DixPix Photographs

     

TROPICAL MESOAMERICA

 
     
  File: MIMOSOID 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 Mimosoideae, which tend to have small petals and many stamens.  The other two sections, namely Caesalpinioideae and Faboideae, get separate pages.

 

The Mimosa genus itself is best known for the Sensitive Plants, whose leaves retract upon touch.  This Is Mimosa pudica which is now pantropical from a neotropical origin-- in fact this photo was taken in Sarawak.  Click to see big picture (475x480 pixels; 106 KB)
From the Guarmani River valley in Ecuador, this would be Mimosa polydactyla, with leaflet axes in splays of six or more.
Here in Panama, there are some 40 species of Mimosa, some of them sensitive.  One local name is Vergonzosa, meaning shy, which is also what 'pudica' means.  Another is Dormilona, which sort of translates as sleepy-head.  This may be because the leaves fold a night, or it may be due to the herbs use in combating insomnia. Click to see big picture (463x480 pixels; 106 KB)
Leaves in groups of six-- this would be Mimosa albida on Bastimentos Island in northwest Panama.  The species is widespread in the Neotropics.  Thorny instead of sensitive. Click to see big picture (374x480 pixels; 72 KB)
Mimosa quitensis forms large thickets in the Andes of Ecuador and adjacent Colombia.  Here it is north of Quito, where it is known as Guarango.
It is known in English as the Bull Thorn (or Bull Horn) Acacia.  Found through much of Mesoamerica, Acacia collinsii is noted for large thorns which house ants that protect the tree.  Locally it is called Cornizuela.  Some scientist prefer the name Vachellia collinsii. Click to see big picture (534x480 pixels; 92 KB)
A queen ant cuts a hole in a hollow thorn of Bull Horn Acacia, to start a colony. The tree supplies special ant food tissue at leaf tips and nectar at the base of petiols. Click to see big picture (640x438 pixels; 105 KB)
Acacia (or Vachellia) cornigera is another Mesoamerican Bull Horn Acacia species that protects itself with ants in hollow thorns.  Cachito seems to be the most common local name. Click to see big picture (640x393 pixels; 98 KB)
But here in the San Blas Range of Panama is a truly giant Bull Horn, and I am not sure to which species it should be awarded. Click to see big picture (640x417 pixels; 115 KB)
Native to Mesoamerica, Acacia (or Vachellia) farnesiana has gone pantropical by one means or another, and is a widespread problem.  In Fiji it is known as Ellington's Curse.   It has many names, but Needlebush is one favorite in view of its potent thorns, and Vinorama is another. Click to see big picture (582x480 pixels; 151 KB)
The pods of Acacia farnesiana are not known for elegance, but are said to be nutritious fodder.  Names in its home range include Espino Blanco (white thorn), Aromo Macho and Huizache. Click to see big picture (594x480 pixels; 122 KB)
There are not many trees with four-vein leaves, but we expect odd things from Australia.  Acacia mangium is fast growing and has been planted as a tropical silvaculture crop in many parts of the world.  Here in Panama it is called Zamorano, although more widely known as Brown Sandlewood.  (The Aussies call it Black Wattle). acacia mangium
Even more unusual than the leaves, are the beans of Acacia mangium, which tend to form tangles such as this one from a plantation in central Sumatra. tanglebean
It is known as the Boat-spine Acacia, or in its native Mexico as Chirahui.  Indeed, it has unusual spines.  The scientists have burdened it with two names, Acacia cochliacantha and Vachellia campechiana.  Locally it is used for stomach and kidney problems, and abroad, especially on the Pacific Islands, it has proved invasive. Click to see big picture (640x448 pixels; 76 KB)
Acacia angustissima has narrow leaves as that name would suggest.  Its normal range seems to be from the southern U.S. to Columbia, and it has become a problem elsewhere.  In English you might see it referred to as the Sweet, Prairie or Whiteball Acacia.  In Latin America, it goes by handles such as Timbre and Carboncillo, the latter relating to its unfortunate use in making charcoal.  Here in Oaxaca.  Click to see big picture (504x480 pixels; 111 KB)
Leucaena leucocephala started out in Mexico and Guatemala, but is now naturalized through much of the Neotropics.  It has proved very invasive, but the beans are good fodder.  Yet it is not just livestock that eat them, the seeds are popular fare in Mesoamerica under the name of Huaje or Guaje.   White Leadtree in English. Click to see big picture (562x480 pixels; 131 KB)
Prosopis pallida is known is some parts as Kiawe Mesquite.  It is a thorny plant native to the coastal aspects from Colombia to Peru, where it is known as Huarango.  Oddly, while it has proved a galloping invasive abroad, it is threatened in its home range, largely due to its use in making charcoal. The fruit is also used for fodder and to make a beer. Click to see big picture (567x480 pixels; 111 KB)
Another Neotropical globe-trotter is Prosopis juliflora.  Known in English as the Velvet Mesquite, it has become a noxious weed in some of the drier tropical parts of Africa and Asia.  Where distinguished at all, it seems to be locally called Bayahona blanca, the first word being a Caribbean term for acacia. Click to see big picture (640x478 pixels; 163 KB)
There are some 300 species of the Inga genus in the Neotropics, and there are few indeed who could tell them apart in photos.  In general, they have flowers with a wild array of white stamens.  Of more interest, several have pods with sweet seed coatings which are widely appreciated and known as 'icecream beans'. Click to see big picture (382x480 pixels; 83 KB)
Inga edulis likely originated in the northwestern Amazon basin, but has now spread throughout the Neotropics and is planted in Asia and Africa.  In addition to food, it is used for timber and folk medicine. Click to see big picture (640x395 pixels; 123 KB)
Inga edulis is the longest of the Icecream Beans, starting out looking a bit like a snake hanging in a tree and becoming a ribbed pod which can reach over a meter in length. Click to see big picture (640x444 pixels; 124 KB)
Inside the pod there is a white fluffy, milky material which surrounds the seeds and tastes a bit like vanilla icecream.  The most common local name is Guama.  An alcoholic drink called Cachiri is also brewed. Click to see big picture (640x334 pixels; 65 KB)
Inga vera is also widely planted and often confused with I. edulis.  It has Icecream Beans which are shorter, however, and the seeds are used locally as a narcotic. Click to see big picture (423x480 pixels; 92 KB)
And then there is Inga feuilleei, the Peruvian Icecream Bean or Pacay.  This is mainly grown and enjoyed in the Andes from Colombia to Peru. Click to see big picture (522x480 pixels; 81 KB)
Samanea saman, alias Albizia saman is a special tree.  With its stately, umbrella-shaped crown it has been planted throughout the Neotropics, and now in Asia as well.  The most common name is Rain Tree, or Arbol de Lluvia.  Apparently it provides shade, but lets rain through. Click to see big picture (609x480 pixels; 117 KB)
And the striking flower of the Rain Tree is another reason for its popularity.  Other names include Monkey Pod Tree, Cenizaro or simply Saman. Click to see big picture (616x480 pixels; 121 KB)
Flowers of the Calliandra genus are usually known as Fairy Dusters or Powder Puffs.  This would be the Baja Fairy Duster, Calliandra californica, which is native to northern and central Mexico, but planted much more widely.  Click to see big picture (640x392 pixels; 113 KB)
Calliandra haematocephala, the Red Powder Puff is a bit of a mystery.  Some sources say its native range is from Nicaragua to Ecuador, while others say Borneo.  Certainly it is widespread in Mesoamerica, where it is called Flor de la Cruz.  On the other hand this photo was taken in Borneo. Click to see big picture (534x480 pixels; 77 KB)
Calliandra houstoniana is native to Mesoamerica, where it tends to be called Cabeza de Angel (angel head).  It has now been introduced through much of the tropics, however, with an English name of Tree Calliandra. Click to see big picture (640x412 pixels; 107 KB)
Calliandra surinamensis goes by names such as the Suriname Powderpuff and Surinamese Stickpea.  Of neotropical origin, it is now planted widely in gardens, both for its flowers and pleasant aroma.  It is also used to form hedges.
Blooming in the botanical gardens of Bogota, Calliandra carbonaria.  In its range through the highlands from Venezuela to Peru, it is known as the Carbonero. Click to see big picture (524x480 pixels; 98 KB)
Although the Calliandra genus is known mainly for its flowers, some of the pods are also unusual.  Introducing Calliandra trinervia near Tena, Ecuador.
An unidentified Calliandra in the mountains of Colombia.  Click to see big picture (485x480 pixels; 109 KB)
Enterolobium cyclocarpum is a large and popular tree, native from Mexico to Colombia, but now planted beyond.  It is often called Guanacaste, but most other names refer to its pods. Click to see big picture (640x474 pixels; 114 KB)
The pods of Enterolobium cyclocarpum are large and curled, giving it designations such as Ear Pod Tree, Elephant Ear and Orejon. Click to see big picture (541x480 pixels; 139 KB)
Texas ebony, has the scientific name of Ebenopsis ebano, although some prefer Pithecellobium flexicaule.  In addition to Texas, it is native to Mexico and the Caribbean, and of course has been planted beyond. Click to see big picture (315x480 pixels; 78 KB)
Cedrelinga cateniformis, known as Chuncho at the Jatun Sacha gardens of central Ecuador.  It is native to the Amazon Basin, and adjacent uplands.
Balizia elegans is a tree which seems to be mainly rooted in Costa Rica and Panama, but is reported again in Bolivia and adjacent Brazil.  Note the more or less square stems. Click to see big picture (568x480 pixels; 137 KB)
A closer look at the festoon of stamens that form the flowers of Balizia elegans.  Here near Bajo Mono in western Panama. Click to see big picture (580x480 pixels; 134 KB)
The pods of Cojoba rufescens have given it the name of Coralillo, over its range from Costa Rica to Ecuador.  This is from the Canal Zone. Click to see big picture (326x480 pixels; 56 KB)
Cojoba arborea is a sizeable tree, appreciated for its wood from Mexico and the Caribbean to Ecuador.  Its strange bean pods have given it names such as Coral Snake Tree and Semilla de Lorita.  Other common names include Abey, Ardillo and Wild Tamarind. Click to see big picture (298x480 pixels; 67 KB)
Pentaclethra macroloba is at home from Nicaragua to northeastern Brazil.   It is known as Gavilan, but also as Oil Tree, as it is the source of Pracaxi Oil, much of which is used in hair conditioners.  The large pods are said to open explosively to spread their seeds. Click to see big picture (614x480 pixels; 120 KB)
The flower and pod of Parkia panurensis certainly rivets ones attention in a tropical forest.  You might run into it from Colombia to Peru, mainly on the Amazon side. Click to see big picture (431x480 pixels; 70 KB)
Neptunia oleraceae is known as the Water Mimosa, and by the odd name of Water Dead and Awake.  It is native to the northern Neotropics, here in Colombia, and has proved invasive in Asia. Click to see big picture (515x480 pixels; 95 KB)