescens.  A plant of wet low-lands of the Neotropics.  The local name is Yautia Madera. Click to see big picture (597x480 pixels; 122 KB)
There are said to be over a thousand named cultivars of Caladium bicolor.  It is native to the western and northern Neotropics, but now is just about everywhere.  It goes by names such as Angel Wings and Corazon de Jesus. Click to see big picture (583x480 pixels; 137 KB)
Spathiphyllum is a genus of about 40 species, native to tropical America.  I am told that this is S. wendlandii, confined to Costa Rica and Panama, here near Monteverde in the former.  One local name for the genus is Calita, relating it to a lesser version of the Cala Lily. Click to see big picture (363x480 pixels; 75 KB)
Spathiphyllum friedrichsthalii is one of the most employed of the genus, sold in the cut flower racket as Peace Lily.  Its native range is Honduras to Colombia, in this case a swampy area in Nicaragua. Click to see big picture (472x480 pixels; 105 KB)
In view of this being found on Volcan Baru in Panama, it is likely Spathiphyllum montanum, confined to mountains of Costa Rica and adjacent Panama. Click to see big picture (391x480 pixels; 81 KB)
Spathiphyllum cannifolium is found through much of the northern Neotropics, here flourishing at the Jatun Sacha Reserve, Ecuador.
The famous Calla LilyZantedeschia aethiopica is not only not a lily, but it is also not from Ethiopia as it latin name would suggest.  A native of Africa, it is now pantropical and closely associated with Easter in Mexico.  Toxic to humans and invasive in some areas, it is still a handy pig food. Click to see big picture (507x480 pixels; 81 KB)
Stenospermation ulei is a product of northern South America.  Here, however, it is strutting its stuff in the KEW gardens, London. Click to see big picture (428x480 pixels; 85 KB)
This interesting fruit from the genus Dieffenbachia is seldom noted in the vast majority of the species that are pressed into use as house plants.  Here in Nicaragua, D. aurantiaca can be its natural self.  Also found in Costa Rica, it is betimes known as Dumb Cane, as anyone foolish enough to try and eat it will loose their voice to calcium oxalate crystals. Click to see big picture (621x480 pixels; 96 KB)
The slight patterning in leaves such as this natural Dieffenbachia have been encouraged by horticultural techniques into a world of strange patterns suited to house plant sales. Click to see big picture (640x470 pixels; 113 KB)
In the Jatun Sacha Reserve near Tena, Ecuador, the fruiting body of Dieffenbachia harlingii opens up.  It seems unconcerned that its name is considered to be "unresolved".
Surely one of the strangest Araceae is Dracontium gigas.  Not only is the leaf pattern very odd for the genus, but the stem (right) is actually just one huge, rolled up leaf.  Confined to Nicaragua and Costa Rica. Click to see big picture (640x439 pixels; 131 KB)
The Alismataceae or Water Plantain Family is a small group of roughly 100 species, although it has given its name to the botanical order Alismatales which contains the giant arum genus.  There are a few wet-foot species from the family of note in Central America.  
There are about 30 species of Sagittaria, which are generally referred to as Arrowheads, although not all have leaves of this form.  This appears to be the common Broadleaf Arrowhead, Sagittaria latifolia, although the triangular stem is unsettling.  If it is, the range is from south Canada to northern South America. Click to see big picture (640x439 pixels; 116 KB)
Sagittaria lancifolia is found from southern US to northern South America, and it is sometimes called Bulltongue Arrowhead, and with other species is referred to as Duck Potato.  It has a large, edible root, once of great importance to indigenous cultures.  Female flowers are green, male yellow. Click to see big picture (640x447 pixels; 80 KB)
More colorful is the Giant Arrowhead, Sagittaria montevidensis.  This appears in temperate zones of both North and South America, but is also found in scattered locations in Central America, perhaps planted for obvious reasons. Click to see big picture (557x480 pixels; 98 KB)
Limnocharitaceae is the Water Poppy Family of only eight aquatic species.  This is Limnocharis flava.  It is really an Asian by origin, but has been widely planted, likely because it is edible, and it is very weedy.  This is from near Manizales, Colombia, but it pops up throughout Central America.  Click to see big picture (640x462 pixels; 77 KB)
From the same small family, Hydrocleys nymphoides.  It is one of the Water Poppies for which the family is named, now scattered in water systems throughout the warmer areas of the western hemisphere.  In part this is due to escaping from aquatic gardens.  Amapola del Aqua in Spanish. Click to see big picture (640x477 pixels; 101 KB)