DixPix Photographs

     

TROPICAL MESOAMERICA

 
     
  Flora- RUBIACEAE  

 

Rubiaceae, the Coffee Family, is a heavy weight, the fourth largest botanical family with roughly 13,000 species.  It is dominantly tropical, although in a display of anti-tropical bias, there are those who would name the family after the madders, a group of lowly weeds whose only claim to fame is that they have adapted to temperate climates.  There are a huge number of species in the Neotropics, and while they cover a great variety of forms, there are also many species which only vary from others by minor technical details.  Hence the species definitions should not be taken with total confidence.

Coffee anyone?

 

The origin of coffee is usually attributed to Ethiopia, and the genus is also native to Arabia.  It is now grown in over 70 countries.  These are the attractive flowers of Coffea arabica, the most highly regarded species, and the one dominating cultivation in Central America.  Coffee is Cafe' in Spanish. Click to see big picture (640x374 pixels; 92 KB)
Coffee Berries of Cafe Arabica, growing in the 'coffee region' of the Colombian highlands. Click to see big picture (640x449 pixels; 109 KB)
And for comparison, these are the fruit of the Bourbon Cultivar of Coffea arabica, in central Nicaragua. Click to see big picture (518x480 pixels; 70 KB)
Coffee berries (or cherries) drying in the hills of eastern Cuba.  The actual coffee bean is inside. Click to see big picture (640x413 pixels; 116 KB)
Hamelia patens is found wild from Florida to Argentina, and it has become a mainstay in tropical and semi-tropical gardens.  Firebush is one of its better known names.  The fruit are sour, but edible. Click to see big picture (640x419 pixels; 90 KB)
One of the reason for the popularity of Hamelia Patens is that it attracts hummingbirds.  It also has roots in folk medicine.  In some areas it is smeared on machete blades to keep cut weeds from returning so fast, and this gives it the local name of Pinta Machete. Click to see big picture (499x480 pixels; 91 KB)
Another renown member of the family is known as Hotlips.  This is the hairy version, Psychotria poeppigiana flowering.  It is one of the few distinctive plants in a huge and frustrating genus said to muster about 1900 species. Click to see big picture (594x480 pixels; 105 KB)
A Hotlips calyx being modeled in Panama.  Non X-rated names in Latin America include Labias de Novia and Labios ardientes. Click to see big picture (440x480 pixels; 94 KB)
The fruit of Psychotria poeppigiana is also unusual, protruding and very blue.  The species ranges from Mexico to Brazil. Click to see big picture (640x397 pixels; 98 KB)
There is also a Hairless Hotlips, Psychotria elata, with similar fruit.  It has a more restricted range, southern Mexico to Ecuador. Click to see big picture (640x449 pixels; 101 KB)
Several species of Psychotria and related genera such as Notopleura produce red berries.  Collectively these are known as Cafecillos, the diminutive of cafe or coffee. Click to see big picture (527x480 pixels; 99 KB)
The fruit of most of the Rubiaceae that produce berries have a distinctive dot, which is not necessarily opposite the stem.  This is not definitive, but it helps. Click to see big picture (640x434 pixels; 90 KB)
Psychotria parvifolia is restricted to Costa Rica and Panama.  This is likely it near the border in western Panama. Click to see big picture (481x480 pixels; 112 KB)
Fruit of Psychotria viridis at the Jatun Sacha Botanical Gardens, Ecuador.  It is native to the western Neotropics from Nicaragua to Bolivia, and is a constituent of some forms of Ayahuasca shaman ceremonies.
Several Rubiaceae species produce white berries.  This case in southern Costa Rica has many of the characteristics of the variable and widespread Psychotria deflexa, known as Garricillo.  Also known as Nodding Wild Coffee. Click to see big picture (518x480 pixels; 129 KB)
This appears to be Psychotria marginata, distributed widely in the Neotropics. Click to see big picture (501x480 pixels; 131 KB)
And here is the fruit of Psychotria marginata in Panama.  This and the fruit of several similar species are called Cafecillo, and frankly they look very similar in photos.
Psychotria racemosa has fruit which are orange at maturity.  It is found scattered throughout the Neotropics. Click to see big picture (640x336 pixels; 76 KB)
Blue-black berries swallowing yellow flowers, this would be Psychotria brachiata, native to the Andean Neotropics and the Caribbean.  Locally known as Palo de Cachimbo.  (Cachimbo is a smoking pipe, but the term has many slang uses.) Click to see big picture (627x480 pixels; 113 KB)
This odd double shield structure shows up from southern Mexico to Ecuador, courtesy of Psychotria glomerulata.  Sorry, I missed both the flowers and the fruit. Click to see big picture (548x480 pixels; 77 KB)
Notopluera is a genus of roughly 100 species which has recently been split from Psychotria for further confusion.  N. uliginosa is one of the species most commonly met in the northern Neotropics and Caribbean.  For some reason it is known as Tres Cabezas (three heads). Click to see big picture (582x480 pixels; 129 KB)
Notopleura macrophylla may be found in the highlands of western South America.  This example from the Wild Sumaco Reserve in Ecuador appears to be it, but there are contenders.
From the El Dorado Reserve in the Santa Marta Range of northeastern Colombia, these appear to be the flowers and fruit of Notopleura tolimensis.
Notopleura leucantha, is found in both the mountains and Amazon basin of Ecuador and Peru.  This appears to be it, although it is not clear if the berries of this species turn black.
Several Rubiaceae species produce very long-stemmed flowers, beloved of hummingbirds and hawk moths.  This would be Posoqueria latifolia, native to the Neotropics but now more widely spread. Click to see big picture (640x429 pixels; 83 KB)
A closer look at the extended flower of Posoqueria latifolia.  It is one of the species known as Needle Flower Tree and as Tree Jasmine.  An unusual local name is Boca de Vieja (old woman's mouth). Click to see big picture (640x435 pixels; 77 KB)
The fruit of Posoqueria latifolia is also of interest.  In English it is known as Monkey Apple, and in Spanish as similar renditions such as Guayabo de Mico.  Here on Isla Bastimentos, Panama. Click to see big picture (640x435 pixels; 113 KB)
But you don't have to be a monkey to enjoy this fruit, the yellow seed coatings are edible. Click to see big picture (640x373 pixels; 70 KB)
A more famous fruit is the gift of Genipa americana.  It is edible, and used to make drinks, jams and to flavor ice cream.  Native from Mexico to northern Peru, and also in the West Indies where it is known as Marmalade Box. Click to see big picture (468x480 pixels; 109 KB)
There are several varieties of Genipa americana, and many names in Latin America.  These include Iguatil, Jagua, Huito, Jenipapo and Guatil, although the latter name is more closely associated with a pottery style.  The juice causes a long-lasting blue staining of the skin. Click to see big picture (488x480 pixels; 91 KB)
From near Salt Creek Village in northwestern Panama, this appears to be the colorful fruit of Coccocypselum herbaceum.  Under names such as Yerba de Guava, it ranges from southern Mexico to Colombia and the Caribbean. Click to see big picture (328x480 pixels; 66 KB)
The flowers of Morinda panamensis coalesce to form a compound fruit known as Panama Noni.  This looks very similar to the famous Asian noni, but that is unlikely to have been planted here on remote Isla Zapatilla in Panama.  It may have Panama in its name, but is recorded as far north as Chiapis. Click to see big picture (402x480 pixels; 55 KB)
Hoffmannia nicotianifolia fruits on Volcan Mombacho in Nicaragua.  It does so from southern Mexico to Colombia. Click to see big picture (640x420 pixels; 128 KB)
Hoffmannia congesta is largely confined to Costa Rica and Panama.  It is of unusual appearance, with flowers and white fruit erupting from a tangle or red bracts at leaf axes.  Click to see big picture (373x480 pixels; 87 KB)
One of my favorites is Hoffmannia dotae, whose fleshy, four petal flowers are held close to the trunk.  Click to see big picture (640x473 pixels; 129 KB)
A closer look at the Hoffmannia dotae flower, which seems endemic to Costa Rica. Click to see big picture (606x480 pixels; 105 KB)
Calycophyllum candidissimum ranges from southern Mexico to Ecuador, and is the national tree of Nicaragua.  Names include Degame and Salamo.  In the lumber industry it is known as Lemonwood. Click to see big picture (486x480 pixels; 115 KB)
The fruit of Randia monantha, a species found from Yucatan to Panama. It is locally called Crucetillo, a name shared with better known R. formosa. Click to see big picture (456x480 pixels; 62 KB)
The interior of this form of Crucetillo smells like coffee and does not look appetizing.  In Mexico especially, however, an alcoholic extract is used against snake bites and scorpion stings. Click to see big picture (548x480 pixels; 86 KB)
Its the Gonzalagunia rosea tree, whose attractive flowers are restricted to Costa Rica and Panama. Click to see big picture (341x480 pixels; 61 KB)
Looking similar to the above, but with five petals instead of four, this is Cinchona pubescens, the Quinine Tree and an important source of that anti malarial drug.  Native from Costa Rica to Bolivia (here in Colombia) it has been more widely planted and proved invasive in some areas.  Another name is Red Cinchona and locally Quino. Click to see big picture (553x480 pixels; 84 KB)
Looking very different, this is Buttonbush, Cephalanthus occidentalis.  It ranges from the United States south as far as Honduras.  Although it prefers a wet habitat, it is here braving it out at the Botanical Gardens in Denver. Click to see big picture (519x480 pixels; 88 KB)
Back to northwestern Panama for the pods of Ferdinandusa panamensis, native from Costa Rica to Colombia. Click to see big picture (438x480 pixels; 100 KB)
Omiltemia (or pseudomiltemia) filisepala.  A lovely, fuzzy flower restricted in origin to Chiapis and Guatemala, now more commonly met in gardens, in this case one in San Francisco. Click to see big picture (274x480 pixels; 64 KB)
It is known as Wild Poinsettia, which avoids pronouncing Warszewiczia coccinea. Here in Costa Rica it is indeed wild and goes by names such as Pastora (shepherdess) and Zorilla Bandera (skunk flag?). Click to see big picture (640x406 pixels; 155 KB)
From the wilds of the Darien Province of eastern Panama, here is the Pastora again, showing the yellow flowers lost among the gaudy red leaves.
And then there are the cultivars, with a lot more of those red calyx lobes.  This is the national flower of Trinidad and Tobago, where it is known as Chaconia. Click to see big picture (436x480 pixels; 117 KB)
Isertia haenkeana is one of several species known as a Firecracker Plant.  In its range from Mexico to Ecuador, the name Canelito is more common.  Click to see big picture (640x480 pixels; 135 KB)
A closer look at the flowers of Isertia haenkeana near Lago Gatun in central Panama. Click to see big picture (640x473 pixels; 106 KB)
Its drabber cousin, Isertia laevis, somewhat disheveled by a rainstorm.  This is a species of lower elevations, tropical from Nicaragua south and here on the Caribbean coast of Panama. Click to see big picture (421x480 pixels; 96 KB)
Hillia triflora may be recognized by its three-flower habit.  It has become somewhat of a garden item, but is here growing wild in the Santa Elena area of Costa Rica.  Native from Nicaragua to Panama. Click to see big picture (640x352 pixels; 78 KB)
A rare glimpse of what is likely Palicourea adusta in Los Quetzales Park, Costa Rica.  This is a mountain gem, known in the highlands from Nicaragua to Panama. Click to see big picture (340x480 pixels; 74 KB)
Another dweller of tropical mountains is Palicourea amethystina, ranging from Venezuela to Bolivia.  This is likely it from the Cordillera Condor. Click to see big picture (640x430 pixels; 152 KB)
Again from the mountains, Venezuela to Ecuador, this is Palicourea vaginata, at the botanical gardens in Bogota. Click to see big picture (451x480 pixels; 96 KB)
Again from Bogota's botanical gardens, Palicourea lineariflora.   It is reported from the eastern cordillera of Columbia, with the local name of Tominejero.
Palicourea stenosepala appears to be confined to Ecuador, here at the Wildsumaco Reserve.
Likely Palicourea lasiorrhachis in the Santa Marta Mountains of northeastern Colombia.  It ranges from here into Ecuador.
Palicourea guianensis goes by the name of Showy Cappel.  It may be found though most parts of the Neotropics, here near Gamboa, Panama.
And then there are the Trompetillas of the Bouvardia genus.  B. ternifolia is known as Firecracker Bush in English and Clavillo in its native Mexico, where it is applied for snake bites and scorpion stings. Click to see big picture (540x480 pixels; 86 KB)
Bouvardia ternifolia is more typically bright red, hence the alternate name of Scarlet Bouvardia.  It seems to have been Mexican in origin, but is now a garden item.  In case this looks like Hamelia patens again, note that it has only four petals. Click to see big picture (514x480 pixels; 108 KB)
Bouvardia laevis is another of the group, at home from Mexico to Panama. If this one looks a little washed out, it may be because it is in soggy London at the Kew Gardens. Click to see big picture (640x467 pixels; 111 KB)
We catch up with a healthier looking Bouvardia laevis in south-central Mexico.  Click to see big picture (462x480 pixels; 64 KB)
Arcytophyllum lavarum is encountered in the higher mountains of Costa Rica and Panama. Click to see big picture (486x480 pixels; 121 KB)
A closer look at the four petals and black anthers of Arcytophyllum lavarum, high on the slopes of Volcan Baru, Panama. Click to see big picture (567x480 pixels; 74 KB)
Another Arcytophyllum, met at 3000 meters altitude on the Peru-Ecuador border in the Condor Range.  There are several species reported from the area.
A Buttonweed from the mountains of Panama.  There are a bewildering number of species of these things, mainly from the Spermacoce and Borreria genera. Click to see big picture (640x431 pixels; 72 KB)
From the Santa Marta Mountains of northeastern Colombia, this appears to be a vine of the Galium genus, but with orange flowers, very strange.
From the highlands of central Costa Rica.  It looks like a Rubiaceae tree with a range of berry colors, but no identification.  Note that the immature berries are speckled. Click to see big picture (549x480 pixels; 127 KB)
Alibertia edulis is a tree found through much of the Neotropics, and widely known as Purui.  As the latin name would suggest, it produces edible fruit, and is also considered a medicinal species.
Here is a closer look at the Purui flowers which have fallen from their tree in Barro Colorado Island, Panama.  They may have either 4 or 5 petals.
When the trunk of Macrocnemum roseum is entwined like this, it may be used to make patterned wood for fine crafts.  Photo from the Darien of Panama, but the species may be found from Costa Rica into tropical South America.
The large leaves of Pentagonia macrophylla give it the name of Hoja de Murcielago, comparing it to a bat's wings.  It may be encountered from Guatemala to Peru.
A closer look at the flowers of Pentagonia macrophylla.
Pentagonia pinnatifida may be recognized by its huge, deeply cleft, leaves. It has a restricted range of Panama and adjacent parts of Colombia, here in the Darien of Panama.
This is the unusual floral assemblage of Pentagonia pinnatifida, presumably a bud.
From the Canal Zone of Panama, an unidentified Pentagonia, with well chewed leaves and no apparent flowers.
Going by names such as Rough Velvetseed and Wild Guava, Guettarda scabra ranges from Florida and the Caribbean to northern South America. Here it is in eastern Panama.
A closer look at Rough Velvetseed in the Darien Province of Panama.