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 (http://bit.ly/dFVTBX).

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No sooner discovered my first local mycoheterotroph Voyria tenella Hook, of Gentianaceae (http://bit.ly/atxXaX), on one of my short motorbike trips to the nearby patch of virgin Atlantic forest, accompanied (actually driven) by my house help (turned fellow plant and animal collector) Louro, as another mycoheterotroph, this time from Burmanniaceae, was spotted when looking for a good-size infructescence of what I eventually (and provisionally) was able to determine to be Orthomene schomburgkii (Miers) Barneby & Krukoff, of Menispermaceae (http://bit.ly/9Cbfjv).  Its pale looking chlorophyll-less inflorescences were barely noticeable in the midst of the layer of decaying leaves in the dark of the understory vegetation.

Habitat

We collected some specimens of it and, upon photographing, put them in the 70% alcohol solution for deposit into my plant collection at the HUEFS (Herbarium of the State University at Feira de Santana, Bahia, Brazil).

At home I was unable to come up with the family and genus ID, using my available resources (mostly those of the Internet), apart from realizing that like Voyria tenella it was a mycoheterotroph.  I then sent some of its images to Daniel Nickrent, a well-known specialist in parasitic plants at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale who had previously identified my Voyria species.  In a couple of hours I had his feedback: Gymnosiphon species, of Burmanniaceae, a new family record in my study of the local flora.  An online search for its distribution records for Bahia, Brazil, using SpeciesLink (a database of several Brazilian herbaria holdings, http://bit.ly/agXYU8), narrowed down the species search to Gymnosiphon divaricatus (Benth.) Benth. & Hook. f., as the only species recorded for my area. Some additional research of the available images and a perusal of the Flora Neotropica monograph of the family by Paul Maas and collaborators (vol. 42, Burmanniaceae, 1986) confirmed the species ID.  The Latin ‘divaricatus’ means ‘straggly, spreading’, evidently in reference to the bifurcate form of this plant’s inflorescence and the general ‘straggly’ appearance.

Bifurcate inflorescence

According to Maas, the flowers are scented.  I haven’t felt any noticeable scent.

The species is distributed in forests of Central and South America.

Additional images are on my Flickr pages (http://bit.ly/cTZvSL).

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 http://www.parasiticplants.siu.edu/Mycotrophs/Mycotrophs.html and http://www.newphytologist.com/view/0/virtspecissueMyco.html 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).

It’s that time of the year again when every morning I find several arillate seeds of Swartzia polita on the floor of my house, dropped by bats having free access to it at night, and thus no doubt about the dispersal method for this species may arise. When the ripe fruit opens, its arrilate seeds hang on still attached to the seed box, in full display for picking by the nocturnal bats going after its nutritious arils (see the same bats, caught mating http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YUJ258rOSu8).

Ants feeding on the aril:

More of my images of the species are on Flickr (http://www.flickr.com/photos/plants_of_russian_in_brazil/2993438004/in/set-72157594574369082/).

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 (http://www.flickr.com/photos/plants_of_russian_in_brazil/sets/72157594546918283/).

Tournefortia on Wiki, with its name etymology (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tournefortia).

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 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cane_toad), is that of its adipose tissue (body fat) reportedly employed internally by local people for medicinal purposes.

Alibertia sp., Rubiaceae

February 5, 2010

This common small tree/shrub is called locally ‘marmelo’, a name given by the Portuguese who saw in its fruit the New World approximation of the familiar quince, ‘marmelo’ in Portuguese, and the source of the first marmelade, in our time made mainly of oranges.