DixPix Photographs

     

TROPICAL CENTRAL AMERICA

 
     
  Flora- CUCURBITALES ORDER  

 

The Cucurbitales is a botanical order whose species are largely tropical, with unisexual flowers.  Although it is assigned eight families, only the Cucurbitaceae and the Begonia Family are of major interest here.

The Cucurbitaceae contains roughly 850 species, mainly of vines.  Besides the cucumber, it has given us a wide variety of melons and squashes, and is variously known as the Melon, Squash or Gourd Family.  In North America it is best known for pumpkins and watermelons, but in the neotropics, there are the products of many vines at varying levels of edibility.  Squash tend to be called Calabaza in Spanish, with terms such as Ayote and Anquito popular in Central America.

 

Cucurbita moschata has been grown in Latin America since prehistoric times, and has diverged into a great variety of squashes and pumpkins of green and orange hues.  This one starting out in Costa Rica has yet to decide on which form it will take. Click to see big picture (567x480 pixels; 137 KB)
The Mouse Melon, Melothria scabra, is small and widespread, with a native range from Mexico to Colombia.  Local names include Melon Raton, and Sandita.  It tastes a bit like a sour cucumber. Click to see big picture (334x480 pixels; 78 KB)
A Calycophysum pedunculatum vine and fruit, beside the Palamino River, northeastern Colombia.  The species ranges through nortwestern South America.
Melothria pendula is sometimes called the Creeping Cucumber, but it turns black when ripe.  This vine is at home through the warmer parts of the Americas.  Depending who you ask, it is either edible, poisonous or just a hyper-laxative.  Click to see big picture (640x447 pixels; 68 KB)
Cucumis dipsaceus is known as the Hedgehog Gourd or Teasel Gourd in English, and in Spanish by names such as Huevos de Tigre (tiger eggs), and Pepino Diablito.  It comes from East Africa, but is now widely distributed in the neotropics-- who would not want a few of these apparitions in their garden.  Poisonous! Click to see big picture (640x477 pixels; 152 KB)
Polyclathra cucumerina hanging out in Nicaragua.  Known as Calabaza Sylvestre, it is said to be vaguely edible, but very bitter.  It has become somewhat of a weedy pest in coffee plantations over its range from southern Mexico to Panama. Click to see big picture (275x480 pixels; 80 KB)
One of several items known as Pepino Sylvestre (wild cucumber), starting out in a Costa Rican rain forest.  Likely something out of the Psiguria genus. Click to see big picture (640x441 pixels; 93 KB)
If Psiguria tabascensis exists, this is likely it.  From the botanical gardens in Denver. Click to see big picture (640x429 pixels; 110 KB)
With Gurania makoyana, it is the flowers rather than the fruit which deserve attention.  It is a vine, with leaves that beIome more complex with age, and give it the name of Pata de Danta (tapir food).  It blooms from southern Mexico to Colombia.  Here in Juan Castro Blanco Park, Costa Rica. Click to see big picture (640x478 pixels; 115 KB)
A closer look at the flower of Gurania makoyana.  The local name of Bejuco Picador suggests that it is armed, but it is not clear how.  Other names are Spanish expressions for "OK, I see you" and in English, Jungle Cucumber. Click to see big picture (640x410 pixels; 110 KB)
Gurania lobata is a confused taxon known as the Threelobe Pygmymelon Vine. Here blooming near the Wildsumaco Lodge, Ecuador.
The Tacaco Cimarron can apparently be boiled and eaten.  They are found in Costa Rica and perhaps more widely.  There seems some confusion between Sechium tacaco and the more widespread Sechium pittieri. Click to see big picture (640x476 pixels; 97 KB)
This appears to be the flower of Sechium venosum, found in Costa Rica and Panama.  The name would suggest that the fruit are poisonous, and should not be confused with S. edule, the widely consumed Chayote. Click to see big picture (601x480 pixels; 126 KB)
It's pantropical, sometimes planted and sometimes as a weed. The Bitter Melon or Melon Amargo, is eaten, but said to be the bitterest of foods.  Its Latin handle is Momordica charantia. Click to see big picture (580x480 pixels; 105 KB)
A flower of the Schizocarpum parviflorum vine.  It calls south Mexico home, in this case the Oaxaca area. Click to see big picture (588x480 pixels; 88 KB)
The Luffa genus is pantropical, here one flowers beside Lago Nicaragua.  The melons of some species have an internal structure used as sponges.  In Africa and Asia they are also eaten. Click to see big picture (640x436 pixels; 114 KB)
An unidentified melon vine above Papallacta Hotsprings in the mountains of Ecuador.


With some 1400 species and countless cultivars, Begoniaceae is a major pantropical family and garden or houseplant favorite.  All but one of the species is in the Begonia genus.  Recognizing a begonia, with its unusual flowers and asymmetric leaves is usually easy, but tying one down to a species is often for the experts.


 
One of the more distinctive of the genus is Begonia multinervia, with a bright red underside to its leaves.  It may be found from Nicaragua to Panama. Click to see big picture (571x480 pixels; 82 KB)
A closer look at Begonia multinervia, which may grow either from the ground or as an epiphyte. Click to see big picture (607x480 pixels; 109 KB)
Begonia involucrata is known as the Angel Wing Begonia, and in this photo the leaves do give that aspect.  Click to see big picture (594x480 pixels; 101 KB)
On closer inspection, the leaves of Begonia involucrata are downright strange, even for a begonia.  The species ranges from Guatemala to Panama. Click to see big picture (399x480 pixels; 85 KB)
Another species bearing pointed leaves is    Begonia urophylla, which some equate with B. villipetiola.  Photo from the El Dorado Reserve in the Santa Marta Mountains of northeastern Colombia.
A closer view of the Begonia urophylla flowers.
Begonia peltata (formerly B. incana) is known as the Fuzzy Leaf Begonia in garden circles.  It is at home in southern Mexico and Guatemala. Click to see big picture (640x419 pixels; 89 KB)
Begonia peltata can also come in red, as this specimen in the Botanical Gardens at Bogota demonstrates. Click to see big picture (574x480 pixels; 64 KB)
Begonia erythrophylla seems confined to southeastern Costa Rica, but is here presented at Lotusland, Montecito, Calif.
Known as the Star Leaf Begonia, B. heracleifolia is widely planted as ground cover.  It is native across Central America, but is here blooming in the botanical gardens at UC Berkeley. Click to see big picture (640x480 pixels; 113 KB)
Begonia heracleifolia is a variable species.  Here it has white flowers and black marking on the leaves, in an example from the Maihuatlan Range of southwestern Mexico.
Begonia convallariodora graces the cloud forests from southern Mexico to Panama. Click to see big picture (563x480 pixels; 117 KB)
A somewhat similar leaf is found on Begonia rosea, likely better known as a variety of B. semiovata.  This ranges from Nicaragua to Peru, with the photo from El Dorado Reserve, northeastern Colombia.
As with several other begonians, the fruit of  B. rosea is a three-armed podlet.
Begonia glabra, is known as the Climbing Begonia, and is widespread in the neotropics. Click to see big picture (260x480 pixels; 79 KB)
And here is another climbing epiphyte from western Panama. Click to see big picture (305x480 pixels; 75 KB)
Here in the Sierra Maihuatlan of southwestern Mexico, the only registered begonia is B. plebeja, and this seems to fit in that it does not have leaves on the flower stalk.  Its range is Mexico to Panama.
The Fuchsia Begonia, B. fuchsioides has been planted in gardens, but in the wild seems to be confined here in Colombia.  Some would call this B. foliosa var. miniata. Click to see big picture (404x480 pixels; 75 KB)
Begonia sericoneura is a woody species, native to Nicaragua and Costa Rica.   Lotusland, Montecito, Calif.
A giant of its genus, Begonia parviflora is almost a begonia tree.  Native to the uplands of tropical South America, here in the Hollin River Valley of Ecuador.
A closer view of the huge inflorescence of Begonia parviflora.
Coriaria ruscifolia of the Coriariaceae family ranges from Mexico to Bolivia and appears again in southern Chile.  Here in the mountains east of Quito it is known as Shanshi.
Fagaceae, the Oak (or Beech) Family, is of the Fagales Order, closely related to the Cucurbitales.  Known as Robles, oak forests extend at altitude through the mountains of much of Central America, but are of low photographic interest.  This one near Oaxaca, Mexico is likely Quercus castanea. Click to see big picture (572x480 pixels; 75 KB)
Quercus suber is the Cork Bark Tree.  It is native to southern Europe and northern Africa, but has been widely planted, including here at the Mathaei Gardens.  Its bark may be safer now that wine bottles are switching to screw-tops. Click to see big picture (302x480 pixels; 78 KB)
The Myricaceae Family is part of the same order.  Here, in the Santa Marta Mountains of Colombia is Morella (or Myrica) pubescens, native to the neotropical mountains.  It is known as the Laurel de Cera as the seeds contain a wax which was once important to local people.