DixPix Photographs

     

TROPICAL MESOAMERICA

 
     
  Flora: ERICALES ORDER  

 

The botanical Order Ericales, is named for the Ericaceae or Heath Family which has hogged about half of the order's roughly 8000 species.  To keep pages to a reasonable size, this heath family has been given its own page, found here.  Therefore it is the other, smaller families of the Ericales Order to which we now turn, in fact representatives of 13 families have turned up, and they are a diverse lot.

Let's start with the Actinidiaceae, which is the Kiwi Family, although Chinese Gooseberry, the original name for that fruit, is also used.  It is credited roughly 360 species, of which some 250 are in the neotropical Saurauia genus, whose flowers are easily confused with those of the Solanum (potato) genus.  Locals tend to call them Moquillo.


Arguably the most common Saurauia species in Mesoamerica is the large-leaved S. montana, which some would claim should really be called S. veraguasensis Click to see big picture (587x480 pixels; 130 KB)
A closer look at the flowers of Saurauia montana, which one may come across from Honduras to Panama. The local name is Moco.  Note toothed leaves. Click to see big picture (640x325 pixels; 80 KB)
Saurauia scabra mainly makes Colombia home, in this case in the highlands.  Click to see big picture (395x480 pixels; 61 KB)
While in the Santa Marta Mountains of northeastern Colombia, this distinctive species appears to be Saurauia arnoldii.
Saurauia madrensis started its career in southern Mexico, but has become a common item in U.S. gardens.  In this case the garden at University of Berkeley. Click to see big picture (599x480 pixels; 110 KB)
And across the bay in the San Francisco Botanical Gardens, this shows that even the foliage of Saurauia madrensis can attract attention. Click to see big picture (407x480 pixels; 88 KB)
From the same garden, this is Saurauia zahlbruckneria.  It is known as the Butterscotch Bush due to its sweet fruit, and is native to the cloud forests of Chiapis.  Click to see big picture (640x478 pixels; 122 KB)
We catch up with a wild Butterscotch Bush in the Sierra Maihuatlan of southwestern Mexico.  Those reddish leaf mid-ribs are distinctive.
An unidentified Saurauia in Oaxaca, perhaps a garden escapee. Click to see big picture (501x480 pixels; 81 KB)


Lecythidaceae is generally called the Brazil Nut Family, but it is renown for not only some unusual fruit, but for spectacular flowers.  Some grant the family 11 genera, while others would double that, an indication that its borders are still in flux.  There may be more than 300 species. 

 
It's known as the Cannonball Tree, for obvious reasons.  Couroupita guianensis is of uncertain origin, likely South American, but somehow it got to India in pre-Colombian eras.  Bala de Cañon is a direct translation. Click to see big picture (640x404 pixels; 127 KB)
The cannonballs themselves are foul smelling, but the flowers are just the opposite.   Also very attractive.  Taparon is another common name, especially for the flower. Click to see big picture (640x458 pixels; 127 KB)
Under names such as Coco Cabuyo and Wadera, Couratari guianensis is best known for its fine wood.  This is the unusual pod and seeds.  Nicaragua to Brazil and Bolivia. Click to see big picture (640x439 pixels; 135 KB)
Lecythis ampla has very sturdy seed pods known as Olla de Mono or Monkey Pots.  They are also called Saleros, as they keep salt from getting moist. 
And here is the Lecythis ampla tree itself in the Darien of eastern Panama. It has a range from Nicaragua to Brazil, and is noted for its fine wood.
The huge flowers of Gustavia hexapetala are called Ceniceros (ashtrays), over its range in the Neotropics from Panama south.  It is also known as Palo de Muerto due to the smell on decaying. Click to see big picture (544x480 pixels; 90 KB)
Gustavia augusta is also found in the southern Neotropics, where it goes by names such as Chope and Sachamango.  In garden circles its English name is Majestic Heaven Lotus, although of no relation to the real lotus. Click to see big picture (640x466 pixels; 70 KB)
Gustavia superba is another species known as Sachamango, and as Heaven Lotus.  This one is blooming on Barro Colorado Island in Panama.
And these are the seed pods of Gustavia superba, which is mainly reported from Costa Rica to Colombia.
Balsaminaceae is referred to as either the Balsam or Impatiens Family.  There is said to be about 850 species, all but one in the Impatiens genus.  There are also a host of cultivars.  Most found in Central America are garden escapees.  
Impatiens walleriana seems the most commonly encountered, although it started out in East Africa.  In Latin America it is known as Alegria de Hogar, with cultivars in various colors. Click to see big picture (506x480 pixels; 85 KB)
Not only has Impatiens walleriana widely naturalized, but given a little space, it can really take over. Click to see big picture (566x480 pixels; 165 KB)
This would be Impatiens hawkeri, an orange-flowered gift for Papua New Guinea.  It was a variable species even before horticultural tweeking.  Here in an abandoned coffee plantation in northern Nicaragua. Click to see big picture (588x480 pixels; 94 KB)
Polemoniaceae is generally known as the Phlox Family, and is almost entirely adapted to cool climates.  The Cobaea genus, however, with about 25 species, presents spectacular flower in a tropical setting.  
Meet Cobaea scandens, a vine flower which is native to Mesoamerica, but has now been widely pressed into service as a garden species under such names as Cathedral Bells Click to see big picture (640x416 pixels; 112 KB)
A closer look at the flower of Cobaea scandens.  Beyond its home range it can be invasive, and is considered a weed in New Zealand. Click to see big picture (476x480 pixels; 82 KB)
There is also a yellow-green version of Cobaea scandens, here near Bogota, Colombia. Click to see big picture (371x480 pixels; 107 KB)
A closer look at the unusual flower of Cobaea scandens in a late stage of development. Click to see big picture (578x480 pixels; 90 KB)


Myrsinaceae, or the Myrsine Family can boast roughly a thousand species in the tropics.  Some would like to dump part or all of the family into the Primulaceae, however.

 
Ardisia costaricensis is featured from Nicaragua to Panama, but with about 25 species of Ardisia here in Costa Rica, this is an educated guess.  Note the glandular dots, however. Click to see big picture (640x415 pixels; 98 KB)
This may well be another Ardisia with attractive pink fruiting stems, from southwest Nicaragua. Click to see big picture (640x445 pixels; 105 KB)
From Quetzel Park in central Costa Rica, this appears to be Ardisia compressa, found through the northern Neotropics.   Known as Tucuico, the antioxidant leaves are used to make tea for liver ailments.  I was told that the berries are edible. Click to see big picture (451x480 pixels; 111 KB)

Theophrastaceae
is another tropical American family which may eventually end up in the Primulaceae.  Meanwhile, this is Bonellia nervosa, which in its range from Honduras to Costa Rica, is known as Barbasco, a term usually reserved for mulleins.
Click to see big picture (640x380 pixels; 101 KB)
From the same family in southeastern Nicaragua, we find the fruit of Clavija costaricana (or C. jelskii) which is native from here to Columbia.  With regard to the fruit, it is one of the species locally called Huevos de Gato, which at least in polite company is translated as Cats Eggs. Click to see big picture (619x480 pixels; 149 KB)
I get the impression that the Theaceae Family is rather ill defined at the present.  Here at the University of California's botanical garden in Berkeley, we have Ternstroemia impressa. Click to see big picture (640x460 pixels; 67 KB)
Ternstroemia impressa is also known as Cleyera impressa, and is native from Mexico to Panama. Click to see big picture (640x379 pixels; 106 KB)
Also from Berkeley, this is Symplocos matudae of the Symplocaceae family.  It would be at home from southern Mexico to Honduras. Click to see big picture (551x480 pixels; 100 KB)
I am told that this unusual composite trunk in Costa Rica is from one of the many species of the Diospyros genus, belonging to the  Ebony or Persimmon Family, Ebenaceae. Click to see big picture (237x480 pixels; 63 KB)
From the Marcgraviaceae Family, this very strange vine appears to be Norantea guianensis, known in garden-talk as the Red Hot Poker Vine.  It has nectar pouches to attract pollinators and odd flowers to attract gardeners.  Native to the southern Neotropics, here in Colombia. Click to see big picture (640x352 pixels; 93 KB)
Styracaceae Family claims some 160 species in the northern Neotropics, and about 130 of these are in the Styrax genus itself. From central Mexico, this is Styrax ramirezii, now resident in the botanical garden at University of Berkeley. Click to see big picture (557x480 pixels; 100 KB)
And from the Clethraceae, this is Clethra suaveolens (or vicentina), known as the Scented Clethra in its range from southern Mexico to Panama. scented clethra
With a similar range, meet Clethra mexicana, growing in the Maihuatlan Mountains of southwest Mexico, where it is known as Jaboncillo.
Fouquieriaceae is a small family, and Fouquieria is a genus with only eleven species, but distinctive.  They are actually dry land natives, but some such as this Mexico Ocotillo Tree (Fouquieria macdougalii), have been planted more widely. Click to see big picture (557x480 pixels; 108 KB)

Fouquieria diguetii is known as the Adam Tree, found mainly in Baja California, but here in Lotusland, Montecito.

Manilkara zapota of the Sapotaceae family is a popular food item native to Mesoamerica, but now pantropical.  Sapodilla is the most popular name, but it is also widely known as Zapote and Nispero, both names also pressed to other fruit.    sapodilla
The fruit of Manilkara Zapota comes packed in a white latex called Chicle.  This was historicall;y the basis for chewing gum, although usually taken from from the tree sap. sapodilla latex