CANNONBALL TREE OF COSTA RICA   Leave a comment


Philip Davison Nature Diaries. Bosque del Cabo Rain Forest Lodge.

For the most part, if you are a new visitor or maybe even a frequent visitor to the tropics, you are going to be amazed by the number and variety of plants and animals you will encounter.  It doesn’t matter if looking at trees, birds, butterflies or frogs, when you come into the tropics you enter a different realm of figures.  At Bosque del Cabo, Costa Rica, your attention is most likely going to caught by the monkeys, (all four species in abundance), Scarlet Macaws, (the Osa has the second largest breeding colony in the world), toucans, agoutis and coatis, all of which are probably going to be new to you.  But if, after a while you start to re-adjust your focus, you will find another world opening up before you, the abode of countless insects, spiders, lizards and snakes.  It is a fascinating place to explore; the life of many of its denizens rivals anything that could be dreamed up in the minds of the greatest science fiction writers.

Cannonball Tree of Costa Rica

Couroupita guianensis. Lecythidaceae. Osa Peninsula. Costa Rica.

The unusual flower of the Cannonball Tree, (Couroupita guianensis)

The unmistakable Cannonball Tree, (Couroupita guianensis), belongs to the Brazil nut family, Lecythidaceae.  The tree is named from the large fruits that develop on the many straggly stalks growing out sideways from the trunk of the tree below the leafy branches. The fruits resemble the cannonballs used by the invading conquistadors arriving in sixteenth century Central America.

Prior to fruiting, the tree will have flowered and these flowers have an interesting ecology.  They are large with pinky orange petals and do not produce nectar.  Rather they emit a heavy rich sweet scent which attracts insects, the main pollinators being bees.  The centre of the flower has a C –shaped fleshy structure lined with stamen.  Insects attracted by the scent enter the structure and are rewarded with a meal of sterile pollen produced by the anthers in the distal part of the hood that has been folded under.  In the meantime the back of the insect will be dusted with fertile pollen from the anthers on the base.  Off fly the bees, transfer the pollen to a new flower and pollinate the tree.  Plants strategies for survival deserve a lot more respect and credit than we give them.

Philip Davison Is a Biologist, Writer and Photographer Based in Costa Rica

 

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