DixPix Photographs

     

TROPICAL MESOAMERICA

 
     
  Flora- CAESALPINIOID PEA FAMILY  

 

The Pea Family, Fabaceae (or Leguminosae) is huge, in fact it is the third largest floral family after Asters and Orchids.  Estimates vary greatly, but it has roughly 20,000 species.  The family splits fairly cleanly into three sections, however, which some botanists even raise to family rank in their own right. This page treats the Caesalpinioideae.  The other two divisions, the Mimosoideae and the Faboideae get their own pages.

Caesalpinioid peas are a diverse and often flamboyant bunch, but form the smallest of the three divisions with roughly 2000 species, and something like half of these may be tied up by the interlocking Senna and Cassia genera.

 

Caesalpinia pulcherrima is the national flower of Barbados, and rather common in tropical gardens.  Now pantropical from a neotropical origin, it has acquired many names.  Peacock Flower and Bird of Paradise are popular in English, and Pajaro del Paraiso is heard in Spanish, while terms such as Poinciana and Tapachin are used for this and similar flowers. Click to see big picture (640x480 pixels; 146 KB)
There is also a pure yellow form of the Peacock Flower, Caesalpinia pulcherrima var. flava.  Presumably a cultivar, it is a creature of gardens. Click to see big picture (611x480 pixels; 86 KB)
Caesalpinia cacalaco is native to southern Mexico, but is here showing off in the botanical gardens in Phoenix.  Cascalote and Tihuixtle are Mexican names, and for some reason it is also called Poinciana Horrida. Click to see big picture (640x358 pixels; 87 KB)
Caesalpinia (or Guilandina) bonduc is a sprawling, spiny shrub found on tropical beaches.  Bonduc is native to the Caribbean and to coasts from the U.S. to Ecuador.  Click to see big picture (479x480 pixels; 115 KB)
The most interesting thing about Bonduc is its pods, which give the species names such as Nicker Nut and Gray Nicker.  These are ocean-dispersed, and the seeds inside are used for jewelry and other decorations. Click to see big picture (635x480 pixels; 157 KB)
Caesalpinia exostemma is known as the Flor del Mar (sea flower), but in this case is overhanging Lake Nicaragua.  It is native from here to southern Mexico. Click to see big picture (482x480 pixels; 130 KB)
A closer look at the pod and unusual flower of Caesalpinia exostemma. Click to see big picture (488x480 pixels; 74 KB)
Caesalpinia decapetala is generally blamed on India.  Going by names such as Mysore Thorn and Catclaw, it is handsome enough to have been widely planted, including in tropical Mesoamerica, but in some areas has become a problem.  It tends to be a climber, smothering things and forming thorny thickets in Hawaii, Australia etc. catclaw
Ecuadendron acossta-solisianum is a rather rare tree from the western lowlands of Ecuador.  Here at the Jatun Sacha Gardens.
Behold the Senna flower.  The genus actually comes in two common forms, this open-flower shrub type and a 'candle bush" style.  They are common both in the wild and in gardens, with about 50 species in cultivation.  The Senna genus is hopelessly entwined with that of the Cassia, and the former will be used here. Click to see big picture (609x480 pixels; 79 KB)
This, I am told, is Senna pallida, a weedy species found from southern Mexico to Colombia.  In English it has the name Twin Flowered Senna, although in most photos posted the flowers are not twinned.  For some reason it is known as Zanca de Tordo in Mesoamerica, relating it to a bird's leg. Click to see big picture (596x480 pixels; 122 KB)
Senna spectabilis is a tree widely distributed in the Neotropics, and now naturalized in Africa and elsewhere.  This photo, in fact, was taken in Malawi.  Spectacular Cassia is one name, and in Latin America it may be called Canafistola Macho, relating it to an Asian species. Click to see big picture (556x480 pixels; 137 KB)
Another native of Mesoamerica caught in East Africa is Senna septemtrionalis.  It is largely a weed and for some reason has acquired the name Arsenic Bush. Click to see big picture (466x480 pixels; 118 KB)
Senna siamea of southeast Asia has been planted across the tropics, partly for fodder and as a windbreak and partly for its use in folk medicine as a sedative and cancer treatment.  Kassod Tree is a common name in English and Cassia de Siam in Mesoamerica. Kassod tree
Known as the Rambling Senna or Winter Cassia, Senna bicapsularis is native to the Caribbean and from Panama to Venezuela and Ecuador.  This one finds itself rooted at the gardens in Phoenix, however.  Click to see big picture (640x420 pixels; 105 KB)
Senna viarum is at home in parts of Colombia and Ecuador, and in this case in the botanical gardens in Bogota.  It sort of forms a transition towards the 'candle form' of Senna. Click to see big picture (570x480 pixels; 130 KB)
A closer look at the flowers of Senna viarum, also known as Senna velutina and locally as Alcaparro Grande. Click to see big picture (529x480 pixels; 89 KB)
Senna alata is of both ornamental and medicinal interest.  Known as Candle Bush and Emperor's Candlesticks, it is now pantropical from a neotropical origin, and has proved invasive abroad.  Used widely against skin infections, it is sometimes called the Ring Worm Bush.  In Spanish, Acapulco is common, and this general style of senna is known as Mangerioba. Click to see big picture (336x480 pixels; 73 KB)
Termed Mangerioba Grande, Senna reticulata may be found in swamps and river sides throughout the Neotropics and beyond.  It finds many uses in folk medicine, from skin and liver problems to arthritis.  Click to see big picture (595x480 pixels; 136 KB)
A closer look at the flower and leaves of Senna reticulata.  It is referred to as the Swamp Senna in English, while mesoamerican names include Dorance and Laureño. Click to see big picture (475x480 pixels; 79 KB)
An unidentified (or misidentified) Senna in the botanical gardens of Panama. Click to see big picture (612x480 pixels; 128 KB)
Haematoxylum brasiletto is known as Palo de Brasil, despite its range being only from southern Mexico to Colombia.  More to the point is the name Mexican Logwood, under which it is ascribed a host of ethnobotanical remedies.  One further name, Palo de Tinto, refers to the pink dye derived from the tree's heartwood. Click to see big picture (577x480 pixels; 119 KB)
Bauhinia variegata is one of the Orchid Trees which started its career in Asia, but is widely planted and naturalized in Mesoamerica, where the split leaves gives this genus the name of Pata de Vaca (cow's hoof).  Arbol Orquidea and Mountain Ebony are other terms used.  Color varies from white to pink. Click to see big picture (640x393 pixels; 93 KB)
Bauhinia ramosissima or Pata de Vaca Ramosa, is native to central Mexico, but has been planted more widely. Click to see big picture (640x392 pixels; 79 KB)
Bauhinia ungulata, according to the Botanical Gardens at Santa Cruz, Bolivia.  It ranges from here to southern Mexico, and is scattered throughout the Neotropics.  For some reason it has been labeled with a French name, Bois de Boeuf Rouge.  The flowers start out white, turning pink with age. Click to see big picture (586x480 pixels; 76 KB)
From the Maihuatlan Ranges of southwestern Mexico, this is Bauhinia divaricata, known as the Butterfly Orchid Tree for it flowers or as Bull Hoof for its leaves.  Despite rumors of an Asian origin, it is a daughter of the northern Neotropics.
It is known as a Monkey Ladder Liana or Bejuco de Mono.  Although several lianas of the Bauhinia genus can produce similar odd forms, Bauhinia guianensis is the most common culprit. Click to see big picture (251x480 pixels; 77 KB)
Bauhinia guianensis is also usually implicated in these huge bundled forms of the more mature lianas. liana bundle
Brownea macrophylla is a highland species, with a native range from Costa Rica to Venezuela.  It has been widely planted in tropical gardens for obvious reasons, under names such as Panama Flame Tree and Rosa Monte. Click to see big picture (640x404 pixels; 111 KB)
From the botanical gardens of Bogota, this is Brownea ariza, whose native range is restricted to the mountains from Venezuela to Ecuador.  It is referred to as Arbol de la Cruz, or simply as Ariza. Click to see big picture (527x480 pixels; 116 KB)
Brownea grandiceps is a widely grown ornamental, planted under names such as Rose of Venezuela and Scarlet Flame Bean.  Native from Honduras to Brazil. Click to see big picture (580x480 pixels; 113 KB)
Chamaecrista nictitans or Partridge Pea is widely distributed from a neotropical origin.  It is also known as Sensitive Pea, as the leaves fold upon being touched. Click to see big picture (533x480 pixels; 57 KB)