DixPix Photographs

     

TROPICAL CENTRAL AMERICA

 
     
  Flora- MINTS AND RELATIVES  

Although some old-timers still call the Mint Family Labiatae, it is Lamiaceae by which they are known, and it has given its name to its botanical order, the Lamiales.  It has also given the world several condiments and spices, and even teak, which may seem a world away from your concept of a mint.  The family contains some 236 genera and very roughly 7000 species.  Most have square stems, although this is not completely diagnostic. The Lamiales Order is very large and complex, and two other families closely related to the mints are included on this page, namely the Orobanchaceae and the Phrymaceae.

In many ways, the Salvia genus is a standard bearer for the Mint Family, with over 900 species and a center of diversity in Mexico.  These are usually termed Sages in English and Salvias in Spanish ( although in culinary terms, mint is 'menta').  The salvias tend to grow in the mountains in Central America, and the acquired hardiness has made them garden favorites in temperate areas.  This, and the difficulty in identifying salvias to species, has meant that an unusually large portion of this section was photographed in botanical gardens, where identification can be left to experts.  Most sages are some shade of red or blue; we shall start with the reds.

 

The Mexican Fuchsia Sage, can grow to over 3 meters in height.  Salvia iodantha originated in the mountains of southern Mexico, but is now mainly found in gardens thanks to its pink color and fuzzy flowers, in this case the Botanical Gardens of San Francisco. Click to see big picture (507x480 pixels; 81 KB)
Jumping north to the botanical gardens at UBC, this is Salvia darcyi, known as Fiery Sage or Red Mountain Sage.  This species was only found (at least by gringos) in 1988, high in some mountains of Mexico, and has since been spread even to northern gardens. Click to see big picture (288x480 pixels; 60 KB)
If you are looking for a fire-engine red sage, here is Salvia cinnabrina.  Also at UBC, it is native to the cloud forests from Mexico to Honduras.  At least it will have the clouds here in Vancouver. Click to see big picture (515x480 pixels; 85 KB)
Salvia gesneriiflora, the Mexican Scarlet Sage, is another 3 meter high species from the high mountains of Mexico.  It will need its frost-hardy abilities here at the KEW gardens in London. Click to see big picture (492x480 pixels; 65 KB)
And here it is again in San Francisco.  This form with the black calyx is called 'tequila'. The leaves are aromatic, and you are allowed to spell gesneriiflora with only a single 'i'. Click to see big picture (562x480 pixels; 84 KB)
Salvia microphylla is a species complex which stretches from the mountains of the southern U.S. to Guatemala.  Its most common name is Baby Sage, but it is also known as the Black Currant Sage, based on the smell of the leaves. Quail Gardens, (now San Diego Gardens). Click to see big picture (593x480 pixels; 102 KB)
As a measure of the variation in Salvia microphylla, here is the form presented by the Royal Gardens in Madrid.  In Latin America it tends to be called Mirta de Montes, although no relation to myrtles. Click to see big picture (547x480 pixels; 63 KB)
The next three examples are Mexican immigrants who have rooted at the Botanical Gardens at the University of California, Berkeley.  This one is Salvia pulchella, resident in southern Mexico and Guatemala. Click to see big picture (528x480 pixels; 88 KB)
This orange species is Salvia regla, known simply as Mountain Sage.  Native range is from Texas to southern Mexico. Click to see big picture (520x480 pixels; 96 KB)
Pink and popular, Salvia puberula is known as the Rose Leaf Sage.  It is rare in the mountains of its native Hildago Province, but has escaped extinction by entering garden circles. Click to see big picture (506x480 pixels; 136 KB)
The exhuberant Salvia wagneriana is also a garden favorite, but this one was caught by a roadside in the mountains of central Costa Rica.  Its range extends from here north to Chiapis. Click to see big picture (510x480 pixels; 78 KB)
Salvia disjuncta is another high altitude wonder which hid in the mountains of southern Mexico and Guatemala, and wasn't conscripted into gardens (here in San Francisco) until 1993, despite an attractive fruit scent.  The rather dull name of Southern Mexican Sage seems to have been pinned onto it. Click to see big picture (640x411 pixels; 85 KB)
For once, not in a garden.  Salvia coccinea is the only red sage listed as being here in the Sierra Maihuatlan of southwestern Mexico.  Although of Mexican origin, it is now virtually pantropical with names such as Blood Sage.
Back to the KEW for another sage with scented leaves.  In fact Salvia dorisiana, which carries a Hondurian passport, is kown as the  Fruit Scented or Peach Sage. Click to see big picture (640x400 pixels; 61 KB)
Salvia chiapensis in a Mexican garden.  This is native to the mountains for Chiapis and adjacent parts of Guatemala. Click to see big picture (329x480 pixels; 99 KB)
Salvia karwinskii is a citizen of the upland forests from southern Mexico to Nicaragua.  Here it is reclining near a stepping stone at the UC Berkeley Gardens.  Click to see big picture (640x451 pixels; 111 KB)
From the same gardens, Salvia rubescens. This one hales from the highlands of Venezuela. Click to see big picture (245x480 pixels; 59 KB)
From Bogota, Salvia rufula of the Andes in Columbia and Ecuador.  It is a sizeable bush. Click to see big picture (640x472 pixels; 85 KB)
The striking Salvia libanensis has mainly been reported from here in the Santa Marta Mountains of northeastern Colombia.
Salvia leucocephala is at home in the Andes of Ecuador, but is also popular in tropical gardens.  Photo from the El Dorado Lodge of northeastern Colombia.
You might bump into Salvia carnea in the ranges from southern Mexico to Ecuador, and here it is on Volcan Baru in western Panama.  At home it is the rich red that its name would suggest, the garden varieties seem more pink. Click to see big picture (427x480 pixels; 123 KB)
An unidentified salvia from Oaxaca province, with an oversize red calyx. Click to see big picture (637x480 pixels; 116 KB)
Switching to blue sages, and what better place to start than Salvia hispanica, whose nutriceous seeds are known as Chia.  It is another of those salvias from south Mexico and Guatemala, but planted much more widely-- this is from Costa Rica.  It has naturalized here-- the dirty leaves show it is a weed beside a gravel road. Click to see big picture (420x480 pixels; 88 KB)
From a cloud forest of northern Nicaragua, this appears to be Salvia purpurea.  In garden versions, even the leaves take on a purple tinge.  Its natural range is from here north to Mexico. Salvia purpurea
From the Monte Verde region of Costa Rica, this is Salvia pteroura.  Known in gringo circles as Deep Purple Sage, its native range is Nicaragua to Panama. Click to see big picture (310x480 pixels; 55 KB)
From even farther south, Salvia scutellarioides, originally spread in the mountains from Colombia to Peru and known as Maestranto.  This specimen, however, if firmly rooted back at the botanical gardens at University of Berkeley. Click to see big picture (324x480 pixels; 66 KB)
We catch up- with Salvia scutellarioides in the wild above the town of Ulba in central Ecuador.
And while at the same gardens, check out the Germander Sage, Salvia chamaedryoides.  It originated in the cordilleras from northeastern to southern Mexico. Click to see big picture (440x480 pixels; 106 KB)
On the coastal side of San Francisco we find the Grape Scented Sage, Salvia melissodora.  In reality it belongs to the mountains of south and central Mexico.  Natives in that area call it Tarahumara, and use it in traditional medicine. Click to see big picture (640x435 pixels; 96 KB)
And in the same Botanical Gardens in foggy San Francisco we find the Mexican Bush Sage, Salvia leucantha.  It is actually the bracts which are this rosy purple color.  It has a wide range, from the southern US into Central America. Click to see big picture (366x480 pixels; 80 KB)
uu Back to the Quail Gardens.  Salvia cacaliifolia belongs in the mountains form Chiapis to Honduras.  It is known as Blue Vine Sage. Click to see big picture (538x480 pixels; 75 KB)
From the highlands of Oaxaca Province, Mexico, a sage with an attitude, which the locals called Hierba Maestra. It appears to be one of the many variations of S. mexicana. Click to see big picture (478x480 pixels; 101 KB)
Also from the mountains of Oaxaca, but in this case encountered at that gardens at UC Berkeley, meet Salvia semiatrata. Click to see big picture (571x480 pixels; 117 KB)
The Gentian Sage, Salvia patens, is from south and central Mexico, but does not have the high altitude resistance to the cold.  In sites such as the Van Dusen Gardens here, it is hence treated as an annual. Click to see big picture (375x480 pixels; 68 KB)
Back to Oaxaca area for Salvia thymoides. Click to see big picture (396x480 pixels; 59 KB)
Also from the same sector of Mexico, a mint plant with the characteristic square stem, but uncertain genus. Click to see big picture (640x446 pixels; 76 KB)
Another undetermined speces, from the Santa Marta Mountains, of northeastern Colombia.
Another unusual mint, from the Jaguar Reserve in northern Nicaragua.  This looks like some renditions of Salvia mocinoi, which ranges from here to southern Mexico. salvia mocinoi
This appears to be some form of Ocimum, the extremely variable basil imported from the orient.  These things can become very weedy. Click to see big picture (260x480 pixels; 54 KB)
Stachys and related mint genera are widespread, but not many species are tropical.  This is S. costaricensis, which is found throughout Mesoamerica and adjacent South America.  Photo from western Panama. Click to see big picture (475x480 pixels; 88 KB)
Stachys elliptica from Papallacta Pass through the high Andes to east of Quito, Ecuador.  Some feel that this is the same as S. philippiana found in the mountains of Chile.
It is known as the Scarlet Skullcap, and it is native to Costa Rica and Panama.  Scutellaria costaricana is an unusual flower, and has found wider employment as a houseplant. skullcap
We are back in Mexico for the Orange Hummingbird Mint, or in Latin Agastache aurantiaca. Click to see big picture (489x480 pixels; 92 KB)
Agastache mexicana, in a garden in southern Mexico.  This has been tweeked into a variety of colors for export, but here is appreciated more as a remedy for stomach pains under the name of Toronjil Morado. Click to see big picture (321x480 pixels; 68 KB)
Leonurus sibiricus is a widely travelled Asian and in English is usually called Motherwort.  It has naturalized in Central America where it is called Marijuanilla ( or Marihuanilla), and as that name would imply, it is welcomed as a mild relaxant and intoxicant. Click to see big picture (582x480 pixels; 82 KB)
The mint family can also form trees, and these are the flowers of another Asian known as White Teak (Gmelina arborea).  It has been widely planted for its fine wood, and for medicinal properties, here in Panama.


Orobanchaceae is known as the Broomrape Family, although now that most of its 2000 or so species have arrived from the genetic shipwreck of the Figwort Family, perhaps its should be named after something more recognized, such as the Indian Paintbrushes, the Castilleja genus.   The great majority of Orobanchaceae are parasites, and the roughly 200 species of Indian Paintbrush are thought to be root parasites.  Their flowers are edible. 

 
Most of the Indian Paintbrush species in Central America are from elevation in the mountains.  There is said to be 40 species in Mexico alone, and this is one of them. Click to see big picture (373x480 pixels; 83 KB)
They simply call it the Field Indian Paintbrush, and Castilleja arvensis is a common and widespread species through most of the Neotropics.  Here it is in western Panama. Click to see big picture (640x474 pixels; 111 KB)
This species with deeply divided, purple foliage, occuring in the mountains of central Costa Rica, is usually termed Castilleja talamansensis, although there is more than one form and perhaps species. Click to see big picture (311x480 pixels; 80 KB)
Purple foliage paintbrush from the mountains farther south tend to be called Castilleja talamancensis, but the less divided leaves make it look more like C. quirosii.  This one is from high on Volcan Baru in western Panama. Click to see big picture (344x480 pixels; 86 KB)
And this paintbrush from high on Volcan Baru more or less fits Castilleja irasuensis, more commonly associated with the adjacent summits of Costa Rica. Click to see big picture (509x480 pixels; 106 KB)
An unusual Castilleja from the cloud forests of northern Nicaragua. Click to see big picture (343x480 pixels; 88 KB)
From the paramo at Parque de Nevado in Colombia, this would be Castilleja fissifolia with trident petals, which blooms above timberline here and in Ecuador. Click to see big picture (640x480 pixels; 104 KB)
From near the town of Bouqette in western Panama, these fuzzy-mouthed tubes are from Lamourouxia gutierrezii, found in Panama and Costa Rica.
This photo from Oaxaca area appears to be Lamourouxia multifida, or a close relative.   Locally it is called Flor de Arete. Click to see big picture (578x480 pixels; 98 KB)
Another Lamourouxia from Oaxaca province.  This genus tends to be stronly one-sided in flower orientation.
Escobedia grandiflora is a widespread herb in the Neotropics.  Photo from near the town of Puyo in Ecuador.
A frontal view of Escobedia grandiflora.  The roots of this species are used to make an orange dye.
Hemichaena fruticosa is a lovely flower which may be found from Chiapis to Costa Rica.  It is now from the Phrymaceae family. Click to see big picture (422x480 pixels; 91 KB)
If Hemichaena fruticosa looks a bit like an overgrown mimulus, it is because it joined that major genus when it was dislodged from the Figworts and landed in Phrymaceae.  UC Berkeley Botanical Gardens. Click to see big picture (539x480 pixels; 63 KB)
Sesamum indicum is the source of Sesame Seeds and Oil.  Native from Africa to India, it is now a pantropical crop from the small Pedaliaceae Family.  Common in Mesoamerica, to is referred to as Sesamo, and the sesame seeds as Ajonjoli. sesame