Annona salzmannii A. DC.

February 25, 2011

Annona salzmannii, known locally as araticum, is a medium-size tree of 10-15 m, quite common in this area, and one of the most common Annonaceae spp. around here with edible fruit. Its fruit bearing is not regular, with mass fruiting occurring every two to three years. At other times the fruit is scant and usually spoiled by fruit-fly infestation. Local people think it bears fruit every five years or so when the trees produce female flowers. Their observations are true as far as periodicity of mass fruit bearing is concerned, whereas their explanation of the phenomenon is fantastical: the flowers of the sp. are perfect, with male and female parts always present.

The fruit is good to eat for desert: its fleshy parts resemble in taste those of sugar apple (Annona squamosa L., ‘pinha’, in Brazilian Portuguese), or atemoya (Annona cherimola x squamosa). The biggest drawback are fairly large seeds that are too numerous for easy eating.

It looks like this may be a bumper crop year, with many yellow fruit easily visible in the green foliage of this handsome looking tree.

My set of images of the tree, its flowers, and fruit, is also available on Flickr (


One of the flowering plants that have abandoned photosynthesis but is not a haustorial parasite is Voyria, Gentianaceae, that I and my co-collector Louro have discovered on yesterday’s collecting trip to the nearby patch of the virgin Atlantic forest at Imbé (Entre Rios, Bahia, Brazil).  According to  Daniel L. Nickrent of Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, IL, “these plants are frequently mistaken for parasitic plants but are more accurately called myco-heterotrophs (also sometimes mycotrophs).  [They] … can live without photosynthesis because they have established a coevolutionary relationship with a mycorrhizal fungus that is attached to the root of a photosynthetic, woody plant. So, there is a three way association such that nutrients (carbon) flow from plant root, to mycorrhizal fungus to the myco-heterotroph. … The mycotrophs don’t directly invade the photosynthetic “host” roots but indirectly obtain nutrients via the intermediate fungus. … [M]yco-heterotrophs are frequently mistakenly called saprophytes.  There are no true saprophytes in the angiosperms.  Only fungi can directly utilize dead organic material.”

Specimens of mycotrophs need to be preserved in 70% alcohol. Luckily, we were prepared for such an eventuality.

See and for further information.

Symbiotic seed germination is widespread in orchids.

PS. Thanks go to Dan Nickrent for the identification of the genus and Paul Maas for pinpointing the species.

Paul Maas is the author of a monograph on Voyria (Maas, P. J. M. & P. Ruyters. 1986. Voyria and Voyriella  (saprophytic Gentianaceae). Flora Neotropica Monograph 41. The New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, NY).

Simaba cedron Planch.

March 12, 2010

This non-branching tree, with a big crown of pinnate leaves, is not an infrequent sight around here. However, to come across a tree in flower, or fruit, is rather an event. Until a couple of days ago I’ve seen it twice in bloom and once with a couple of mature fruit. Finally, making my weekly trip to a nearby patch of the virgin forest (a rarity theses days, with Eucalyptus plantations replacing most of the tabuleiro forests in this area) I came across another tall tree with still immature fruit. The fruit is known in herbal medicine as ‘cedron’

My earlier images of its flowers and fruit have been used in Healthful Herbs (Thunder Bay Press, 2008), a reworking of Jethro Kloss’ classic Back to Eden.

A set of my images of the species is available on Flickr (

Tournefortia bicolor Sw.

February 22, 2010

I thought I was saving this scandent shrub from destruction at the last Eucalyptus plantation tree harvest by transferring it to my back yard before it had a chance to bloom and not yet knowing its exact ID.  It spent there a couple of years before really establishing itself. This year it has bloomed and bore fruit, allowing for the identification as Tournefortia bicolor Sw., of Boraginaceae, a genus with two more local species and a family well represented here. However, it was only this morning when I was able to see it in bloom and not with the usual green fruit. The anthesis takes place early in the morning and lasts just for a couple of hours.

My collection of it, deposited at the HUEFS in Feira de Santana, is Popovkin 238.

At anthesis.

More of my images of the species are in the Boraginaceae set on Flickr (

Tournefortia on Wiki, with its name etymology (

Bufo marinus

February 6, 2010

Bufo marinus, or cane toad, is one of the amphibians frequently seen around my house, especially in the non-rainy season when it turns into a pest, jumping into a water bucket used by my three dogs for drinking and spoiling their drinking water overnight. The bucket is raised over 50 cm above ground, the height not sufficient to prevent toads from jumping into it, seeking a cool bath.

The specimen in the image is over 20 cm long and about 15 cm wide and is most probably female.

One use of Bufus marinus, not mentioned in the Wiki entry (, is that of its adipose tissue (body fat) reportedly employed internally by local people for medicinal purposes.

It took me only two days to get an ID for this beautiful arboreal spider species, thanks to the ever help-ready people on the Taxacom list and the Brazilian entomologist from the UFMG (Federal University of Minas Gerais, Brazil) Adalberto Santos.  The genus has been recently revised by James E. Carico: “Revision of the Neotropical arboreal spider genus Syntrechalea (Araneae, Lycosoidea, Trechaleidae)”, Journal of Arachnology 36 (2008):118–130.

My images of the live specimen seem to be ones of the very few available.

The spider was discovered on Diospyros gaultieriifolia when I was checking out whether it has yet set fruit.  See my images of the latter in flower on Flickr (

The generic ID has been confirmed by a Brazilian botanist, suggesting it could be Luehea ochrophylla Mart.

I now found in the same location a new population of the species, in flower, and it looks like it’s indeed Luehea ochrophylla Mart.

Some of my additional images of the species are on Flickr