DixPix Photographs

     

TROPICAL MESOAMERICA

 
     
  Flora- POTATO FAMILY  

 

The Solanaceae comprise a major family of roughly 3000 species.  It is usually named the Potato Family or the Tomato Family after two of its major gifts, but some prefer to emphasize the dark side of the taxon and call it the Nightshade Family with reference to the poisonous nature of many species.  It has also given us the curse of tobacco, and my personal curse of the hot peppers. 

Solanaceae has world-wide distribution, and is most diverse in South and Central America.  Although there are about 100 genera, roughly half of all species are in the Solanum genus, from which the potato itself was developed in South America.  This genus has adapted well to the tropics, producing woody species, several of which are known as 'potato trees'.

 

One of the most widely appreciated species is Solanum quitoense, which is known as Naranjilla, except in Colombia where it is called Lulo. By any name it yields a very tasty green juice. Click to see big picture (640x398 pixels; 97 KB)
The purple-haired flowers and large, bright leaves and fruit of Solanum quitoense also make it popular for tropical gardens.  It is found throughout the Neotropics, and has been planted elsewhere. Click to see big picture (572x480 pixels; 131 KB)
There are several naranjilla relatives, known here in Columbia as Lulitas, some of them very thorny.  Solanum pectinatum may be found from Costa Rica to Peru. Its bright red fruit is fully edible, but are known as Huevos de Perro (dog eggs). Click to see big picture (315x480 pixels; 70 KB)
Also called Lulita in the Colombia highlands, this fruit-bush lacks the fruit and flower stems as in S. sessiliflorum, but that species should not have thorns.  Perhaps this is a natural hybrid. Click to see big picture (640x392 pixels; 90 KB)
Yet another Colombian Lulita, with purple flowers and wider thorns.  These may be just varieties of naranjilla, several of which have been developed in cultivation. Click to see big picture (640x480 pixels; 92 KB)
And golden, furry fruit. ...... Enough of Lulitas. Click to see big picture (518x480 pixels; 112 KB)
The fruit of Solanum betaceum is enjoyed under such names as Tamarillo and Tree Tomato.  This is the flower and the start of a fruit.  It is native to the Andes from Colombia to Bolivia, but is here as sea level in the San Francisco Botanical Gardens. Click to see big picture (544x480 pixels; 71 KB)
A child of the Andes through much of the Neotropics, Solanum hispidum has become known as the Devil's Fig.  The fruit will turn dark blue when ripe. Click to see big picture (535x480 pixels; 86 KB)
Solanum arboreum is one of the plants known as Tree Potato.  This case in central Costa Rica would appear to be it, based on leaf shape, and green central flower ring.  It is found from here south to Venezuela and Peru. Click to see big picture (640x395 pixels; 108 KB)
Solanum torvum is a shrub called Turkeyberry.  Neotropical origins, but now widely planted, in part as root stock for eggplants.  Note the black stems and varied leaf shape. Click to see big picture (486x480 pixels; 100 KB)
The bat-pollenated Solanum rugosum is a small tree known as Tabacon Aspero in the Neotropics south of Nicaragua. Click to see big picture (360x480 pixels; 66 KB)
Solanum argenteum has green fruit and a white under-leaf, which is lost when the light is from above, as on right.  Costa Rica to Brazil. Click to see big picture (640x332 pixels; 80 KB)
The flowers of Solanum erianthum.  This is a 'potato tree' which is native to the northern Neotropics, but it has now been spread to other tropical areas.  Known as Velvet Nightshade and Salvadora, it has many folk remedy applications including  leprosy, malaria and inducing abortions.  The berries are poisonous until cooked. Click to see big picture (586x480 pixels; 88 KB)
Another big leaf 'potato tree' in Nicaragua, said to be used to shade coffee plantations.  The leaf shape would strongly suggest Solanum Chrysotrichum. Click to see big picture (636x480 pixels; 126 KB)
With sharp sepals and sharp thorns, Solanum chrysotrichum ranges from southern Mexico to Panama.  The fruit, which is yellow at maturity, gives it the name of Giant Devil's Fig.  It has proved invasive in Africa.  Uses include a dandruff remedy. Click to see big picture (585x480 pixels; 91 KB)
Solanum brevipedicellatum is a lot of latin for quite a dull shrub, which seems mainly confined to Mexico and Guatemala, here in the Maihuatlan mountains of Oaxaca State.
The nomenclature for Solanum lanceolatum is a mess.  There are 21 synonyms and a variety of forms shown under this name, including this.  Orange Berry Nightshade is at home in the northern Neotropics. Click to see big picture (640x389 pixels; 82 KB)
Solanum wrightii is also known as S. macranthum.  It is of Brazilian origin, but under the name of Giant Star Potato Tree it has been planted in gardens, appreciated for its flowers of variable color.  Here it is in Mexico. Click to see big picture (640x480 pixels; 98 KB)
Giant Potato Creeper is also known as the Costa Rica Nightshade (Solanum wendlandii).  It is a thorny vine from the Neotropics of uncertain origin, but popular in gardens.  Here one has escaped from a garden near San Jose, Costa Rica and is trying to hitch-hike. Click to see big picture (640x423 pixels; 101 KB)
Another version of Solanum wendlandii, this one confined to the Royal Botanical Gardens in Madrid. Click to see big picture (581x480 pixels; 112 KB)
Also from the Royal Gardens, this is Solanum rantonnetii, which is now referred to in formal company as Lycianthes rantonnetii (or rantonnei).  In garden circles it goes by Blue Potato Shrub or Paraguay Nightshade.  Widely planted from South America. Click to see big picture (579x480 pixels; 112 KB)
Solanum laxum is a synonym of Solanum jasminoides.  It started its career in Uruguay and adjacent Brazil, but has been planted through much of the Neotropics and beyond, under names such as Potato Vine and Jasmine Nightshade.  This species now seems to be called Solanum megalochiton. Click to see big picture (439x480 pixels; 80 KB)
Solanum elaeagnifolium crops up as a poisonous weed in the southern U.S. and Mesoamerica, and again in Southern South America.  Silverleaf Nightshade and White Horsenettle are two of its more popular names. Click to see big picture (496x480 pixels; 90 KB)
The references to silver and white are better seen in the older foliage. Click to see big picture (418x480 pixels; 124 KB)
Solanum americanum is logically known as American Nightshade, but also Glossy Nightshade.  It is pantropical, of uncertain origin, and although the leaves are eaten in some parts, it is best considered toxic.  Oddly it is also known as both the Black Nightshade (for berries) and White Nightshade (flowers). Click to see big picture (521x480 pixels; 52 KB)
Near Papallacta Hostsprings in Ecuador, we catch up with Solanum nigrescens, known as the Divine Nightshade.  With 25 synonyms, it is widespread in the western hemisphere and of importance in indigenous medicines.
Near Monte Verde, Costa Rica, an unidentified Solanum. Click to see big picture (640x322 pixels; 78 KB)
Yellow for a change.  Solanum rostratum is native to the southern U.S. and to Mexico where it is one of the thorny bushes known as Mala Mujer (bad woman).  The term Buffalo Bur is more common in English. Click to see big picture (640x470 pixels; 144 KB)
For some reason, Buffalo Bur has been exported, to Europe and Asia at least.  It has proved invasive, and can act as a tumbleweed.  China especially seems to have suffered.  Here is a better look at the flowers and leaves. Click to see big picture (640x463 pixels; 103 KB)
One more 'potato tree'.  From the Cordillera Condor, this one features leaves with huge, fringed petioles and flower clusters from their nodes. Click to see big picture (571x480 pixels; 92 KB)
Solandra grandiflora is no 'solanum'.  In nature it is a canopy liana found in the Caribbean and from Mexico to Panama.  You are more likely to encounter it in a garden, however, in this case the botanical one in Bogota.  Copa de Oro and Chalice Vine are among the more common names. Click to see big picture (483x480 pixels; 62 KB)
Nicotiana tabacum, better known as Tobacco.  It is an ancient hybrid, not found in the wild but widespread in the Neotropics and subtropics, and now planted around the world.  Historically it was used as a medicine and in ceremonies, especially in Mexico where its original name was Picietl. Click to see big picture (640x438 pixels; 84 KB)
Nicotiana tabacum also comes in white for the purists. Click to see big picture (542x480 pixels; 98 KB)
The tobacco plant is actually quite tall, and in cultivation the leaves have been genetically selected for size and for nicotine content. Click to see big picture (516x480 pixels; 137 KB)
NIcotiana glauca is known as Tree Tobacco.  It has naturalized through the warmer parts of the Americas and has become an invasive weed in Europe.  Mesoamerican names include Tabaco Silvestre and Tabaco cimarron. Click to see big picture (418x480 pixels; 100 KB)

Hot peppers may be blamed on Mexico, but in a huge number of forms and degrees of pain they are planted around the tropics and even as household ornamentals.  There have been an impressive list of scientific names, but now all are being dumped into Capsicum annuum.

Click to see big picture (640x402 pixels; 104 KB)
These elongated forms of torture were once relegated to Capsicum frutensis, but this is also now just C. annuum.  The Latin American name is Chile, or for the really hot ones, Chile Loco.  ( In the country of Chile, confusion is avoided by calling this stuff 'aji'). Click to see big picture (640x377 pixels; 122 KB)
The berry-like form of Capsicum annuum is known as Chiltepin. Click to see big picture (640x307 pixels; 66 KB)
Turning now to the Angel Trumpets of the Brugmansia genus.  This is the Red Angel Trumpet, B. sanguinea, native to the Andes from Colombia to Argentina, but now pantropical.  The genus is renown for poisonous/hallucinogenic alkaloids. Click to see big picture (419x480 pixels; 79 KB)
Brugmansia sanguinea is the species usually cultivated for extraction of the alkaloids for pharmaceutical purposes.  The modern range is represented by the flower on the left being from Peru, and on the right from Arusha, Tanzania.  Oops!, the photo on the right is B. suaveolens, a Brazilian which is now found only in tropical gardens. Click to see big picture (640x428 pixels; 135 KB)
At Papallacta Hotsprings in Ecuador, one more view of the Red Angel Trumpet with its large fruit.
Brugmansia versicolor flowers start out white, but soon turn an apricot color.  The species is native to the uplands of Colombia and Ecuador. Click to see big picture (640x459 pixels; 106 KB)
A look into the flower of Brugmansia versicolor.  It is rumored to have the highest level of the psychoactive alkaloids. Click to see big picture (593x480 pixels; 110 KB)
The White Angel's Trumpet, Brugmansia candida is actually a natural hybrid between B. versicolor and B. aurea.  Here it blooms near Tingo Maria, Peru. Click to see big picture (374x480 pixels; 65 KB)
Brugmansia versicolor produces a yellow flower, as the name would suggest.  It is found in the mountains from Colombia to Peru, but may have started out in Ecuador.  Here, however, it is far from home in the botanical gardens a the University of B.C.  Click to see big picture (402x480 pixels; 89 KB)
Brugmansia vulcanicolais not really tropical, being from the high mountains of Colombia and Ecuador.  It is considered the rarest of its genus, and is here presented at the botanical gardens at U.C. Berkeley. Click to see big picture (358x480 pixels; 88 KB)
Iochroma fuchsioides, the Red Iochroma, began in the Andes of northwestern South America.  Beloved of hummingbirds and shamans, it has medicinal and ritual uses, but has traveled widely on its garden appeal.  Here in two gardens in San Francisco.  In Mexico it is known as Corazon de Pollo (chicken heart). Click to see big picture (640x464 pixels; 94 KB)
Also in the Botanical Gardens of San Francisco, this is Iochroma cyaneum, sometimes known as Violet churcu.  Native to highlands from Colombia to Peru, it is usually of a more blue color, so this one may be a cultivar. Click to see big picture (640x409 pixels; 97 KB)
Browallia americana is fairly common in the wild from Mexico and the Caribbean to Bolivia.  It is even more widely found in gardens, under names such as Amethyst Flower. Click to see big picture (640x445 pixels; 96 KB)
This is another common shade of Browallia americana.  For some reason it has taken on the name of Jamaican Forget-me-not in some gardening circles. Click to see big picture (640x435 pixels; 118 KB)
This is supposed to be Brunfelsia grandiflora.  It is a shrub native to the western Neotropics, mainly the mountains from Venezuela to Bolivia, but more widely planted under names such as Largeflower Brunfelsia and Almost Eden.  It is poisonous/psychoactive, and used by shamans.  Click to see big picture (360x480 pixels; 54 KB)
Brunfelsia pauciflora started its career as a Brazilian, but is now widespread in gardens.  The flowers are purple when young, going to lavender and then white with age.  This has given it the name of Yesterday Today and Tomorrow or in Spanish Ayer Hoy y Mañana. Click to see big picture (428x480 pixels; 81 KB)
Cestrum elegans or Red Cestrum is native to northern Mesoamerica, mainly Mexico.  The color can range from pink to purple.  Here are versions from two gardens in San Francisco.  Poisonous. Click to see big picture (640x427 pixels; 89 KB)
Known as Early Jessamine, Cestrum fasciculatum started out in Mexico, before it became a garden item.  It looks a lot like red cestrum, but here at U.C. Berkeley, one can just read the labels. Click to see big picture (637x480 pixels; 129 KB)

Cestrum aurantiacum on Volcan Mombacho in Nicaragua, where it is known as Huele de Noche (night scent).  Native from southern Mexico to Western Panama, it has many names including   Jazmin Naranja, Orange Cestrum and Yellow Shrub Jessamine.

Click to see big picture (448x480 pixels; 85 KB)
Cestrum mutisii shows off its fruit at the botanical gardens in Bogota.  Known as Tinto, it is native to northwestern South America.
Lycianthes sanctaeclarae is found from NIcaragua to Panama, mainly on the lower Atlantic slope. Click to see big picture (640x480 pixels; 103 KB)
The unusual fruit of Lycianthes sanctaeclarae in northeastern Costa Rica.  This is an intriguing species, and I am surprised that it has not hit the garden circuit. Click to see big picture (640x460 pixels; 101 KB)
Lycianthes multiflora is a cloud forest liana, native from Belize to Panama.  Here it is at Monte Verde, Costa Rica. Click to see big picture (640x401 pixels; 93 KB)
Rare in the wilds of Guatemala and southern Mexico, Lycianthes ciliolata is here presented at the U.C. Berkeley Gardens. Click to see big picture (507x480 pixels; 76 KB)
And in the same garden, another Guatemalan, Lycianthes quichensis. Click to see big picture (534x480 pixels; 85 KB)
Witheringia solanaceae is a sprawling shrub, likely a species complex, which is found in cloud forests from southern Mexico to Bolivia.  It prefers open areas, here in Nicaragua. Click to see big picture (640x436 pixels; 84 KB)
An unidentified vine-like Witheringia on the Caribbean coast of Panama.  There are several members of this genus in that country. Click to see big picture (640x389 pixels; 98 KB)
And yet another Witheringia in flower in the Panamanian highlands.  Note the uneven leaf lobes common in this genus. Click to see big picture (640x470 pixels; 89 KB)
Physalis angulata, the weedy Cutleaf Ground Cherry has spread across the warmer regions of planet earth.  Uchuva is one of its names in Latin America, although this photo is from Sumatra.  The fruit (inside these husks) is edible and the plant is used in folk medicine for many problems, from rheumatism and asthma to malaria and cancer. Click to see big picture (538x480 pixels; 97 KB)
Known as the Cape Gooseberry, Physalis peruviana may have started out in South Africa, but it seems have been developed suspiciously early in the Andes.  Tomate sylvestre is one popular term.  This photo is from Cortez Pass in Mexico, where it is better known as Cereza de Peru. physalis peruviana
A view of the full Physalis peruviana plant, with the pods holding the "tomatillos".  Here in the mountains of Ecuador they are known as Uvillas.
An unidentified Physalis in a field in northern Nicaragua.  In Latin America, the genus is known as Fisalis, same pronunciation. Click to see big picture (309x480 pixels; 63 KB)
It is known as Shoo Fly due to insecticide tendencies, and although it claims Peruvian heritage, Nicandra physaloides is now widespread in tropical and temperate regions, in fact this photo is from east Africa.  Its success is partly its flower, partly its fruit, partly its folk medicine use as a sedative and partly as its seeds are common in bird-seed mixtures. shoofly
A side view of Nicandra physaloides forming pods similar to the Physalis genus in which it was once counted.  In Mesoamerica it is usually known as Manzana de Peru or as Chamico (a name it shares with the Daturas).
Here on Volcan Mombacho, Acnistus arborescens would be known as Guitite.  It is a small tree, widespread in the Neotropics and it has entered garden circles under the unusual name of Hollowheart.  The alternate name of Wild Tobacco is better applied to other species. Click to see big picture (596x480 pixels; 107 KB)
Acnistus arborescens with fruit at the Wildsumaco Reserve in Ecuador.  Here it is often refered to as Gallinero, as the berries are used to feed chickens.
Marmalade Bush, clearly it attracts hummingbirds.  (The term Firebush is used for several species.)  Streptosolen jamesonii is native from Venezuela to Peru, here in Colombia.  Click to see big picture (511x480 pixels; 131 KB)
At the El Dorado Lodge in the Santa Marta Mountains of northeastern Colombia, a Marmalade Bush has been planted to attract hummingbirds.
Nertera granadensis is a mat plant of the high mountains from Guatemala to Peru, here in central Costa Rica. It is referred to as Tomatillo Sylvestre, when it is referred to at all. Click to see big picture (560x480 pixels; 163 KB)