DixPix Photographs

     

TROPICAL CENTRAL AMERICA

 
     
  Flora-  POALES & COMMELINALES  

 

The botanical Order Poales contains the grasses, and similar flora such as sedges and rushes.  Although of extreme importance to the human race, and very widespread, most of the ten thousand or so species of this group do little to draw the attention of a camera, and hence are here mainly represented by their big brothers, the bamboos.  The Poales Order also contains the Bromeliads, but they has been given a page of their own.

The Commelinales are dominated by their namesake Commelinaceae, the Spiderwort or Dayflower Family.  These tend to be herbs with three-petal flowers-- attractive but retiring. 

 

Grains are the main food source of the modern world, but mainly a product of temperate regions.  Here however, a Mexican displays some of the many varieties of corn that may still be found in the land where the crop was first devised from a large-seeded grass. Click to see big picture (407x480 pixels; 96 KB)
Where a machete is required to make headway in tropical jungles it is usually due to thickets of the mini-bamboos. This would be from the Chusquea genus, sometimes referred to as Caña Brava here in the Cordillera Condor on the Peru-Ecuador border. Click to see big picture (640x467 pixels; 85 KB)
There are several species of Chusquea in the mountains of Costa Rica.  This one from near Oja de Agua appears to be C. talamancensis.  When immersed in these thickets, the term 'chusquea' is usually accompanied by some choice expletives.  And the stems of this bamboo are solid, not hollow. Click to see big picture (640x480 pixels; 163 KB)
In the mountains from Colombia to Bolivia, Chusquea scandens is locally known as Suro or Suru and forms thickets known as Surales.  Photo from Andes east of Quito.
In Cayambe-coca Park in the mountains of Ecuador, this is identified as Neurolepis steubelii, known as Bretaña and used for thatching.  Alas the taxonomy is a mess and it may well land up in the Chusquea genus.
Above the town of Baños in Ecuador, dense stands of this joint-grass or small bamboo line the waterways.
There are a huge number of species in the bamboo subfamily (Bambu in Spanish), and they grow in all the warmer parts of the planet.  The larger species are also capable of forming thickets, and can be a major impediment to travel. Click to see big picture (324x480 pixels; 99 KB)
The Giant Bamboos are the largest item in the grass family, and the fastest growing plant.  On the right is a shoot only 10 days old.  These can grow over 20 cm per day and there is a record of 100 cm in 24 hrs.  Giant bamboo here in Colombia are usually termed Guadua angustifolia, but there are several other very similar species. Click to see big picture (492x480 pixels; 125 KB)
There are varieties of giant bamboo with attractive streaked patterns.  These have been referred to as Guadua bicolor, but that is usually considered one of the many varieties of  G. angustifolia. Click to see big picture (332x480 pixels; 92 KB)
The Guadua genus contains the neotropical form of giant bamboos.  Tacuaras and Cañazas are two local names.  They can grow close enough together or have branches low enough to make travel slow and difficult. Click to see big picture (640x450 pixels; 148 KB)
Furthermore some Guadua have large thorns, although I have not met any as well armed as some of their Asian relatives.  Click to see big picture (640x384 pixels; 89 KB)
On the other hand, the larger bamboos have many uses.  Their strength to weight ratio makes them a natural for construction, and they are an efficient firewood.  Click to see big picture (640x467 pixels; 112 KB)
Some bamboo species have edible shoots, but these strange black-eared ones are not likely on the menu.  From a stand of a species I can't identify near the town of Sumaco, Ecuador.
There are some 37 species of Saccharum, the Sugar Canes.  They originated in southeast Asia, but are now a pantropical crop.  The commercially harvested Caña de Azucar is said to be a complex hybrid. Click to see big picture (331x480 pixels; 88 KB)
Arundinella deppeana is reported throughout the Neotropics, but mainly from Mexico and Central America.  Here in the Sierra Maihuatlan of southern Mexico.
Few tropical grasses have much photographic stature.  The plumed grass Paspalum saccharoides is an exception, found from the Carribean to Brazil.  It is quite unlike other members of its genus, and hopefully this is it. Click to see big picture (597x480 pixels; 87 KB)
From high in Papallacta Pass east of Quito, this is Cortaderia bifida, approx., as C. nitida looks the same in photos.  Both are common in the mountains of northwestern South America and here are known as Siksa.
Coix lacryma-jobi originated in southeast Asia, but has been widely planted and naturalized under the name of Job's Tears.  Here it is in a roadside ditch high in the mountains of Ecuador.  This shows the flowers and the plant.
But Job's Tears is mainly prized for its hard, round seeds, used by artisans for beads, etc.  One variety is also eaten as a cereal in the Orient.
A beachgrass forms geometric patterns on the northeastern coast of Colombia.  Likely due to runners below the sand.
Other genera find very different ways to attract attention.  This appears to be Cenchrus spinifex, the Coastal Sandburr, awaiting bare feet on beaches from the southern U.S. to Panama.  We are now moving into the Cyperaceae family. Click to see big picture (559x480 pixels; 58 KB)
Carex jamesonii, with its dark seed heads, may be met in the mountains from Mexico to Bolivia.  It is here bobbing in the winds of Cayambe-coca Park in Ecuador.
Kyllinga vaginata is known as the Caribbean Spikesedge, but it seems to occur in swampy ground through much of the Neotropics.  These are weeds near Gamboa, Panama.
Rhynchospora colorata is one of the White-top Sedges, more specifically known as Starrush Whitetop.  Ranging from southern U.S. to northern South America in marshy terrain.  Photo from Gamboa area of central Panama.
Rhynchospora nervosa is known as the White Top or Beaked Sedge.  Widespread in the neotropics, it is one of the few of the Cyperaceae or Sedge Family asking to be photographed. Click to see big picture (570x480 pixels; 73 KB)
Widely known as the Fragrant Flatsedge, and in Latin America as Coyolillo, Cyperus odoratus is widespread in the tropical and temperate parts of the world.  Not much to look at, but it does have a sweet smell. flatsedge
Cyperus ligularis is known as Swamp Flatsedge or Razorgrass in English, and although mainly a western hemisphere species, it is also reported from Africa and the Pacific Islands.  Navajola is the Spanish name, referring to its presence in wet sites.  It is salt tolerant. razorgrass
Cyperus alternifolius is widely planted and naturalized far from its native Madagascar.  For some reason it is known as the Umbrella Papyrus (or Sedge) and here at the Botanical Gardens of Bogota as Paraguita.

The Commelinales Order is named for, and dominated by, Commelinaceae, the Spiderwort or Dayflower Family.  This involves about 650 species of retiring herbs with distinctive flowers.

 
The term 'dayflower' comes from the short life of individual flowers.  This is Commelina erecta, the White-mouth Dayflower, which is already showing wear and tear.  It seems native to much of the world, and an infusion is used in some areas for eye infections. Click to see big picture (633x480 pixels; 85 KB)
A side view of a Mexican version of Commelina erecta.  This is both a widespread and variable species. Click to see big picture (440x480 pixels; 60 KB)
Arising from a hairy 'pod', this is likely Commelina coelestis, the Blue Spiderwort, which is native to central and south Mexico. Click to see big picture (531x480 pixels; 69 KB)
There are several species of dayflower with similar flowers.  I suspect this is an immature Commelina diffusa, a widespread species.  No guarantees. Click to see big picture (505x480 pixels; 68 KB)
Tradescantia pallida or Purple Heart started its travels in Mexico, but has now been very widely planted as a colorful ground cover, and has proved invasive in some environments. Click to see big picture (640x330 pixels; 54 KB)
Tradescantia zebrina is native to the Caribbean coast of Mexico, but in various shades of white and pink has traveled under the name of Inch Plant. Click to see big picture (640x348 pixels; 69 KB)
Tradescantia poelliae has a range from southern Mexico to Panama, and has spread by honest means, rather than the garden circuit.  It prefers wet mountain terrain. Click to see big picture (612x480 pixels; 78 KB)
Tradescantia zanonia has even a wider range of Mexico to Peru.  The flowers and berries usually occur together as shown here. Click to see big picture (640x457 pixels; 86 KB)
An unidentified Tradescantia in Mexico, occurring in two distinct colors. Click to see big picture (640x470 pixels; 83 KB)
Tripogandra serrulata is found through much of the Neotropics, and known in English as Pink Trinity.  Here it blooms on Isla Solarte of northwestern Panama. Click to see big picture (640x430 pixels; 68 KB)
Floscopa peruviana is named for Peru, but may be found through much of northern South America.  Photo from the Jatun Sacha Reserve in Ecuador.
Generally known as Blue Ginger or Flowering Bamboo in garden circles, Dichorisandra thyrsiflora is native to the Neotropics, but has now been planted in tropical gardens globally.  No relation to the true gingers or bamboos. Click to see big picture (576x480 pixels; 104 KB)
Dichorisandra hexandra is a retiring but widespread herb in the Neotropics.  Here it blooms at the Wildsumaco Reserve in Ecuador.
Dichorisandra sp. west of the town of Tena, Ecuador.
Cochliostema odoratissimum has also been pressed to garden use under the name of Principe Azul.  It is native from Nicaragua to Ecuador. Click to see big picture (360x480 pixels; 82 KB)
A closer look at the Principe Azul flower, in this case at the Botanical Gardens at University of Berkeley. Click to see big picture (554x480 pixels; 120 KB)
From the Haemodoraceae or Bloodwort Family, this is Xiphidium caeruleum, better known as Cola Paloma.  It is quite common as an understory bush through much of the Neotropics. Click to see big picture (423x480 pixels; 63 KB)
Cola Paloma is also known as Cola Gallo, referring to the tails of doves and roosters respectively.  Here is the full plant and the berries, which will turn black on maturity. Click to see big picture (640x463 pixels; 107 KB)
The Pontederiaceae is often called the Pickerel Weed Family, and this is Pickerel Weed, Pontederia sp.  The genus may be found from Canada to Argentina, these being from about half way between. Click to see big picture (640x461 pixels; 93 KB)
But the most infamous member of the family is the floating Water Hyacinth. Eichhornia crassipes is usually blamed on Brazil, but this weed can now be found choking tropical waterways around the world.  Known as Aguapes in Latin America, they do serve as filters of heavy metal pollutants. Click to see big picture (432x480 pixels; 82 KB)