DixPix Photographs

     

TROPICAL CENTRAL AMERICA

 
     
  Flora- NON-FLOWERING PLANTS  

 

The classification of the vast array of non-flowering plants is complex and controversial and will not be treated in any detail here.  Lacking flowers, most subjects need to be unusual in some way that makes them attractive photographic subjects to the non-specialist.  Most of the species presented fall into one of two broad categories.  The first are the Gymnosperms (with naked seeds), think conifers, cycads, etc. The second entails what are usually referred to the the Ferns and Allies, under the Botanical Division Pteridophyta.  The Spanish word for fern is Helecho.

 

Known as either Dicksonia gigantea or D. sellowiana var. gigantea, depending on your guru, this is one of the larger tree ferns alive today.  Although this Central American species can reach ten meters in height, there were much larger fern trees a few hundred million years ago  when the coal measures were being laid down. Click to see big picture (360x480 pixels; 95 KB)
Here is the frond of a certified  Dicksonia sellowiana at the Botanical Gardens in Quito.  The species is widespread in the Neotropics.  The Dicksoniaceae family.
In Columbia, a view of a tree fern from above, which seems to be reaching for the sky.  I was told that this is Cyathea delgadii, a common species from Costa Rica to the Amazon, but would hate to have to prove it. cyathea delgadii
Another tree fern from northern Nicaragua is known as the Monkey Tail, for obvious reasons.  It is likely Cyathea brunei.  As with many ferns, the fronds begin as a tight curl.  The Cyatheaceae family. Click to see big picture (574x480 pixels; 145 KB)
Cyathea (or Sphaeropteris) quindiuensis is a fern tree native to the highlands from Colombia to Bolivia.  Here it is rooted at the botanical gardens in Quito.
And here are the monkey tails of Cyathea quindiuensis.
Cyathea pungens, is known as the Spiny Tree Fern, here opening a frond in the El Dorado Reserve in the Santa Marta Mountains of northeastern Colombia.
And from the Monteverde rainforest of Costa Rica, another tree fern species, showing also the alternate arrangement of leaflets.  Click to see big picture (640x442 pixels; 124 KB)
A gaint tree fern in the Santa Marta Range of northeastern Colombia.
In places where a machete is needed to travel through a tropical forest, the tree ferns turn out to have interesting patterns in stem cross-sections.  They are vascular plants, but in this form?  Quite artistic. Click to see big picture (486x480 pixels; 114 KB)
Lophosoria quadripinnata goes by names such as the Diamond Leaf Fern.  It is large, but not quite a "tree".  It is also widespread, from here in southern Mexico down to southern Chile where there is another photo of the same species.
Some ferns gain height by climbing other plants.  This is the Monarch Climbing Fern (Lygodium venustum) in the Darien of Panama.  It is encountered fairly widely in the Neotropics
A few ferns actully assume a vine-like form.  This appears to be Eriosorus flexuosus from the Toro Valley, Costa Rica.  Odontosoria gymnogrammoides is similar but with finer foliage. Click to see big picture (416x480 pixels; 117 KB)
Adiantum concinnum (of the Pteridaceae) inhabits rainforests from Mexico and the Caribbean to Peru.  The common name is Polished Maidenhair Fern.
Another wide ranging species is Adiantum Capillus-veneris, known as the Venus Maidenhair Fern.  Here in the mountains of southwestern Mexico, however, it is better known as the Culantrillo de Gruta.
Asplenium cuspidatum (or A. fragrans) is widespread, native from southern Mexico to to northeastern Argentina.  It goes by the name of Eared Spleenwort.  UC Berkeley Botanical Gardens.
It is known as the Central American Lace Fern, but Cheilanthes myriophylla may be found through most of the Neotropics, here at Berkeley.
Nephrolepis exaltata is now widespread from an origin in Central America and the Caribbean.  It is partial to humid forests and swamps, but is now mainly found as a house plant known as the Boston Swordfern.  Locally it is Helecho Nephrolepis, Lomariopsidaceae.  Lotusland, Montecito, California.
An unidentified fern? effortlessly climbs a trunk in Nicaragua. Click to see big picture (252x480 pixels; 75 KB)
'Wirefern' tangles can form a formidable barrier.  In the San Blas Mountains of Panama, this looks like Dicranopteris pectinata, which throws up thickets from here to Mexico.  Locally it is called Barba TigreGleicheniaceae family. Click to see big picture (360x480 pixels; 100 KB)
Sticherus rubiginosus, the Tropical Forked Fern, is fairly widespread in the Neotropics.  Here near the El Dorador Lodge in Colombia's Santa Marta Mountains.
Switching to the Blechnaceae family, this is a frond of Blechnum auratum at the botanical gardens in Quito, where it is known as Carchi.
At Cayambe_coca Park, high in the mountains of Ecuador, this circular fern appears. The Blechnum genus often appears in this form, and there are several species reported from the region, but no guarantees.
These 'finger ferns' on Cerro Muerte, Costa Rica are likely Jamesonia alstonii, which occurs in the mountain paramos throughout the western Neotropics.  The locals call it Helecho Zipper (zipper fern).  Pteridaceae family. Click to see big picture (640x480 pixels; 149 KB)
I suspect that this Zipper Fern from Papallacta Pass east of Quito is Jamesonia rotundifolia, but this is an area were there are about a dozen species of that genus lurking, so lets just leave it without a species name.
Tropical Tongue Ferns occur in several genera. This one with the long stalks may well be Elaphoglossum sp. of the Dryopteridaceae, but then again maybe not. Click to see big picture (370x480 pixels; 105 KB)
Campyloneurum amphostenon in the mountains above Quito.  This is a Strap Fern found at elevation though much of the Neotropics.  Some would like to dump this in the Pleopeltis genus despite the uneven sori spore pods.  Polypodiaceae family.
Lovely but weird, so what is this?   Is it even a fern.  From the mountains northwest of San Jose, Costa Rica. Click to see big picture (238x480 pixels; 73 KB)
The Spike Mosses belong to the Selaginaceae Family, considered a fern ally,  This one in southeast Nicaragua seems to be Selaginella eurynota, which ranges from Guatemala to Panama. Click to see big picture (458x480 pixels; 124 KB)
Selaginella anceps is more widespread, found from Nicaragua to Peru and Venezuela. Click to see big picture (516x480 pixels; 128 KB)
The Club Mosses are another 'Fern Ally', typically from the Lychopodium genus.  They seem more at home at altitude in the tropics, such as here near Dota in Costa Rica, or perhaps they are just more noticeable there. Click to see big picture (318x480 pixels; 98 KB)
There are actually three genera of common Club Mosses, which now have their own Lycopodiaceae family.  Until recently they were thrown in with the Selaginellas, and the taxonomy is still somewhat unsettled. Click to see big picture (343x480 pixels; 106 KB)
And then there are the ancient and aggressive Horsetails of the one-genus family Esquisataceae.  This is Equisetum myriochaetum, the Giant Horsetail, which can grow to 7 meters height.  Like the tree ferns, there were much bigger species hundreds of millions of years ago.  This species ranges through much of the Neotropics, but is here at the Botanical Gardens at the University of Berkeley. giant horsetail
Mosses are everywhere and seldom photographed.  They are non-vascular and Bryophytes, unrelated to the ferns.  This  red-eye peat decorates an alpine bog in Costa Rica.  These red forms tend to be referred to as Sphagnum cf. acutifolia. Click to see big picture (453x480 pixels; 129 KB)
High in the Santa Marta Mountains of northeastern Colombia, I can actually put a name to this one, meet Sphagnum meridense.  It has been reported to add color to many of the neotropical mountains.
Here is a more detailed look at Sphagnum meridense on Colombia's Cerro Kennedy.


The oddball Cycads are gymnosperms, collected in three families in the botanical Order Cycadales.  They have changed little since the age of the dinosaurs, and are sufficiently unlike anything else that they are given their own division in the Plant Kingdom.  We start with the Zamiaceae family.

 
Zamia neurophyllidia is native to Panama and Costa Rica, here in a garden in the northeastern mountains of the former.  Click to see big picture (640x480 pixels; 167 KB)
Zamia skinneri is a rare plant, endemic to western Panama.  It is here displayed at Summit Park in Panama's Canal Zone.
Cycads are often confused with palms, and this is a common houseplant known as Cardboard PalmZamia furfuracea is native to southeast Mexico, but is here ensconced at the KEW Gardens in London.  Popular, but poisonous. Click to see big picture (320x480 pixels; 73 KB)

Dioon spinulosum, the Giant Dioon is another Cycad from southern Mexico.  This genus tends to prefer drier areas.

dioon
Dioon edule is known as the Chestnut Dioon.  It seems to have started out in southeast Mexico, but it has now been planted widely, in part as a result of edible seeds.  This, however, is the male cone. dioon edule
Here is an example of the female cone of Dioon edule.  All parts of the plant are toxic, but the seeds are eaten after detoxifying.  For some reason its local name is Palma de la Virgin.
Dioon Merolae is native to Chiapis state of southern Mexico, but is largely found in gardens, in this case Lotusland of Montecito, Calif.
A whole-plant view, showing the architecture of Dioon Merolae.
Again from Lotusland, this is Dioon tomasellii.  In nature it is rare and vulnerable in the Sierra Madre Mountains of central Mexico.
Ceratozamia hildae is known as the Bamboo Cycad.  It carries a Mexican passport, but has here strayed across the border to the San Diego Zoo. Click to see big picture (592x480 pixels; 150 KB)
Ceratozamia robusta is native to southern Mexico and adjacent Guatemala. Click to see big picture (338x480 pixels; 87 KB)
Ceratozamia kuesteriana is a rare native of northeastern Mexico, and hence found almost entirely in gardens.  Lotusland, Montecito, Calif.


Pinales is a botanical Order which contains what could be loosely referred to as the Coniferous Trees.  These gymnosperms dominate many of the forests in the temperate regions of the world, but only a few species are truly at home in the tropics.  Those presented here typically encroach on the area of interest from the north, keeping to cooler altitudes.

 
This pine, with its red male cones, is resident at the Botanical Gardens in San Francisco.  It has been given a variety of names, of which Pinus apulcensis and Pinus pseudostrobus var. apulcensis seem dominant.  In any case, it belongs in southern Mexico. Click to see big picture (360x480 pixels; 90 KB)
The Weeping Pine (Pinus patula) is native to the mountains of Mexico.  These are the male cones. Click to see big picture (398x480 pixels; 91 KB)
And here are the female cones of the Weeping Pine.  This species has been planted at altitude in locations as diverse as Colombia, Africa and southeast Asia. Click to see big picture (405x480 pixels; 106 KB)
Here, in the upper reaches of the Sierra Maihautlan in southwestern Mexico, the stands of Thin-leaf Pine (Pinus maximinoi) support several types of Bromeliad. This species of tree with the odd foliage distribution follows the mountains from here to Panama.
Many subspecies of Pinus cembroides have been proposed.  This is the Mexican Pinyon (Piñon) Pine, and it has been planted widely as its seeds are edible. Click to see big picture (527x480 pixels; 137 KB)
From the Cupressaceae (Cypress) Family, here are the fruit of the Alligator Juniper, Juniperus deppeana.   It forms a small tree which may be encountered from the southern US as far south as Oaxaca area in Mexico.  Cupressaceae family. Click to see big picture (554x480 pixels; 133 KB)
The Mexican Cypress (Cupressus lusitanica) has a native range of Mexico to Honduras, but has been planted and naturalized beyond.  Here in the Santa Marta Mountains of northeastern Colombia.
As the fruit (cones, berries) of Mexican Cypress mature, they come to look more like this.
Taxodium mucronatum belongs to a genus which once had its own family, but is now tossed in with the Cypress.  Under names such as Swamp Cypress and Sabino, if ranges from the southern US to Guatemala. Click to see big picture (508x480 pixels; 145 KB)
There is even a species of alder that is willing to fight it out in the neotropical rain forests.  A young Alnus acuminata is here starting life at the Wildsumaco Reserve in Ecuador.  Betulaceae family.
And finally, from the Podocarpaceae family, these are the male cones of Podocarpus matudae.  It is at home from Mexico to Nicaragua, but here doing its thing at the Botanical Gardens in San Francisco. Click to see big picture (631x480 pixels; 112 KB)
At the botanical gardens of Quito, Podocarpus sprucei is mainly found in the mountains of Ecuador, although reported from scattered other locations.
Podocarpus oleifolius, is known as  Pino Colombiana although not related to pines.  Botancial Gardens of Bogota.
Turning to the Quito gardens, we find the light colored new foliage of Podocarpus oleifolius.  Here it tends to be called Sinsin.