DixPix Photographs

     
TROPICAL MESOAMERICA  
     
  Flora-  MALVALES ORDER al

 

The Malvales is a botanical Order named for the Mallow Family, Malvaceae.  This family has recently been greatly swollen by the addition of several other families whose DNA were unable to prove independence.  To keep pages to manageable size, the original core Malvaceae has been given another venue, and may be found here.

In this page are included photos from the sacrificed ex-families Sterculiaceae, Bombacaceae, and Tilaceae.  In addtion there are the still independent Malvales families of Bixaceae and Cochlospermaceae  The whole taxonomic structure is messy, and not without disputes. 

You may never have heard of the Sterculiaceae which was named for the Roman god of manure, but you have likely recently savored its most famous species, Theobroma cacao, the source of chocolate.  And should you be situated in some parts of the world, you will likely to have chewed the Kola nut for your morning Cafeine fix.  If you missed that, there may still be some in your cola drinks.

 

The flowers and pods of Theobroma cacao spring directly from trunks, so your chocolate starts with these flowers.  The species likely originated in the Amazon region, but had spread as far as Mexico in prehistoric times. Click to see big picture (447x480 pixels; 95 KB)
The fruit of Theobroma cacao are the Cocoa pods.  This is a very tropical tree, but is now grown in Africa and other suitable parts of the world.  Click to see big picture (471x480 pixels; 137 KB)
Chocolate is made from the seeds.  (These occur in a pulp which may be used to make a juice.)  In ancient Mexico, chocolate was used both as a ritual drink and as currency.  Click to see big picture (640x480 pixels; 181 KB)
Theobroma grandiflorum originated in the western Amazon, but has now been more widely planted under names such as Cupuacu and Copoazu.  It is used both as food and in the cosmetics industry. Click to see big picture (521x480 pixels; 97 KB)
Theobroma grandiflorum fruit is used to make what is known as Cupulate Chocolate and the white pulp consumed as juices, jams and candies.  It has not yet become widely popular, but at least the ants appreciate it. Click to see big picture (450x480 pixels; 108 KB)
Known as Cacao de Mono or Monkey Cacao, Herrania purpurea has an edible pulp and the seeds are used to make a chocolate-like drink by indigenous groups.  It is said to be endemic to Costa Rica and Panama, but this one snuck into southeastern Nicaragua. Click to see big picture (640x467 pixels; 120 KB)
And here is a closer look at the Monkey Cacao pods, on the Pipeline Road in the Canal Zone of Panama.
Cola acuminata is widely used in central Africa, but seems to have arrived surprisingly early in Central America where it is known as Abata Cola.  The Kola Nut is a caffeine-laced stimulant which is very popular in parts of Africa and elsewhere.  Some of the cola drinks of worldwide distribution still include it, but largely it has been phased out. Click to see big picture (504x480 pixels; 85 KB)
Flower of the Panama Tree, the National Tree of Panama.  Sterculia apetala is a member of the tropical chestnut genus, and it ranges from Mexico to Panama.  The species is widely planted for its timber and edible seeds.
And this is the unusual pod of the Panama Tree, which originally contains black, edible seeds.  Photo from the Darien Province of Panama.
This is the immature fruit of Guazuma ulmifolia, also known as Theobroma guazuma.  It is widespread in the Neotropics under names such as Guacimo and Tablote, and has now spread beyond.  Click to see big picture (425x480 pixels; 92 KB)
Here is a fuller look at the Guacimo tree in southwestern Mexico.  It has several applications in folk medicine and is also prized in carpentry and as fodder.
Under names such as Malva Colorada and Bretonica Prieta, Melochia nodiflora is a weed of disturbed areas through the northern Neotropics and Caribbean.  Click to see big picture (560x480 pixels; 110 KB)
Melochia tomentosa may now be found in drier regions from the southern U.S. to Brazil.  It is known as Pyramid Bush and also as Teabush, and indeed is used as a tea as well as an eyewash and for colds.  Now it is also popular in gardens. Click to see big picture (495x480 pixels; 83 KB)

These are the pods of Chiranthodendron pentadactylon, whose five-fingered red flowers give it names such as Monkey Hand and Devil's Hand.  The species is native to southern Mexico and Guatemala, but here resides at the botanical gardens at UC Berkeley.

Click to see big picture (567x480 pixels; 101 KB)


Bombacaceae seems to have had a many as 250 species, mainly of trees, before being drowned in the Malvaceae.  It has given us balsa wood and Kapok cotton, as well as the oderous but popular Durian fruit of the Orient and the classical Baobab tree of Africa.  Some of the family is more completely covered under the Southern Cordillera section here.

 

 
Pachira aquatica is native to swamps of the Neotropics where it goes by many names such as Castaño de Guinea.  It is now spread around the tropics and is much appreciated in the Orient.  The pods contain nuts with a peanut taste, and both the leaves and flowers are also edible. pachira
The flowers of Pachira aquatica are large, and the tree is used for decoration as well as food.  In English, it goes by names such as Malabar Chestnut and Money Tree. Pachira flower
Pachira (or Bombacopsis) quinata ranges from Nicaragua to Venezuela, seeking some of the drier parts of the tropics.  Pochota is perhaps its most common name.   Here are the pods. Click to see big picture (640x418 pixels; 84 KB)
Pochota trees sport fat thorns as do several members of the family.  The wood is sought for construction as it resists rot and termites. Click to see big picture (386x480 pixels; 108 KB)
Bombacopsis (or Pachira) sessilis is another tree with cotton-filled pods.  It is shown here with a flower, near Santa Marta, northern Colombia.  Native from here to Costa Rica, it goes by names such as Yuco de Monte and Bongo.
The stately Ceiba pentandra is the national tree of Guatemala.  Known as the Silk Cotton Tree, it is a major source of Kapok.  Click to see big picture (640x480 pixels; 119 KB)
Ceiba pentandra is native to the northern Neotropics, but is now pantropical.  So many have been planted in southeast asia, that its product is known as Java Cotton. Click to see big picture (640x471 pixels; 110 KB)
Cavanillesia platanifolia are forest giants.  Widely known as Cuipo, they are called Macondo in Colombia, a name used for the magic-realist town in "Hundred Years of Solitude". They range from Nicaragua to Peru.  These are standing above the Chucunaque River in the Darien of Panama.
Turning to Panama's Barro Colorado Island, this is the typica base of a Cuipo Tree, also known as Pijio.  It needs a thick trunk as the wood is the softest on record.
Exposed roots from the Cuipo Tree often ooze sap, which is edible but without an attractive taste.
Balsawood, of model airplane fame, comes from the Balsa Tree, Ochroma pyramidale.  This may be found from Mexico to Brazil and Bolivia, and is now planted in Asia.  The giant flowers are largely pollinated by mammals, and the result is an elongated pod. Click to see big picture (604x480 pixels; 142 KB)
When the balsa pods split open, the result is a mixture of Kapok and seeds. Click to see big picture (640x449 pixels; 131 KB)
Flower of the South American Zapote, which hales from Colombia and the northwestern Amazon, but has been more widely planted.  The fruit is both eaten raw or juiced and is often called Zapote Chupachupa.  Latin handles include Matisia (or Quararibea) cordata. Click to see big picture (525x480 pixels; 105 KB)

The late Tiliaceae was once known as the Linden Family boasting roughly 450 species.  It is best known for the Corchorus or Jute genus.
 
Sparmannia africana or African Linden is from the marshes of southern Africa, but now is to be found in tropical gardens in the Americans, and even as a houseplant.  Here in Bogota. Click to see big picture (483x480 pixels; 62 KB)
There may be as many as 100 members in the jute genus, Corchorus. Some of these are from the Neotropics, in this case from an island in northwestern Panama. Click to see big picture (595x480 pixels; 110 KB)
The somewhat similar Triumfetta genus seems to have about 70 species.  In English they tend to be known as Burbarks. Click to see big picture (616x480 pixels; 101 KB)
Leaves of this sort would suggest Triumfetta semitriloba, the Sacramento Burbark.  But things are not so easy.  T. rhomboidea, the Diamond Burback, and other species can produce such foliage. Click to see big picture (593x480 pixels; 106 KB)
Heliocarpus americanus seems confined to the mountains of Costa Rica and Panama, here above Bajo Mono in the latter.  The flowers will become redder with age. Click to see big picture (640x480 pixels; 123 KB)
High in the Sierra Maihuatlan of southwestern Mexico, the even larger leaves of Heliocarpus terebinthinaceus presents its spiny fruit.  The species is largely confined to Mexico.
And here is a closer view fof the fruit of Heliocarpus terebinthinaceus.
Under names such as Guacimo Colorado, Luehea seemannii ranges from Guatemala to Venezuela. Click to see big picture (640x392 pixels; 102 KB)
There are several plants referred to as Guacimo, but the source of the Colorado name may be seen on the undersides of the leaves. Click to see big picture (621x480 pixels; 124 KB)
The Apeiba genus is best known for spiny pods.  Along with other bristling oddities, these are known as Monkey Pods; in Spanish Peine Mono (or Mico).  This would be the pod of Apeiba membranacea found from Honduras to Bolivia and known as Tapabotija. Click to see big picture (640x480 pixels; 72 KB)
And these are the flowers of Apeiba membranacea near Gamboa, Panama.  In this country the term Peinecillo is most common.  The tree is appreciated for both its wood and oil.
A Monkey Comb with finer spines may usually be attributed to the widespread Apeiba tibourbou.  This is a common species in the Neotropics, with this pod falling in Barro Colorado Island, Panama. Click to see big picture (534x480 pixels; 90 KB)
Muntingia calabura is of a genus which was sometimes include in the Tiliaceae, and sometimes given its own family.  Native from southern Mexico to Peru and known by names such as Capulin, it is very adaptable, and has now naturalized in Asia. Click to see big picture (601x480 pixels; 82 KB)
When ripe, the fruit of Muntingia calabura will turn red, giving it the names of Strawberry Tree or Panama Berry.  The fruit are edible and the main reason for the plant's popularity. Click to see big picture (640x394 pixels; 105 KB)

Bixaceae, the Achiote Family, was once ensconced in the Violales Order, but has been moved to the Malvales.
 
Achiote refers to Bixa orellana, the source of Annatto pigment.  Lipstick tree is one English name. Click to see big picture (640x476 pixels; 118 KB)
Bixa orellana is widespread in the Neotropics, and was introduced to Asia as early as the 17th century.  It is now grown pantropically.  Click to see big picture (640x334 pixels; 83 KB)
The dye is derived from the seeds and was once used for many purposes, including body paint.  Now it is largely a yellow food coloring.  The seeds are also employed for headaches. Click to see big picture (640x326 pixels; 95 KB)
Bixa urucurana is known as Wild Achiote, and although it looks different, some authorities would suggest that it just a variety of  B. orellana. Click to see big picture (640x358 pixels; 87 KB)
A dispute continues as to whether the Cochlospermum genus should be part of the Bixaceae, or have its own family, the Cochlospermaceae.  Do we care?  C. vitifolium is betimes called the Buttercup Tree, now widespread from the northern Neotropics. Click to see big picture (542x480 pixels; 98 KB)
Cochlospermum vitifolium produces pods that contains a kapok.  Although the most common name for this tree is Poro Poro, it is also known as Mountain Cotton or Algodonilla for this fibre. Click to see big picture (640x412 pixels; 76 KB)